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.”
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, Los Angeles, CA, October 17, 2013 – The American Film Institute (AFI) today announced additional Centerpiece Galas and Special Screenings – comprised of a world premiere, award season contenders and highly anticipated independent and international films of the fall – for AFI FEST 2013 presented by Audi.
There will be a red carpet Gala each night of the festival. The additional Centerpiece Galas are AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY (DIR John Wells) on Friday, November 8; THE LAST EMPEROR 3D (DIR Bernardo Bertolucci) on Sunday, November 10; and the World Premiere of LONE SURVIVOR (DIR Peter Berg) on Tuesday, November 12. All Galas will be presented in the historic TCL Chinese Theatre.
AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY – In this dramatic comedy with an all-star cast, a crisis reunites the women of an Oklahoma family and reignites their dysfunction. DIR John Wells. SCR Tracy Letts. CAST Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Ewan McGregor, Chris Cooper, Julianne Nicholson, Juliette Lewis, Dermot Mulroney, Abigail Breslin, Benedict Cumberbatch, Margo Martindale, Sam Shepard. USA.
Friday, November 8, 2013.
The film, which will be released on Christmas Day, features a star-studded cast that includes Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Chris Cooper and Margo Martindale.
The cast of August: Osage County will receive the Hollywood Ensemble Acting Award at the 17th annual Hollywood Film Awards, the first awards show of the 2013 season, on Oct. 21 at the Beverly Hilton, The Hollywood Reporter has learned.
John Wells‘ big-screen adaptation of Tracy Letts‘ Tony- and Puliter Prize-winning play features a star-studded cast, including Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Julianne Nicholson, Juliette Lewis,Dermot Mulroney, Benedict Cumberbatch,Ewan McGregor, Chris Cooper, Margo Martindale, Abigail Breslin, Sam Shepard and Misty Upham.
The film, which premiered at September’s Toronto International Film Festival and will be released nationwide by The Weinstein Co. on Christmas Day, is a dramedy about intra-family chaos. It revolves around three sisters (Roberts, Lewis and Nicholson) and their significant others (McGregor, Mulroney and Cumberbatch), plus other relatives (Martindale, Cooper and Breslin), who reunite at the Oklahoma home of their mother (Streep) following the death of their father (Shepard), whereupon they air their grievances about how others present at the gathering have caused their lives to become terribly screwed up in one way or another. August‘s producers include George Clooney and Grant Heslov, who also produced last year’s best picture Oscar winner, Argo.
The Hollywood Film Awards are determined by founder and executive director Carlos de Abreu and an advisory committee. De Abreu tells THR, “We are very proud to recognize the ensemble cast of August: Osage County, for their dramatic and outstanding performances.” (Full disclosure: Dick Clark Productions, which shares the same parent company as THR, has an undisclosed investment in the Hollywood Film Awards.)
Previous recipients of the Hollywood Ensemble Acting Award include Crash (2005),Bobby (2006), Hairspray (2007), The Secret Life of Bees (2008), The Social Network(2010), The Help (2011) and Argo (2012). Crash, The Social Network, The Help and Argoall went on to score best picture Oscar nominations; Crash and Argo won.
Last month, the Hollywood Film Awards and Dick Clark Productions, which also produce the Golden Globe Awards, entered into a partnership that could lead to the ceremony being televised in future years. Over the past 10 years, Hollywood Film Awards honorees went on to garner a total of 96 Oscar nominations and 34 Oscars.
Other 2013 honorees who have already been announced include 12 Years a Slave directorSteve McQueen and supporting actress Lupita Nyong’o; 42‘s supporting actorHarrison Ford;August: Osage County‘s supporting actress Julia Roberts; Before Midnight lead actress/co-screenwriter Julie Delpy, lead actor/co-screenwriter Ethan Hawke and co-screenwriter/director Richard Linklater; Behind the Candelabraproducer Jerry Weintraub; Captain Phillips producer Michael De Luca; Dallas Buyers Club‘s lead actor Matthew McConaughey and supporting actor Jared Leto;Gravity‘s lead actress Sandra Bullock; Lee Daniels’ The Butler director Lee Daniels;Monsters University‘s director Dan Scanlon and producer Kori Rae; Pacific Rim visual effects supervisor John Knoll; and Prisoners‘ supporting actor Jake Gyllenhaal.
LOS ANGELES – Juliette Lewis said she was “in tears” just thinking of doing a scene with Meryl Streep for ‘August: Osage County’.
Abigail Breslin is “Little Miss Sunshine” no more; she has grown into a voluptuous young woman.
Juliette, Abigail and many more stars livened up InStyle magazine and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s annual party last Monday that celebrated the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF).
In one corner of the posh Windsor Arms courtyard ablaze with red orchids and candles, Juliette told us that a pivotal dinner scene in director John Wells’ adaptation of Tracy Letts’ Pulitzer Prize for Drama winner (Tracy also wrote the screenplay) took four days to shoot. Juliette, who plays one of the daughters in the Weston family of strong-willed women, remarked that she was very honored to be acting with the formidable Ms Streep.
Imagine a dinner scene presided over by the family matriarch, a sneering, pill-popping Meryl (in a tour de force performance), and with such actors as Juliette, Julia Roberts, Chris Cooper, Benedict Cumberbatch, Abigail, Ewan McGregor, Margo Martindale, Dermot Mulroney and Julianne Nicholson. Julia, as the eldest daughter, holds her own against Meryl. Chris also stands out, especially in a scene where he rebukes his wife, Margo (also fine as Meryl’s sister). Sam Shepard is memorable in a cameo as the patriarch as well as Misty Upham as the new maid.
