Meryl Streep

As an iconic film – that was to be the last small role for Meryl Streep – re­turns to the cine­mas, we chat ex­clu­sively to the lady her­self about fam­ily, fears and fame

YOURS (UK) - - Content - By Gabrielle Don­nelly

In­se­cure isn’t a word you’d usu­ally as­so­ciate with Meryl Streep – global su­per­star, Hol­ly­wood icon, ac­tress ex­traor­di­naire, yes. But in real life the woman who’s de­lighted cinema fans for al­most 40 years is sur­pris­ingly un­sure of her­self. “I’ve had a long ca­reer, haven’t I?” she agrees when we meet in a ho­tel near her home in New York. “I don’t know why – I just started work­ing when I was right out of drama school and I haven’t stopped. I’ve been very lucky. I found what I love to do and am good at do­ing, and I found it early enough to make it my life’s work, which makes me a very lucky woman.”

‘I’m re­ally happy when scripts come along that al­low me to con­tinue in the pro­fes­sion. I’m al­ways ex­pect­ing that peo­ple will think ‘Ugh – not her again!’ – you know?’

But ask about her nu­mer­ous awards over the years – from Os­cars to life­time achieve­ment awards and she only shrugs. “Oh, I’m sure that my ca­reer has been won­der­ful, and peo­ple talk about ac­co­lades and such, but some­how that doesn’t reg­is­ter with me. My mother used to say to me, ‘Why don’t you en­joy it more? Some peo­ple would give an arm

and a leg to walk down the red car­pet at a movie pre­miere, why can’t you en­joy it?’ But I just don’t get into it, I’m afraid. I have my own doubts, wor­ries and in­se­cu­ri­ties and that’s what I fix­ate on. “I’m re­ally happy when scripts come along that al­low me to con­tinue in the pro­fes­sion, be­cause there’s not a lot of older women work­ing, and I’m al­ways ex­pect­ing that peo­ple will get sick of me. ‘Ugh – not her again!’ – you know?” We’re chat­ting as the Woody Allen film Man­hat­tan is re-re­leased in UK cine­mas. The 1979 hit fea­tured a young Meryl Streep, all soar­ing cheek­bones and swishy long blonde hair, play­ing a small-ish role as Woody’s ex-wife, who had left him – in a shock­ingly dar­ing plot twist for the time – for an­other woman. It was the last small-ish role that Meryl would ever be of­fered. By the time it hit the screens, she had al­ready made a stir in the Viet­nam war drama The Deer Hunter, fol­lowed, in the next three years, by Kramer vs Kramer, The French Lieu­tenant’s Woman and So­phie’s Choice. The roles ce­mented her sta­tus on Hol­ly­wood’s ‘A’ list, but the fame has never gone to her head. Thirty-eight years after Man­hat­tan – and with laugh­ter lines around her eyes – she both looks and acts far more like the friendly neigh­bour next door than some­one who has won more act­ing awards than many actors have had hot din­ners. And de­spite her fears of not get­ting film roles, the parts have con­tin­ued to roll in – we can’t wait to see her in Mary Pop­pins Re­turns, the long-awaited se­quel to the clas­sic. Mean­while at the Golden Globes Awards ear­lier this year, her fiery speech tak­ing Don­ald Trump to task for mock­ing a dis­abled re­porter earned her a stand­ing ova­tion, both at the cer­e­mony then, and at the Academy Awards cer­e­mony later in the year. So away from the spot­light what’s life like in the Streep house­hold? She’s hap­pily mar­ried to sculp­tor Don Gum­mer and mother to four now grown chil­dren. “My hus­band and I don’t seem to fight about the things I’m told many cou­ples fight about,” she once told me, thought­fully. “Things like money, sex, or chil­dren. Weirdly, our fights are about the lit­tle things. ‘Why didn’t you ser­vice the car?’ ‘But you said you were go­ing to ser­vice the car when the red light came on!’ Things like that...” Clearly the fights are not too wound­ing, as they will have been mar­ried for 40 years this Septem­ber, and the chil­dren, Henry, Mamie, Grace and Louisa, openly adore them. “I re­ally like this part of life, now that they’re all grown up,” she says. “You wait so many years while they’re grow­ing up and you think, ‘What are they go­ing to be like?’ and now they are all adults and what you find out is that pretty much they’re the way they were when they were three years old! I think you are who you are from the start and you just have to find it in your­self. “All those years ago when I made Kramer vs Kramer, I was play­ing a mother be­fore I was a mother in real life, but in my heart I al­ready knew the sort of mother that I was go­ing to be. And I was right be­cause that is the sort of mother that I am.” She ad­mits that as she grows older, she likes to be pam­pered from time to time. “I love a mas­sage. Fail­ing that, I cook. I do try to stay healthy. Some­times I let my­self fall apart when it’s ap­pro­pri­ate, but gen­er­ally I try to swim a mile ev­ery day, be­cause I like the feel­ing and it gets me into my body. “I’m quite con­scious of keep­ing my health, be­cause it doesn’t last for­ever and we’re all of us lucky for as long as we do have it. I try to re­mem­ber that. And I’m pretty happy most of the time and be­lieve in the best in peo­ple. “Of course noth­ing’s per­fect, but Leonard Co­hen has a great line which is, “There’s a crack in every­thing and that’s how the light gets in.” And that’s what I feel.”

Man­hat­tan is at se­lected cine­mas from Fri­day, May 12

‘I’m quite con­scious of keep­ing my health, be­cause it doesn’t last for­ever and we’re all of us lucky for as long as we do have it. I try to re­mem­ber that’

In Man­hat­tan with Woody Allen in 1979. The film is be­ing re-re­leased this month

A glit­ter­ing ca­reer: Meryl in The Deer Hunter, Kramer vs Kramer, The French Lieu­tenant’s Woman, So­phie’s Choice and The Devil Wears Prada With hus­band of 40 years, Don Gum­mer

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