Meryl Streep (born on June 22, 1949) is an American actress. A three-time Academy Award winner, she is widely regarded as one of the greatest film actors of all time. Streep made her professional stage debut inThe Playboy of Seville in 1971, and went on to receive a 1976 Tony Award nomination for Best Featured Actress in a Playfor A Memory of Two Mondays/27 Wagons Full of Cotton. She made her screen debut in the 1977 television film The Deadliest Season, and made her film debut later that same year in Julia. In 1978, she won an Emmy Award for her role in the miniseries Holocaust, and received the first of her 19 Academy Award nominations for The Deer Hunter. She has more Academy Award nominations than any actor or actress in history, winning Best Supporting Actress for Kramer vs. Kramer (1979) and Best Actress for Sophie's Choice (1982) and The Iron Lady (2011).
Streep is one of only six actors who have won three or more competitive Academy Awards for acting. Her other nominated roles include The French Lieutenant's Woman (1981), Silkwood (1983), Out of Africa (1985), A Cry in the Dark (1988),Postcards From the Edge (1990), The Bridges of Madison County (1995), Adaptation (2002), The Devil Wears Prada(2006), Doubt (2008), Julie & Julia (2009), August: Osage County (2013), and Into the Woods (2014). She returned to the stage for the first time in over 20 years in The Public Theater's 2002 revival of The Seagull, won a second Emmy Award in 2004 for the HBO miniseries Angels in America (2003), and starred in the Public Theater's 2006 production of Mother Courage and Her Children.
Streep has also received 29 Golden Globe nominations, winning eight, more nominations and more competitive (non-honorary) wins than any other actor (male or female) in history. Her work has also earned her two Screen Actors Guild Awards, a Cannes Film Festival award, five New York Film Critics Circle Awards, two BAFTA awards, two Australian Film Institute awards, five Grammy Award nominations, and five Drama Desk Award nominations, among several others. She was awarded the AFI Life Achievement Award in 2004 and the Kennedy Center Honor in 2011 for her contribution to American culture through performing arts. President Barack Obama awarded her the 2010 National Medal of Arts and in 2014 the Presidential Medal of Freedom. In 2003, the government of France made her a Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters.
Streep was born in Summit, New Jersey, on 22 June 1949. Her mother was Mary Wilkinson Streep (1915–2001), a commercial artist and an art editor; and her father was Harry William Streep Jr. (1910–2003), a pharmaceutical executive. She has two brothers, Dana David and Harry William III.
Her father was of German and Swiss-German ancestry. Her father's lineage traces back to Loffenau, Germany, from where her second great-grandfather, Gottfried Streeb, emigrated to the United States, and where one of her ancestors served as a mayor (the surname was later changed to "Streep"). Another line of her father's family was from Giswil, Switzerland. Her mother had English, German, and Irish ancestry. Some of Streep's maternal ancestors lived in Pennsylvania and Rhode Island and were descended from 17th century immigrants from England. Her eighth great-grandfather, Lawrence Wilkinson, was one of the first Europeans to settle Rhode Island. Streep is also a distant relative of William Penn, the founder of Pennsylvania; and records show that her family is among the first purchasers of land in the state. Streep's maternal great-great-grandparents, Manus McFadden and Grace Strain, were natives of the Hook Head district of Dunfanaghy,Ireland.
Streep was raised as a Presbyterian in Bernardsville, New Jersey, where she attended Bernards High School. Author Karina Longworth describes her as a "gawky kid with glasses and frizzy hair", yet notes that she liked to show off in front of the camera in family home videos from a young age. At the age of 12 she was selected to sing at a school recital, which led to her having opera lessons from Estelle Liebling. However, despite her talent, she remarked that "I was singing something I didn't feel and understand. That was an important lesson—not to do that. To find the thing that I could feel through". She quit after four years. She had many school friends who were Catholic, and regularly attended Mass because she loved its rituals. Although in high school Streep appeared in numerous school plays, she was uninterested in serious theatre until acting in the play Miss Julie at Vassar College in 1969, in which she gained attention across the campus. Vassar drama professor Clinton J Atkinson noted, "I don't think anyone ever taught Meryl acting. She really taught herself". She demonstrated an early ability to mimic accents and to quickly memorize her lines. She received her BA at the college in 1971, before applying for a MFA from the Yale School of Drama. At Yale she supplemented her course fees by waitressing and typing, and appeared in over a dozen stage productions a year, to the point that she became overworked, developing ulcers, which led her to contemplate quitting acting and switching to study law. She played a variety of roles onstage, from Helena in A Midsummer Night's Dream to an 80-year-old woman in a wheelchair in a comedy written by then-unknown playwrightsChristopher Durang and Albert Innaurato. One of her teachers was Robert Lewis, one of the co-founders of the Actors Studio, yet Streep disapproved of some of the acting exercises she was asked to do, feeling that the professors "delved into personal lives in a way I find obnoxious". She received her MFA from Yale in 1975. Streep later enrolled as a visiting student at Dartmouth College from where she received an Honorary Doctor of Arts degree in 1981.
