It seems as if every award season Meryl Streep’s name gets tossed into the ring. Being a world-renowned actress, Meryl Streep has been in a class all of her own, which spans her 30 years as a thespian. Whether she’s playing the intimidating head of a fashion brand in the The Devil Wears Prada, or a distressed survivor of a Nazi concentration camp in Sophie’s Choice, Streep effortlessly seems to understand and capture every human experience.
THE INQUISITR: There’s so many different ways you can read Violet — was she damaged, spiteful, confused, insecure? Do you decide pretty early on what her motivations are? It’s a character that can be played in so many different ways.
MERYL STREEP: John [Wells] and I e-mailed a little bit in preparation for this. One of the things that really interested me was where she was on her painkiller cycle in any given scene. Since we were shooting out of order, I had to map that in a way, just so I would know what to bring to my fellow actors. You know, as an actor you’re supposed to want to go into the house of pain over and over and over again, but I resisted doing the part because of that. On so many levels physically, mentally, spiritually, emotionally, Violet is enraged and/or in pain, or drugged at any given time. That was the main thing and I didn’t doubt that I would go— I don’t want to talk about this! [Laughs].
THE INQUISITR: What was it like for you to work with Chris Cooper again in a much larger capacity?
STREEP: Chris and I worked together, but never in such a substantial way. Chris’ character I felt was someone that he would view with his enormous humanity and his compassion, and I knew that the audience would love him. I knew that they would hate me in equal measure, and that is “the story.” It’s a balance of all these characters. What you give you get and what you get you give from each person. It only works if we’re together. We were so together. When Margo’s character says that she has my back, I felt that she always, always, always felt that, because she made me feel that way. We were very lucky to have each other in making this thing.
THE INQUISITR: How did you bond strong with your co-stars? Was it hard to shake everything off at the end of an emotional scene?
STREEP: We ate a lot. It wasn’t the most joyous experience in my point of view. It was hard to feel that way about everybody. It was miserable, and it was also during the election, and television is very odd out there. You could feel very disembodied in that world so it was important to make a connection beyond and outside of the set. Also I was smoking non stop, which really makes you feel sh—y.
THE INQUISITR: Was there any one particular topic that touched you emotionally?
STREEP: For me one of the most upsetting scenes we shot very early on, and it was with Sam Shepard who is a writer that I’ve always admired, and as an actor too. To look at him close up and see his loathing of me was really hard. You get old and you look old, and you’re just old, and you still think that maybe there’s a spark of love from this person who has gone through everything, and to look in his eyes and realize that he would rather be dead than look at me, that was brutal. That set the tone for how I chose to deal with his death in every scene afterwards.
THE INQUISITR: Did the humor help you deal with the weight of the role?
STREEP: Every character I’ve ever played is about 5’6 and weighs about the same [Laughs] in terms of weightiness. I was trying to look sicker and thinner than I actually am, but I don’t think about things that way. To me one of the most excruciatingly funny pieces in this is the prayer, which is earnestly given by Chris [Cooper] to the best of his ability. It reminded me of church, and there was no laughter like the laughter when you’re in church and the whole pew goes nuts. You talk about how humor is born out of pain. Every single one of these actors came to the reading with the copy of the original play in their back pocket with their laughs that they didn’t want to get cut. You have a sense of what’s going to buy you the attention of people, because otherwise they want to kill themselves with this family. You come together with your friends and say, “I had Thankgiving at my mother’s house and I have to tell you what my mother said!” And you tell the story that was not funny when you were there, but in the tone it’s fabulous, and that’s how you transform your life.
Working with global NGO, Education Above All, we created this short film to describe the plight of 57million children – that they are denied their right to basic education and with that their opportunity to improve their lives, often lived in poverty. Filming took place with Syrian refugees in Lebanon, indigenous tribes in the Amazon rainforest, poverty stricken children in DRCongo, girls in Rajasthan and children avoiding drugs and violence in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro. Meryl Streep kindly gave her time to provide the voice over. I wrote the words. Production house was Quite Frankly Productions in London, Lies Deneys directed.
