Meryl Streep talks to Tim Nasson about The Devil Wears Prada
New York City – Meryl Streep, married to the same man for twenty-seven years, and the mother of four beautiful kids, (the youngest, now in high school), three girls and a boy, who is the world’s most Oscar nominated actor – thirteen nominations with two wins – is also one of this year’s busiest actresses.
Streep is currently on screen in A Prairie Home Companion, and as bitchy boss Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada, the summer’s best movie, thus far. And funniest.
Streep has done comedy before, but never this spectacularly.
In August, The Ant Bully, an animated film from Warner Bros. will be released, to which she leant her voice.
“It’s fun playing a Queen,” laughs Streep, when reflecting on her role as Queen Ant.
In The Devil Wears Prada, Streep plays what many assume is the role of Vogue editor Anna Wintour. During the summer of 2003 The Devil Wears Prada became the novel to read – especially if you worked in any kind of office for a b***** boss. The book was written by Laura Weisberger, who once worked as Anna Wintour’s assistant.
If you haven’t read the book, nothing will get lost in translation while watching the movie, as the movie surpasses the novel in every aspect.
Meryl Streep and her two assistants in Devil – Anne Hathaway, (the only major player in Brokeback Mountain to be robbed of an Oscar nomination), and Emily Blunt (My Summer of Love) – are all Oscar worthy. Its been four years since Streep’s last nomination – for Adaptation. She is due.
Stanley Tucci is perfect as the queeny Nigel. And the sexy Simon Baker and Adrien Grenier are both delicious eye candy.
But the movie is truly all about the three women – Miranda Priestly (Streep), her first assistant Emily (Blunt), and her second assistant Andi (Hathaway).
OK. Actually, the movie is all about Meryl Streep. She was born for the role.
For thirty years Streep has literally transformed herself into whatever character she is portraying on film, living life as they would – in just about every aspect of the word.
When playing Polish Jew, Sophie Zawistowski, who must choose between the life of her toddler daughter or son, at a concentration camp, in her Oscar winning Sophie’s Choice, Streep learned Polish and spoke it so convincingly, many in the town where the movie was being filmed thought she was Polish, and that Polish was her first language.
“I am being paid to do a job every time I sign on that contract line,” says Streep, who just turned fifty-seven. “And I have tried to do it to the best of my ability since day one. If I accept an assignment, a role, I don’t go into it half-assed. If I am not confident that I can portray the character perfectly on screen, I won’t even try. For the most part, if a script is polished and the character is intriguing, somewhat challenging, and fully developed, and the team working on the film are all professionals, what is there to lose?”
I have attended junkets of a number of films in which Meryl Streep has starred, prior to this year, (five, exactly), and Streep has only participated in one – Music of the Heart, for which she was nominated for Best Actress in 2000. And she stole that role right out from under Madonna.
“I didn’t steal anything,” laughed Streep, who has a devilish sense of humor, at the time. “I was approached and asked if I was interested in the role, and after reading the script, I was sold. I didn’t even know Madonna had any interest in the role.”
However, perhaps Streep did know. A couple of years before playing the real life Roberta Guaspari Demetras in Music of the Heart, (for which Streep learned to play the violin, practicing six hours each day for eight weeks), she was intent on playing another real life woman, Eva Peron. “I can sing better than she can. If Madonna gets [the role of Evita], I’ll rip her throat out,” joked Streep, before Madonna was signed on.
Revenge certainly is a dish best served cold. Madonna was not nominated for a Best Actress Oscar for Evita, was bounced from Music of the Heart, so Meryl Streep could step in, and top it all off with an Oscar nomination.
The four other films for which I interviewed the entire casts, at the film junkets, sans Streep, were The Hours, The Manchurian Candidate, Lemony Snicket, and Angels In America.
“Enough people write about me every day,” laughs Streep, “without even interviewing me. If I am not the lead actor in a film, or if the film doesn’t need my help, I don’t feel the need to steal away the thunder from everyone else involved. And also, if the junket is not in NYC, I am loathe to accept the invitation. I hate flying. And the trip to LA (where most film junkets are) from NYC (where Streep lives and has spent her entire life), is too long. Even three Ambien wouldn’t be enough to get me through that flight.”
The first time I had a brush with Streep was the summer of 1993. She was in the Boston area filming The River Wild. But her family came first. At the time, my mother worked as a nurse at a hospital in the Boston area. I picked her up each night after her shift ended. One night, I walk into the Emergency Room waiting area to wait for her since I was a little early, and who was I shocked to see sitting there, consoling one of her ill daughters? Meryl Streep.
Most Hollywood women, actresses or not, would send their nanny or au pair to the hospital with their sick child in the middle of the night, especially most actresses who have a 6 AM shoot the next morning. Not Streep. “My family really does come first. It always did and always will,” says Streep, when I bring up the hospital incident many years later.
Streep is not a Hollywood woman, by any stretch of the imagination. Nor is she even remotely a b****, like her character Miranda Priestly can be and is for much of her existence on screen. Streep is one of the most down to earth most famous people I have ever encountered. Think the antithesis of Tom Cruise and Madonna. Someone who though you are interviewing her makes it all seem so surreal. Here you are, sitting with Meryl Steep, arguably the most revered actor to ever walk the face of the earth, and it seems like you’re sitting at a table with your own aunt.
Neither does Streep care much about fashion, the religion of Miranda Priestly. You’d never know it, though, when you see Streep on screen, click clopping around, effortlessly, in her Jimmy Choos, and Manolos, wearing a Prada bag draped across her shoulder, as if she has done so for her entire life.
“I had a blast stepping into Miranda’s shoes, literally,” laughs Streep. “But I couldn’t care less about fashion to the degree Miranda does. We finished filming right after Hurricane Katrina and Anne [Hathaway] had the great idea that we donate all of the clothes from the set to a charity auction. Not only does the money from the auction go to people who really need it but the clothes, shoes, and coats that were auctioned off went to people who actually wanted them, would wear them and would be comfortable in them. If I had taken any home, they would have remained in my closet for the rest of their existence.”
As Miranda Priestly would say, “That’s all.”