Streep entered the 2000s with an uncredited voice cameo in Steven Spielberg's A.I. Artificial Intelligence, a science fiction film about a childlike android, played byHaley Joel Osment, uniquely programmed with the ability to love, voicing the Blue Fairy. The same year, Streep co-hosted the annual Nobel Peace Prize Concertconcert with Liam Neeson which was held in Oslo, Norway on December 11, 2001 in honour of the Nobel Peace Prize laureate, the United Nations and Kofi Annan.
In 2002, Streep returned to the stage for the first time in more than twenty years, playing Arkadina in The Public Theater's revival of Anton Chekhov's The Seagull, directed by Mike Nichols and co-starring Kevin Kline, Natalie Portman, and Philip Seymour Hoffman. The same year, she began work on Spike Jonze's comedy-drama Adaptation (2002), in which she portrayed real-life journalist Susan Orlean. Lauded by critics and viewers alike, the film won Streep her fourth Golden Globein the Best Supporting Actress category. Also in 2002, Streep appeared alongside Nicole Kidman and Julianne Moore in Stephen Daldry's The Hours, based on the 1999 novel by Michael Cunningham. Focusing on three women of different generations whose lives are interconnected by the novel Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf, the film was generally well received and won all three leading actresses a Silver Bear for Best Actress the following year.
The following year, Streep had a cameo as herself in the Farrelly brothers comedy Stuck on You (2003) and reunited with Mike Nichols to star with Al Pacino and Emma Thompson in the HBO adaptation of Tony Kushner's six-hour play Angels in America, the story of two couples whose relationships dissolve amidst the backdrop of Reagan Era politics. Streep, who was cast in four roles in the mini-series, received her second Emmy Award and fifth Golden Globe for her performance. In 2004, Streep was awarded the AFI Life Achievement Award by the Board of Directors of the American Film Institute. She appeared inJonathan Demme's moderately successful remake of The Manchurian Candidate, co-starring Denzel Washington, playing the role of a woman who is both a U.S. senator and the manipulative, ruthless mother of a vice-presidential candidate. The same year, she played the supporting role of Aunt Josephine in Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events alongside Jim Carrey, based on the first three novels in Snicket's book series. The black comedy received generally favorable reviews from critics, and won the Academy Award for Best Makeup. Inspired by her love of Giverny in France and Claude Monet, Streep did the narration for the film Monet's Palate, with Alice Waters, Steve Wynn, Daniel Boulud and Helen Rappel Bordman.
Streep was next cast in the 2005 comedy film Prime, directed by Ben Younger. In the film, she played Lisa Metzger, the Jewishpsychoanalyst of a divorced and lonesome business-woman, played by Uma Thurman, who enters a relationship with Metzger's 23-year-old son (Bryan Greenberg). A modest mainstream success, it eventually grossed US$67.9 million internationally. In August and September 2006, she starred onstage at The Public Theater's production of Mother Courage and Her Children at the Delacorte Theatre in Central Park. The Public Theater production was a new translation by playwright Tony Kushner (Angels in America), with songs in the Weill/Brecht style written by composer Jeanine Tesori (Caroline, or Change); veteran director George C. Wolfe was at the helm. Streep starred alongside Kevin Kline and Austin Pendleton in this three-and-a-half-hour play.
Also in 2006, Streep, along with Lily Tomlin, portrayed the last two members of what was once a popular family country music act in Robert Altman's final film A Prairie Home Companion. A comedic ensemble piece featuring Tommy Lee Jones, Kevin Kline and Woody Harrelson, the film revolves around the behind-the-scenes activities at the long-running public radio show of the same name. The film grossed more than US$26 million, the majority of which came from domestic markets. Commercially, Streep fared better with a role in The Devil Wears Prada (2006), a loose screen adaptation of Lauren Weisberger's 2003 novel of the same name. Streep portrayed the powerful and demanding Miranda Priestly, fashion magazine editor (and boss of a recent college graduate played by Anne Hathaway), and her performance drew rave reviews from critics and earned her many award nominations, including her record-setting 14th Oscar bid, as well as another Golden Globe. Upon its commercial release, the film became Streep's biggest commercial success yet, grossing more than US$326.5 million worldwide.