LOS ANGELES – Filming “Into the Woods” in London and promoting “August: Osage County” was putting Meryl Streep in two conflicting moods. “I feel like I should have two heads because I’m so into this music, place, magic that’s ‘Into the Woods,’” said the world’s preeminent actress with a lilt in her voice, exulting in her experience so far in playing The Witch in director Rob Marshall’s adaptation of Stephen Sondheim’s musical. She is dressed all in black for this early evening interview at The May Fair Hotel in London.
In “August,” coincidentally another adaptation of a play (by Tracy Letts who won a Pulitzer Prize for this), Meryl plays Violet Weston, the acid-tongued, pill-popping matriarch of a bickering family in Oklahoma.
In the next breath, Meryl remarked, “I’m also in a very dark place with violence with ‘August’ so one bleeds into the other. I keep thinking…” And here she sang and paraphrased some of the lyrics of “Children Will Listen” from “Into the Woods”: “Careful of what you say, children will listen because that’s the story of ‘August’/Careful of what you do, children will see and learn.” How often does one have the pleasure of hearing Meryl Streep singing in person?
The actress, who said “Send in the Clowns” is her favorite Sondheim song, talked about a metamorphosis in “Into the Woods”: “The metamorphosis in ‘Into the Woods’ is [of] a witch who sets the whole machinery of impossible tasks in motion so she can have her wish, which is to not be ugly. Her mother put a curse on her. It’s very like Violet. Her mother put a curse of ugliness on her because somebody stole the beans, the baker’s father.
“So her metamorphosis is that Rapunzel, [whom] she loves more than anything in the world, will love her because she’ll be beautiful. Of course, women think that if they’re beautiful, they will be loved. The thing is, you can get your wish and Rapunzel will still hate you. It’s such an interesting problem that Sondheim sets up. Everybody has a wish, everybody gets their wish. That’s just the end of the first act. Afterward, what happens after it all shakes down…it’s an ambitious thing.”
Asked what her wish was, Meryl said with a laugh, “Oh, sleep for 12 hours.”
Meryl admitted that at first she was “not eager to do this part” in “August,” which is directed by John Wells and features a formidable cast—Julia Roberts, Ewan McGregor, Benedict Cumberbatch, Chris Cooper, Juliette Lewis, Abigail Breslin, Dermot Mulroney, Sam Shepard and Misty Upham.
“The reason I did was [that] a very dear friend said to me, ‘You had a great mother. She gave you your appetite for experience, curiosity, sense of humor. Your mother sang in the kitchen and mine hit me. Your mother made you feel you could do anything. Mine made me feel like I couldn’t do anything. You have to do this for me and for all the girls like me who had bad mothers, who made it in spite of that, who got out, and for all the ones who didn’t and to let them know it’s OK to leave that behind.’
“She really made a case. I thought, OK, because when you’re a young actor, you think, oh yeah, it’ll be so cool to imagine having cancer and what’s it like to be close to death and then your family hates you…I really want to take that all on.
A gorgeous ensemble
“When you’re older and things happen to you, you bleed more easily. It costs more to go into that territory. You just don’t want to…but, I thought, I am going to do that for my friend because it made sense to me. Once I said yes, this cast was assembled. It’s a gorgeous ensemble. Then I thought, what’s it worth risking everything to go to this territory where you will be loathed. But it’s OK because some people’s wounds are so toxic that they cannot help but take it out on everybody else. They can’t stop themselves. Add drugs, illness, depression to it and it’s just….”
Meryl shared her reaction when she first saw the Broadway production of “August” which starred Deanna Dunagan as Violet. “She was wonderful,” Meryl said.
“I saw the play about eight years ago, I think. Three and a half hours flew by. It was so densely packed with action and speaking, you had to catch every word. It was amazing. When they announced that they were going to make a film of this play, I thought, it would be difficult to bring it to a film time. They’d have to take an hour out of it [and] introduce Oklahoma as a character. John Wells did a great job with that.
“Inevitably, things are lost. We all came to the first reading with a copy of the script of the play because we all had our favorite pieces that we wanted to go back to. But it’s not possible so it’s sort of reduced in its scope but it’s complete. John got the story he wanted to tell.”
The film’s centerpiece is a dinner scene, an explosive one full of blistering dialogue. “We didn’t rehearse for a long time but we shot it for a long time, as I recall,” Meryl recalled. “It felt like several circles of hell to shoot. That’s a very heightened dinner but I’ve been at family events where everybody comes pretty well stoked for the encounter with 20 years of resentments. If somebody says one word wrong, ‘I’m going to give it to her.’ That’s the way things sometimes happen at family events when it’s emotional.”
