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.
Meryl Streep – August: Osage County -The Weinstein Co.
Judi Dench – Philomena – The Weinstein Co.
Sandra Bullock – Gravity – Warner Bros.
Cate Blanchett – Blue Jasmine – Sony Pictures Classics
Amy Adams – American Hustle – Sony
Julia Louis-Dreyfus – Enough Said – Fox Searchlight
Adèle Exarchopoulos – Blue Is the Warmest Color – Sundance
Emma Thompson – Saving Mr. Banks – Disney
See all nominations here
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Julia Roberts & Dermot Mulroney Talk Working With Meryl Streep In August: Osage County – Video
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‘Into the Woods’ News! What Did Stephen Sondheim Tell Meryl Streep? – Article
Meryl Streep sat down with “Extra’s” Jerry Penacoli to discuss her role in “August: Osage County,” but ended up gushing about working with lyricist/composer Stephen Sondheim on the big-screen adaptation of his hit Broadway musical “Into the Woods.”Getty Images
Fresh off a flight from London where she had just wrapped shooting “Into the Woods,” Streep revealed Sondheim wrote a new song for her character, The Witch. “I have a new song that Sondheim wrote for me… and when he gave me the manuscript, he wrote on it, “Don’t f**k it up.”
As for her role as a drug-addicted and dysfunctional mother in “August: Osage County,” Meryl said, “It was an unpleasant place to be in her head… to be in her mind was like being in prison, like in the dining hall of a prison where you hide a shiv in your hair in case you have to cut somebody.”
Video in the article.
Julia, you just worked with Meryl Streep. What surprised you about her?
ROBERTS: She has the great balance. In her life, acting is a very sort of casual element of it. I like that balance.
THOMPSON: I’ve snogged her. (Laughter.) And what I learned was, you have to use tongues even if you’re not a lesbian.
ROBERTS: Tongue-kissing Meryl Streep.
THOMPSON: We had to do a snog. The angel gives her an orgasm in Angels in America. Mike Nichols can get anyone to do anything.
WINFREY: That’s right, that’s true. I might let the dark side in, just for Mike.
One of the pivotal scenes in “August: Osage County,” the upcoming screen adaptation of Tracy Letts’ Pulitzer Prize-winning play, is an explosive family dinner where barbs are hurled and dark secrets are revealed. For director John Wells and his all-star cast, the scene was central to the film’s themes and narrative, and star Meryl Streep led the way as the sharp-tongued matriarch Violet Weston.
At the Envelope Screening Series, Wells and cast members Julianne Nicholson, Margo Martindale and Chris Cooper talked about shooting the 19-minute scene.
For Wells, the dinner scene speaks to a universal family dynamic. “It doesn’t matter who you are or how old you are,” he said. “You believe that you become someone else away from your home. And you walk back through that door, and you’re suddenly a 14-year-old again saying things that you would never say anywhere other than in the house, and taking on a role that may not be how you perceive yourself. And you suddenly find yourself in the same chair, telling the same old stories.”
Nicholson said of the scene, “It took just about four days to film it, and every day to be sat at that table with those people was a joy and a thrill. And to watch Meryl just bring it every single time — whether she’s on camera or off camera. It was different every time. It was alive every time. It was a master class in acting, and I’ll never forget it.”
Martindale agreed and said Streep’s commitment motivated the other actors to raise their game. “She’s giving 150,000% — and you’d better too,” Martindale said.
Cooper chimed in, “The master class is watching Meryl give us a different take on the scene that we’re doing. She’ll do the drugged-up version, she’ll do the nasty underbelly, she’ll do the comic version, she’ll do so many.”
Wells said Streep’s performance was captivating to the point that sometimes her fellow actors got caught up and dropped their lines. “I was just watching her,” one cast member admitted to Wells after flubbing a line.
“Well, that’s good,” Wells told the actor. “We were all watching her. But you’re in the scene, and you need to say the line.”
For more from the cast and crew of “August: Osage County,” watch the full video above and check back for daily highlights. The film opens Dec. 25.