In 2007, Streep was cast in four films. She portrayed a wealthy university patron in Chen Shi-zheng's much-delayed feature drama Dark Matter (2007), a film about a Chinese science graduate student who becomes violent after dealing with academic politics at a U.S. university. Inspired by the events of the 1991 University of Iowa shooting, and initially scheduled for a 2007 release, producers and investors decided to shelve Dark Matter out of respect for the Virginia Tech massacre in April 2007. The drama received negative to mixed reviews upon its limited 2008 release. Streep played a U.S. government official who investigates an Egyptian foreign national suspected of terrorism in the political thriller Rendition (2007), directed by Gavin Hood. Keen to get involved in a thriller film, Streep welcomed the opportunity to star in a film genre for which she was not usually offered scripts and immediately signed on to the project. Upon its release, Rendition was less commercially successful, and received mixed reviews.
Also in 2007, Streep had a short role alongside Vanessa Redgrave, Glenn Close and her eldest daughter Mamie Gummer in Lajos Koltai's drama film Evening, based on the 1998 novel of the same name by Susan Minot. Switching between the present and the past, it tells the story of a bedridden woman, who remembers her tumultuous life in the mid-1950s. The film was released to lukewarm reactions by critics, who called it "beautifully filmed, but decidedly dull [and] a colossal waste of a talented cast." Streep's last film of 2007 was Robert Redford's Lions for Lambs, a film about the connection between a platoon of United States soldiers inAfghanistan, a U.S. senator, a reporter, and a California college professor.
In 2008, Streep found major commercial success when she starred in Phyllida Lloyd's Mamma Mia!, a film adaptation of the musical of the same name, based on the songs of Swedish pop group ABBA. Co-starring Amanda Seyfried, Pierce Brosnan, Stellan Skarsgård and Colin Firth, Streep played a single mother and a former girl-group singer, whose daughter (Seyfried), a bride-to-be who never met her father, invites three likely paternal candidates to her wedding on an idyllic Greek island. An instant box office success, Mamma Mia! became Streep's highest-grossing film to date, with box office receipts of US$602.6 million, also ranking it first among the highest-grossing musical films for now. Nominated for another Golden Globe, Streep's performance was generally well received by critics, with Wesley Morris of the Boston Globe commenting "the greatest actor in American movies has finally become a movie star."
Streep's other film of 2008 was Doubt featuring Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams, and Viola Davis. A drama revolving around the stern principal nun (Streep) of aBronx Catholic school in 1964 who brings charges of pedophilia against a popular priest (Hoffman), the film became a moderate box office success, but was hailed by many critics as one of the best of 2008. The film received five Academy Awards nominations, for its four lead actors and for Shanley's script.
In 2009, Streep played chef Julia Child in Nora Ephron's Julie & Julia, co-starring Amy Adams and Stanley Tucci. The first major motion picture based on a blog, it contrasts the life of Child in the early years of her culinary career with the life of young New Yorker Julie Powell (Adams), who aspires to cook all 524 recipes in Child's cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Longworth believes her caricature of Julia Child was "quite possibly the biggest performance of her career while also drawing on her own experience to bring lived-in truth the story of a late bloomer". The same year, Streep also starred in Nancy Meyers' romantic comedy It's Complicated, with Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin. She also received nominations for the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy for both of these films and won the award for the former, Streep later received her 16th Oscar nomination for Julie & Julia. She also lent her voice to Mrs. Felicity Fox in the stop-motion film Fantastic Mr. Fox.
Streep's first film of the 2010s was Phyllida Lloyd's The Iron Lady (2011), a British biographical film about Margaret Thatcher, which takes a look at the Prime Ministerduring the Falklands War and her years in retirement. Streep, who sat through a session at the House of Commons to observe British MPs in action in preparation for her role, called her casting "a daunting and exciting challenge." While the film had a mixed reception, Streep's performance got rave reviews, earning her Best Actress awards at the Golden Globes and the BAFTAs as well as her third win at the 84th Academy Awards. Former advisers, friends and family of Thatcher criticized Streep's portrayal of her as inaccurate and biased. The following year, after Thatcher's death, Streep issued a formal statement criticizing Thatcher's "hard-nosed fiscal measures" and "hands-off approach to financial regulation," while praising her "personal strength and grit."
In 2012, Streep reunited with Prada director David Frankel on the set of the comedy-drama film Hope Springs, co-starring Tommy Lee Jones and Steve Carell. In it, Streep and Jones play a middle-aged couple, who attend a week of intensive marriage counseling to try to bring back the intimacy missing in their relationship. Reviews for the film were mostly positive, with critics praising the "mesmerizing performances [...] which offer filmgoers some grown-up laughs — and a thoughtful look at mature relationships".
