Au­gust act

A friend con­vinced Meryl Streep to play au­gust: OsageCounty’s fear­some ma­tri­arch to help those emo­tion­ally hurt by their moth­ers.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - OSCAR SPECIAL - By ALI­SON DE SOUZA

With a record 18th Os­car nom­i­na­tion for her per­for­mance in the new movie Au­gust: Osage County, Meryl Streep’s un­bro­ken reign as the most dec­o­rated screen ac­tor continues apace.

But rather than herald­ing a new era for older ac­tresses, per­haps the only thing the 64year-old three-time Os­car-win­ner has proven is “that there are still great parts in hol­ly­wood for Meryl Streeps over 60”, as co-host tina Fey quipped at the re­cent Golden Globe Awards.

A day be­fore she earned her lat­est crit­i­cal nod, which makes her the most-nom­i­nated ac­tor in the his­tory of the Academy Awards, Streep was asked if her stel­lar ca­reer is the ex­cep­tion that proves the rule about older ac­tresses hav­ing a limited shelf life.

“i pre­fer to think of my­self as some­body who shoved her foot in the door, and now, oth­ers will go through. Be­cause i didn’t give up, i didn’t stop,” she says, speak­ing to a hand­ful of re­porters in Los Angeles re­cently.

She qual­i­fies this by ac­knowl­edg­ing that the longevity of her sto­ried ca­reer, which be­gan with her break­out Os­car-nom­i­nated per­for­mance in the Viet­nam War movie The Deer Hunter in 1978, has not been en­tirely her own do­ing.

“it’s that there were people brave enough in the in­dus­try to put their money be­hind projects that had older women in them. i mean, that’s not my de­ci­sion, i’m not a pro­ducer,” says Streep who, in per­son, is a serene, al­most gen­teel pres­ence, that fa­mously ex­pres­sive face only oc­ca­sion­ally spring­ing to life to il­lus­trate a point or witty anec­dote.

Many of her big­gest ac­co­lades came in her 30s, in­clud­ing her Os­car-win­ning roles in the di­vorce drama Kramer Vs. Kramer (1979) and Sophie’s Choice (1982), in which she played a holo­caust sur­vivor.

Decades later, she was still go­ing strong, pick­ing up sil­ver­ware for both dra­mas and come­dies, among them an Emmy for the 2004 tele­vi­sion mini-se­ries An­gels In Amer­ica; Golden Globes for The Devil Wears Prada (2006) and Julie & Ju­lia (2009) and her third Os­car for The Iron Lady (2011), the Mar­garet thatcher biopic which also showed her un­canny talent for phys­i­cal trans­for­ma­tion and mimicry.

Adapted from the Pulitzer Prize-win­ning play of the same name, Au­gust: Osage County – which co-stars Ju­lia Roberts, Chris Cooper, Ewan McGre­gor, Bene­dict Cum­ber­batch, Juli­ette Lewis and Ju­lianne Ni­chol­son – was a project she had turned down a cou­ple of times, she re­veals.

“i had seen the play and knew it was a great part, but i didn’t re­ally want to do it be­cause it just seemed like a poi­sonous place to be.

“to want to pre­tend that i have mouth cancer, to want to smoke 48 cig­a­rettes a day in spite of that, to imag­ine be­ing in phys­i­cal, spir­i­tual and men­tal an­guish all the time, to feel that alone and that loathed within my own fam­ily... i’ve never played a char­ac­ter like this,” says the ac­tress, who lost weight, chain-smoked herbal cig­a­rettes and “drank like a fish” so she would “get ca­dav­er­ous and hor­ri­ble-look­ing”.

She even­tu­ally ac­cepted the part be­cause a friend told her: “Well, you had a great mother, Meryl, and you loved her. But you have to do this for all of us who had moth­ers who tried to stop us, for what­ever rea­son, what­ever their dam­age was.”

that friend “made me re­ally think about what that achieve­ment was for her ... and how hard it is to break that cy­cle of abuse”.

And the role has been an­other late-ca­reer high­light for Streep, earn­ing her Best Ac­tress nom­i­na­tions at the Globes as well as the up­com­ing Os­cars.

