Meryl Streep on growing older, wiser… and not scary


Los Angeles – Blooming and looking young at 64 years old, Meryl Streep is a vision of someone who has discovered the fountain of youth with her effervescent personality and timeless beauty.

We talked to her recently at The May Fair Hotel in London for her two upcoming films – the John Wells-directed American black comedy-drama film based on Tracy Letts’ play of the same name, “August: Osage County,” and the Rob Marshall-helmed musical fantasy, “Into the Woods.”

Asked if she enjoyed portraying the role of the Wicked Witch in “Into the Woods,” Meryl said, “I am already a horrible witch in ‘August: Osage County.’ In this I am going to be a different kind of witch. Not nice but different so this will be fun. When I turned 40, I was offered three witch parts in one year. I thought, ‘Oh boy, they just don’t know what to do with me.’ I was really cute still.

“Things have changed now. But it is something I never wanted to play because I really resent the trope. I really resent the whole idea of women when they are old and they could become scary. It is just gone through literature. It is gone through our mythology. I never wanted to do it. But this is so smart the Sondheim. It is so compassionate a look at the world. What you have to do to get through. It’s really good. I’m glad we’re bringing it. I’m glad we’re bringing it to the world.”

As for her favorite villainess, Meryl revealed, “I loved Glenn Close in ‘101 Dalmatians.’ I loved her in ‘Fatal Attraction’ where she killed the bunnies. She was terrifying.”

Meryl, who portrays the volatile Violet Weston who is suffering from mouth cancer in “August: Osage County,” described the intense dining room scene with Julia Roberts, who portrays Barbara Weston, and the rest of the cast like Juliette Lewis (Karen Weston), Benedict Cumberbatch (Charles Aiken) and Ewan McGregor (Bill Fordham). She disclosed, “We didn’t rehearse for a long time, but we shot it as I recall for a long time. It felt like several circles of hell to shoot it. It was a very heightened dinner but I’ve been at family events where everybody comes pretty well stoked for the event and for the encounter with all 20 years of resentments.”

Meryl admitted that she was not really looking forward to portraying the ill and addicted Violet. She explained, “When you are young, you don’t have an experience with many of your friends dying. You just don’t. You are young and it is an adventure to explore this scary territory. But when it is more real and when it is closer, the more familiar, you do not want to enter it willingly.

“When I was young, I thought it would be cool to play an addict. But I did not know addicts. Now over my life, I have known people who have problems with addiction. It is horrible. So that is all I am saying is that when you are young, it is an unfamiliar territory. It is like an adventure. When you are older, you know that it can hurt you. The walls dividing what you pretend and what you feel are thinner. Your skin is thinner. You feel things.”

Meryl, who is involved in several charitable organizations like the National Women’s History Museum, the Public Theater, and Gucci’s “Chime for Change” campaign that aims to spread female empowerment, explained her active involvement.

“I can’t help but notice that my life has been blessed in many ways and you do want to help other people feel how great it is to be alive,” she said. “Some people don’t have a choice but to not think that because they’re deprived of chances. They are deprived of education. In Oklahoma where we were living, the place where you buy your food is Kmart. So much of the food there are readily available, cheap processed food. It is all the stuff that causes diabetes and all sorts of illnesses associated with obesity.

“If you live in Manhattan, you have no idea how most people don’t get to make choices and how we don’t really encourage those choices in our schools, in our educational system. So people do not know what to demand in terms of their food. You just felt that people were trapped in a world that they could not escape and so that is aggravating. We were there shooting while the Presidential election was being conducted and it was solidly (Mitt) Romney. People voting seemingly against their own best interests for corporate farming, for all these things that make this life the life that they are going to have because there is no place for small businesses.”

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