In 2013, Streep starred alongside Julia Roberts, Ewan McGregor, Chris Cooper, and others in the black comedy drama August: Osage County about a dysfunctional family that reunites into the familial house when their patriarch suddenly disappears. Based on Tracy Letts's Pulitzer Prize-winning play of the same name, Streep received positive reviews for her portrayal of the family's strong-willed and contentious matriarch, who is suffering from oral cancer and addiction to narcotics, and was subsequently nominated for another Golden Globe, SAG, and Academy Award. At the National Board of Review Awards in 2013, Streep labeled Walt Disney (d. 1966) as "anti-semitic" and a "gender bigot." Former actors, employees and animators who knew Disney during his lifetime rebuffed the comments as misinformed and selective. The Walt Disney Family Museum issued a statement rebuking Streep's allegations indirectly, citing, among others, Disney's contributions to Jewish charities and his published letters stating that women "have the right to expect the same chances for advancement as men." However, Disney's grandniece, Abigail Disney, wholeheartedly agreed with Streep's statements, stating that he was an "anti-Semite," and "racist" who was also an exemplary filmmaker whose work "made billions of people happy."
Streep's first film of 2014 was the motion picture adaptation of the young adult novel The Giver. Set in 2048, the social science fiction film tells the story of a post-apocalyptic community without war, pain, suffering, differences or choice, where a young boy is chosen to learn the real world. Streep, who plays the community's leader, was aware of the book before being offered the role by co-star and producer Jeff Bridges. Upon its release, The Giver was met with generally mixed to negative reviews from critics. The same year, she also had a small role in the period drama film The Homesman, Tommy Lee Jones' sophomore directorial effort. Set in the 1850s midwest, the film stars Hilary Swank and Jones as an unusual pair, who helps three women driven to madness by the frontier to get back East. Streep appears not until the end of the film, playing a preacher's wife, who takes the women into care. The Homesman premiered at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival where it garnered largely positive reviews from critics.
Her final film of 2014 was the Disney film adaptation of the Broadway musical Into the Woods, directed by Rob Marshall. A fantasy genre crossover inspired by the Grimm Brothers' fairy tales, it centers on a childless couple, who sets out to end a curse placed on them by a vengeful witch, played by Streep. Streep's performance earned her Academy Award, Golden Globe, SAG, and Critic's Choice Award nominations for Best Supporting Actress.
Streep agreed to play Emmeline Pankhurst, a supporting role in the film Suffragette, which started shooting during late February 2014. In July 2014, it was confirmed that Streep has agreed to play Maria Callas in Master Class and that she would have reunited with former director Mike Nichols for this HBO film, though after the death of Nichols in November, the status of this project is unknown. It was also confirmed that Streep will begin shooting in October 2014, Ricki and the Flash. In the film Streep will play a grocery store checkout lady by day and by night a fading rock musician who has one last chance to reconnect with her estranged family. The film's director will be Jonathan Demme and the screenwriter attached to this project is Diablo Cody. On October 2014, it was confirmed that Streep had agreed to star in a biopic of the famously awful opera singer Florence Foster Jenkins for director Stephen Frears, which will title: Florence.
Streep lived with actor John Cazale for three years until his death in March 1978. Al Pacino remarked that "I've hardly ever seen a person so devoted to someone who is falling away like John was. To see her in that act of love for this man was overwhelming." Streep said of his death, "I didn't get over it. I don't want to get over it. No matter what you do, the pain is always there in some recess of your mind, and it affects everything that happens afterwards. I think you can assimilate the pain and go on without making an obsession of it".
Streep married sculptor Don Gummer six months after Cazale's death on September 30, 1978. They have four children: musician Henry (born 1979), actressesMamie (born 1983) and Grace (born 1986), and model Louisa (born 1991). In August 1985 the family moved into a $1.8 million private estate in Connecticut, with an extensive art studio to facilitate her husband, and lived there until they bought a $3 million mansion in Brentwood, Los Angeles, in 1990. They later moved back to Connecticut in 1994 until the end of the decade.
Author Karina Longworth notes that despite her "high level of stardom" for decades, Streep has managed to maintain a relatively normal personal life.
When asked if religion plays a part in her life in 2009, Streep replied: "I follow no doctrine. I don't belong to a church or a temple or a synagogue or an ashram." In an interview in December 2008, she also alluded to her lack of religious belief when she said: "So I've always been really, deeply interested, because I think I can understand the solace that's available in the whole construct of religion. But I really don't believe in the power of prayer, or things would have been avoided that have happened, that are awful. So it's a horrible position as an intelligent, emotional, yearning human being to sit outside of the available comfort there. But I just can't go there."
When asked from where she draws consolation in the face of aging and death, Streep responded: "Consolation? I'm not sure I have it. I have a belief, I guess, in the power of the aggregate human attempt – the best of ourselves. In love and hope and optimism – you know, the magic things that seem inexplicable. Why we are the way we are. I do have a sense of trying to make things better. Where does that come from?"