Getting the look
Meryl explained how she helped come up with the look of Violet, who is cancer-stricken. “Women obsess about their hair,” she began. “They’re worried about it from adolescence. In many cultures, it’s something that maybe does define a woman in her own eyes. I hadn’t thought about this.
“With Violet, I did decide early on that mouth cancer, which is a pretty horrible thing and the chemotherapy that she was just going to finish up would have taken her hair. I thought that was important because she was so filled with self-loathing that if she needed another reason to despise what she looked at in the mirror, there it was.
STREEP: One scene, to her, “felt like several circles of hell to shoot.” RUBEN NEPALES
“I thought that her affection for Elizabeth Taylor would lead her to choose a wig that is sort of her idea of Elizabeth Taylor. I tried to choose a wig that was readily available at Kmart so it would just pull on. It was a net thing, similar enough in style to her sister’s hair that I would feel we would resemble each other enough to feel like sisters. I felt that the first time you saw her, you should never forget what the course of her suffering is.”
Meryl admitted that amid the histrionics, Chris Cooper stands out in one scene. “The warm, beating heart of the movie is when Chris Cooper gets with his son and defends him to his mother.”
The awesome friendship between Sandra Bullock and Meryl Streep is now more awesome. “If Meryl and I get in a ring, she’ll kick my ass,” Bullock told ShortList.com in a new interview. “People don’t realize that there’s a side of Meryl that’s just mean. You walk away and she’ll just rip your dress … I know not to turn my back on her.”
This, of course, isn’t the first time Bullock has talked about Streep in such a manner. Their banter dates back to awards season in 2010, when Bullock and Streep were both nominated for Best Actress.
“With Meryl, when this whole thing started, I left her a voice mail going, ‘You’ve got to watch your back. I’m gonna cut you. I’m gonna take you down,'” Bullock said in an interview with The Associated Press before the Academy Awards in 2010. “And then she sent me dead orchids and told me to die, so I sent her a case of liquor and told her to toast to white trash.”
Perhaps more dead orchids will be in play this year: Bullock has received early awards buzz for her lead role in “Gravity,” while it’s expected that Streep could score her 15th Best Actress nomination (and 18th overall nomination) for “August: Osage County.”
Although Hollywood actresses would like to make you think that there’s no real rivalry between them and that they spend most Friday nights braiding each other’s hair and playing Dream Phone, that’s not always the case.
After Sandra Bullock won the 2010 Best Actress Oscar over Meryl Streep and after she provided us with this brilliantly public snub, the two have indulged in a playfully antagonistic relationship.
But while we were speaking to Bullock for the release of heart-racing space thrillerGravity, she revealed the truly harrowing details of just how nasty things get between the pair…
“If Meryl and I get in a ring, she’ll kick my ass,” she told us exclusively. “People don’t realise that there’s a side of Meryl that’s just mean. You walk away and she’ll just rip your dress…I know not to turn my back on her.”
Bullock also confessed that she’s convinced that the Oscar-winning star of The Devil Wears Prada will eventually lead to her untimely end.
“I will try to kick her ass but she will kill me,” she confessed. “That’s just how it’s gonna end and then she’ll be lovely Meryl again and I’ll just be dead.”
Okay so just in case you’re worried she wasn’t joking…
“We will have a nice sparring I hope until the day we die,” she also said. “I love nothing more than hanging out with that woman and having a glass of wine.”
Either way, get those two in a ring. We’ll pay good money.
You can see the full video interview next week.
Gravity hits cinemas November 7
Obviously the movie’s officially with the ‘dark’ ending featuring Meryl Streep:
Yup, we had the dark ending. A relief tbh.
TY, Very Glad to know the latest preview & final edit of August: Osage County now w/ Meryl Streep as last scene, a “dark” ending.
And what about Meryl?Meryl is just…Meryl. It was a lesson every day. Her energy and her generosity whether she’s on-camera or off, it was inspiring. She never made me feel like I couldn’t be in a scene with her. But I was also terrified of her! When I saw what she was going to look like, I was just like, “Whaaat?” Then she puts those glasses down, and you see those piercing eyes. I was like, “Jesus Christ.”
All HQ photos you can see here.