Actresses Meryl Streep Photo By Artem Creative Commons ShareAlike Licence

Published on October 19th, 2009 | by Yellow Magpie


Meryl Streep: An Extraordinary Talent

Meryl Streep Photo By Artem Creative Commons ShareAlike Licence

Meryl Streep, is one of the finest, most talented and intelligent actresses of our time. She seems to inhabit characters rather than merely playing a role. Portraying some of the most difficult and memorable figures ever written for women, Meryl Streep has continuously redefined the definition of great acting.

Meryl Streep Photo By Andreas Tai Creative Commons ShareAlike Licence

Meryl Streep Photo By Andreas Tai Creative Commons ShareAlike Licence

Her ability to make any role her own has made her a firm favourite with directors and film buffs.  From the formidable and flamboyant Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada , to the stern puritan Sister Aloysius Beauvoir in Doubt her talents have never been confined to one particular genre.

To date, Meryl Streep has received a staggering 15 Oscar nominations and won twice.

Her Early Years

Born Mary Louise Streep, in 1949, in Summit, New Jersey, to Mary W. Streep, a commercial artist, and Henry William Streep Jr. a pharmaceutical executive. Streep has two younger brothers Dana and Harry.

Meryl Streep Photo By Jack Mitchell Creative Commons ShareAlike Licence

Meryl Streep Photo By Jack Mitchell Creative Commons ShareAlike Licence

Streep attended Bernard’s High School, before going on to study at Vassar College, where she received some tuition from Jean Arthur(an American film star of the 1930s and 40s) before going on to graduate with a BA in Drama in 1971. She subsequently secured an M.F.A. (Master of Fine Arts) from Yale School of Drama.

John Cazale

Meryl Streep met actor John Cazale while working on the set of the theatre production of Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure in 1976. Reckoned by many to be one of the most gifted actors of his generation, John starred, to critical acclaim, in Dog Day Afternoonand The Godfather Part II.

John Cazale And Meryl Streep In The Deer Hunter

John Cazale And Meryl Streep In The Deer Hunter

However, devastating news lay ahead not long into the couple’s relationship when John was diagnosed with cancer of the bone and he was given a bleak prognosis.

Her First Film

Under the shawdow of the emotional turmoil caused by John’s condition, Meryl made her debut in her first film Julia in 1977 and was praised for her performance. The following year, 1978, she was nominated for Best Supporting Actress, for her role as Linda in the film The Deer Hunter opposite John, who was now her fiance.

Meryl Streep Photo By Alan Light

Meryl Streep Photo By Alan Light

John’s Death

Meryl had taken the role in The Deer Hunter to be near John who was in the terminal stages of of cancer at the time. She was not terribly interested in the part and was quoted as saying “They needed a girl between the two guys and I was it’. That same year she played the role of Inga in the film Holocaust, the film was shot in Germany and Austria.

When Streep returned from filming she found her fiancé Cazale’s health had greatly deteriorated and she nursed him until he died on March 12, 1978.

Don Gummer

The same year Meryl Streep met her future husband Don Gummer. A friend of her brother, Gummer is a sculptor. The couple married on September 15, 1978. In 1979 the couple had their first child, Henry. Her second child Mary was born in 1983 and in 1986 she gave birth to her third child, Grace Jane Gummer.

And The Oscar Goes To…Meryl Streep

In 1979, Streep played the role of Joanna Kramer, a mother who fights to win custody of her child only to realize he is happiest living with his father played by Dustin Hoffman. Streep won an Academy Award in the category of Best Supporting Actress.

Meryl Streep Photo By jdeeringdavis

Meryl Streep Photo By jdeeringdavis

There followed a host of successful films including, The French Lieutenant’s Woman and Still Of The Night.

Sophie’s Choice

The 1982 film, Sophie’s Choice saw Streep cast in the role of a polish holocaust survivor. Streep is said to have filmed ‘the choice’ in one take refusing to do it again as she found it so emotionally draining. She was nominated and won an Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance.


She followed up on this success in 1983 with the portrayal of union activist Karen Silkwood in the eponymous film Silkwood. She received an Academy Award nomination for her performance.

Since then Streep has gone on to star in box office hits such as Out of Africa (1985) playing the role of Karen Bixen, a Danish writer opposite Robert Redford.

Meryl Streep Receiving An Honory Degree From Harvard Photo By chensiyuan Creative Commons ShareAlike Licence

Meryl Streep Receiving An Honory Degree From Harvard Photo By chensiyuan Creative Commons ShareAlike Licence

Lindy Chamberlain

In 1988 A Cry in the Dark was released in which Streep played Australian woman Lyndy Chambarlain.

Based on a true story, A Cry In The Dark documented a young couple’s experience of a misappropriation of justice. On August 17, 1980, a dingo took Lindy’s daughter, Azaria, while the family were camping at Uluru, Queensland, Australia.

At an incompetent hearing, the prosecution citing evidence of blood presented in the Chamberlain’s car, put forth a theory that Lindy had slit the throat of her own daughter.

Lindy Chamberlain was found guilty and sentenced to life while Michael, her husband, was convicted of assisting his wife in the murder of Azaria. While in prison Lindy gave birth to her fourth child, Kahlia.

After an unsuccessful appeal new evidence was found in February 2, 1986. Azaria’s clothing was found partially buried near Uluru beside a dingo lair. She was released from prison a few days later and it later emerged that the ‘baby blood’ in the family car could have been any substance. There have been several cases of dingos killing children since.

Meryl Streep In The Iron Lady

Meryl Streep In The Iron Lady

Continuing Excellence

In 1995, she starred in the romantic The Bridges of Madison County opposite Clint Eastwood, playing the role of Francesca Johnson.

In 2002 she appeared in another successful film, playing the role of Clarissa Vaughan in The Hours which also starred Nicole Kidman as Virgina Woolf

In 2004 she was cast as Eleanor Shaw in The Manchurian Candidate that same year she returned to comedy for Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events where she played Aunt Josephine.

Meryl Streep With The Cast Of Mamma Mia And ABBA Photo By Daniel Åhs Karlsson

Meryl Streep With The Cast Of Mamma Mia And ABBA Photo By Daniel Åhs Karlsson

Recent Films

Her more recent films include the enormously popular The Devil Wears Prada, and Mamma Mia! The Movie.

Her last film to date is Julie & Julia (film review) in which she plays the part of Julia Child a TV cook and author in the 70s and 80s.

Meryl Streep is now in her 60s and no doubt will continue to amaze entertain and touch the lives of millions of people all over the world with her marvellous portrayal  of women.

Further Reading

Meryl Streep: A Critical Biography is not the usual fluffy celebrity book it is a critical analysis of Streep’s work and her approach to acting. For anyone interested in learning the techniques used by Meryl Streep, this book is a must.
For people living in Ireland or the United Kingdom, you can access Meryl Streep: A Critical Biography here.
For those who live in Canada, you can obtain Meryl Streep: A Critical Biography from here.
For Germany: Meryl Streep: A Critical Biography.
For France: Meryl Streep: A Critical Biography.

About the Author

5 Responses to Meryl Streep: An Extraordinary Talent

  1. Meryl was never in any movie called Life in the Dark, and the date cited as Lindy Chamberlain being released from prison was several months before she event went on trial. Got your facts wrong and your dates years out.

  2. Author says:

    Thank you I am very grateful. I don’t know what I was thinking there. Duly changed.

  3. Pingback: Meryl Streep Quotes: An Outspoken Actress

  4. Pingback: The Devil Wears Prada Film Review: A Movie With Vivid Performances

  5. Pingback: Julie and Julia Film Review: The Genuine And The Pretender

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