She smiles at Fey’s Golden Globes joke about her unique suc­cess as an older ac­tress, but says: “it’s not com­pletely true. he­len Mir­ren has had won­der­ful suc­cess,” she says, re­fer­ring to the 68-year-old Os­car-win­ner and star of The Queen (2006). “Judi Dench too. And Mag­gie Smith is work­ing for­ever,” she says of the stars of Philom­ena (2013) and Down­ton Abbey re­spec­tively, both of whom are 79.

“there are in­creas­ingly parts for women. And let’s not for­get San­dra Bul­lock is 49 and count­ing,” she adds, al­though she ad­mits the star of Grav­ity (2013) and The Heat (2013) “is a hol­ly­wood 49. She looks like a 29-year-old in any other cul­ture.”

the ac­tress, who has been openly sup­port­ive of fel­low fe­male per­form­ers such as 48-year-old Vi­ola Davis ( The Help, 2011), whom she had said should win the 2011 Best Ac­tress Os­car in­stead of her, also be­lieves it is the re­spon­si­bil­ity of all ac­tors, what­ever their gen­der or age, to “speak about other people whom they ad­mire” in the in­dus­try.

“Be­cause it’s a great priv­i­lege to be who we are and have the abil­ity to am­plify what we’d like to see changed in our in­dus­try,” says Streep, who has two up-and-com­ing ac­tresses for daugh­ters – Mamie Gum­mer, 30, and Grace Gum­mer, 27. they are her chil­dren with sculp­tor Don Gum­mer, whom she mar­ried in 1978. “Why not talk about it? Ev­ery­body’s afraid that they’ll be un­em­ploy­able, but the more people who speak out (the bet­ter).

“the world is now the tower of Ba­bel, ev­ery­body’s talk­ing all the time. Just say some­thing that means some­thing ... be­cause there’s so much blather that doesn’t mean any­thing.”

Of course, no one speaks out quite like the re­doubtable Streep, an en­gag­ing, en­ter­tain­ing and oc­ca­sion­ally con­tro­ver­sial pub­lic speaker.

her speech in praise of ac­tress Emma thomp­son – to whom she pre­sented Best Ac­tress honours at the Na­tional Board of Re­view awards ear­lier this month for the lat­ter’s role in Sav­ing Mr. Banks – went vi­ral when she called out Walt Dis­ney, por­trayed in the film by tom hanks, as a misog­y­nist and racist. Asked about this, Streep con­fesses that she was “an­noyed” that this as­pect of what she said ended up over­shad­ow­ing ev­ery­thing else, in­clud­ing her trib­ute to thomp­son, 54. “i only spoke out about Walt Dis­ney in his time. And as a man of his time, he was not alone in this.”

Nev­er­the­less, she does not seem even slightly fazed by the storm her re­marks pro­voked or by the pos­si­bil­ity that they might have of­fended the Dis­ney stu­dio.

in fact, she be­lieves it is her duty to speak out about in­equal­ity and prej­u­dice wher­ever she sees them. “i think it be­hooves the ones in priv­i­leged so­ci­eties to speak out on be­half of those who don’t have a voice.”

And the rights of women are not the only ones she is con­cerned with.

“i speak out about women be­cause i am one. i see in­equities and dis­par­ity in pay at the very top of our in­dus­try and the bot­tom. And i see it in ev­ery in­dus­try and across cul­tures,” she says. “i don’t think about ‘ em­pow­er­ing women’ – it’s about en­hanc­ing hu­man­ity.” – the Straits times, Sin­ga­pore/Asia News Net­work

Au­gust: Osage County opens in selected cin­e­mas in Klang Val­ley on March 7.

KramerVs. Kramer, TheIronLady, ThedevilWearsPrada and Mam­maMia! All-time favourite: Meryl Streep has en­joyed both crit­i­cal and commercial suc­cess with movies such as

For her role in au­gust:OsageCounty, Streep (seen here with co-stars Ju­lianne Ni­chol­son and Juli­ette Lewis) lost weight, chain-smoked and drank a lot of al­co­hol to get ca­dav­er­ous and hor­ri­ble-look­ing.

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