But the film itself is “stagy” and only occasionally comes to cinematic life. The film’s ending, different from the stage version, also left some critics grumbling.
It feels like Meryl Streep enters the Oscars race every single time she appears in a film.
And that’s certainly no different this fall, considering her much-applauded turn in upcoming film August: Osage County.
A new trailer for the film, which debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival on Monday, features Meryl as Violet Weston, the pill-popping matriach of a dysfunctional family.Oscar-worthy performance? Meryl Streep stars in August: Osage County as a matriach with a sharp tongue and an addiction to prescription pillsMeryl Streep stars in new August: Osage County trailer
Adapted from the 2008 Pulitzer Prize-winning play of the same name, August: Osage County follows the family as they come together after the death of Beverly Weston (Violet’s husband).
It’s clear that there’s plenty of drama – and awkwardness – to air out, as each person holds their own backstory and quirks.
‘Look at your boobs! The last time I saw you, you looked like a little boy,’ Mattie Aiken (played by Margo Martindale) tells teenager Jean Fordham (Abigail Breslin).Growing up: Abigail Breslin, now 17 years old, stars as the daughter of Ewan McGregor and Julia Roberts’ characters
What did you say? Ewan McGregor and Abigail Breslin stare in shock at a rude comment from Meryl Streep’s character Violet Weston
In another scene, Meryl can be seen rolling her eyes and making faces as Chris Cooper, in the role of Charles Aiken, talks about the ‘joy of family’ as he says grace at the dinner table.
Her befuddling temperament might have something to do with her prescription drug habit: ‘She takes pills – Valium, Vicodin, Xanax,’ her husband notes.
The drama also follows the separation of Barbara Weston (Julia Roberts) from Bill Fordham (Ewan McGregor), who is apparently involved with ‘a younger woman.’
‘Well, the odds are against you there, babe,’ Violet drawls to her daughter.Big claims: Julia Roberts has called her acting experience opposite Ewan and Meryl as the ‘best’ of her illustrious career
Why the tears? Benedict Cumberbatch, who plays WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in the upcoming film The Fifth Estate, looks distraught in the clip
August: Osage County has earned kudos for its all-star ensemble cast, which also includes Benedict Cumberbatch (The Fifth Estate), Juliette Lewis, Dermot Mulroney and others.
The film has received many positive reviews, with the most praise going to the performances, particularly Meryl’s.
Julia Roberts has even called her role ‘the best acting experience of my life,’ according to the Associated Press.
The film opens Christmas Day in the U.S.Settle down: Chris Cooper calms Benedict down as they discuss Beverly Weston’s funeral
Winning ways: Variety’s Scott Foundas calls Meryl’s performance ‘electrifying,’ and she’s certain to get awards-season attention
Leading lady: Meryl Streep attends the Crystal & Lucy Awardsi, held at the Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, California, in June 2012
Toronto: The movie adaptation of “August: Osage County” received a rare 10 minute standing ovation last night at Roy Thomson Hall. The film of Tracey Letts’ Pulitzer Prize winning play stars Meryl Streep as Violet, matriarch a volatile Oklahoma family. The ovation was like something from the Cannes film festival, not usually seen in restrained Canada, and was very disarming for everyone in the cast who was in attendance including Julia Roberts
I know, every time Streep is in a movie people say “Oscar.” But the three time Oscar winner weaves some kind of magic in this movie. You can see it from the moment she appears in half light, looking haggard with spiky short hair to when she pulls on a full, dark wig to play Violet, the pill popping cancer patient with loads of secrets. And yes, this is a comedy and a drama.
Streep was not at last night’s premiere because she starts filming “Into the Woods” this week and has a bad enough cold that she couldn’t travel up from New York with setting back that production. But her name was heard everywhere as the credits rolled and the lights went up.
Most of the large, talented cast was there however: Ewan McGregor, Julia Roberts, Chris Cooper, Julianne Nicholson, Juliette Lewis, Dermot Mulroney, and Abigail Breslin among them. And when they got to their party at Soho House–the only party of any interest last night in Toronto– pop star Taylor Swift arrived and joined them. That caused mayhem as you can imagine, when Swift and Roberts posed for pictures together with Harvey Weinstein.
“August: Osage County” was a bit of a surprise for many reasons last night. There had been a lot of talk that the film adaptation hadn’t worked out. That may have come from a teaser trailer that made the film look like a Southern comedy played for yucks. There was also a lot of discussion about how to handle Oscar positioning with Streep and Roberts. Who would be considered lead or supporting?
But once John Wells’s movie unfurled, all became clear. Streep is the star, the quarterback. In one scene taken from the play she sits at the head of a dining room table with this cast all around her. She literally throws “touchdown passes” to each cast member, landing jokes and barbs as they run to the end zone. It’s sort of mesmerizing because she never flags or tires or misses. It’s like watching an acting master class. It’s breathtaking.
So yes, Meryl Streep jumps onto the Best Actress list with Cate Blanchett, Judi Dench and Sandra Bullock. “AOC” becomes an extremely serious contender for Best Picture. It will almost certainly win Best Ensemble at the SAG Awards. Julia Roberts and Chris Cooper will be up for all the supporting awards. Cooper almost steals the show with a scene right out of Letts’s play at the dinner table. Roberts gives her most soulful performance yet, and comes across with a humanity–as one of Violet’s three daughters–that gives the movie anchor while Streep storms on like a hurricane.
PS Kudos also to Margo Martindale, Benedict Cumberbatch and Sam Shepard, who also make this movie an absolute pleasure.