Meryl Streep - biography

Meryl Streep

Mary Louise "Meryl" Streep (born June 22, 1949[1]) is an American actress who has worked in theatre, television, and film. She is widely regarded as one of the most talented actresses of all time.[2][3][4]

Streep made her professional stage debut in The Playboy of Seville (1971), before her screen debut in the television movie Deadliest Season (1977). In that same year, she made her film debut with Julia (1977). Both critical and commercial success came quickly with roles in The Deer Hunter (1978) and Kramer vs. Kramer (1979), the former giving Streep her first Academy Award nomination and the latter her first win. She later won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her performances in Sophie's Choice (1982) and The Iron Lady (2011).

Streep has received 17 Academy Award nominations, winning three, and 26 Golden Globe nominations, winning eight, more nominations than any other actor in the history of either award. Her work has also earned her two Emmy Awards, two Screen Actors Guild Awards, a Cannes Film Festival award, five New York Film Critics Circle Awards, two BAFTA awards, an Australian Film Institute Award, five Grammy Award nominations, and a Tony Award nomination, amongst 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, the youngest actress in each award's history.

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[edit] Early life and background

Streep was born Mary Louise Streep in Summit, New Jersey.[5] Her mother, Mary Wolf (née Wilkinson; 1915-2001), was a commercial artist and former art editor, and her father, Harry William Streep, Jr. (1910-2003), was a pharmaceutical executive.[6][7][8] She has two brothers, Dana David and Harry William III.[9] Her patrilineal ancestry originates in Loffenau, Germany, from where her second great-grandfather, Gottfried Streeb, emigrated to the United States, and where one of her ancestors served as mayor. Another line of her father's family was from Giswil in the canton of Obwalden, a small town in Switzerland. Her maternal ancestry originates in Pennsylvania and Rhode Island, and partly traces back to 17th century immigrants from England.[8] 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 were among the first purchasers of land in the state.[10][11][12]

She was raised a Presbyterian,[13][14] and grew up in Bernardsville, New Jersey, where she attended Bernards High School.[15] She had many school friends who were Catholic, and regularly attended Mass because she loved its rituals.[16] She received her B.A., in Drama at Vassar College in 1971 (where she briefly received instruction from actress Jean Arthur), but also enrolled as an exchange student at Dartmouth College for a quarter before it became coeducational. She subsequently earned an M.F.A. from the Yale School of Drama. While at Yale, she played a variety of roles onstage,[17] from the glamorous Helena in A Midsummer Night's Dream to an eighty-year-old woman in a wheelchair in a comedy written by then-unknown playwrights Christopher Durang and Albert Innaurato.[18][19][20]

[edit] Career [edit] Early career

Streep performed in several theater productions in New York and New Jersey after graduating from Yale School of Drama,[21] including the New York Shakespeare Festival productions of Henry V, The Taming of the Shrew with Raúl Juliá, and Measure for Measure opposite Sam Waterston and John Cazale. She started a relationship with Cazale, and was to live with him until his death three years later. She starred on Broadway in the Brecht/Weill musical Happy End, and won an Obie for her performance in the all-sung off-Broadway production of Alice at the Palace.

 

 

Streep by Jack Mitchell

Streep began auditioning for film roles, and later recalled an unsuccessful audition for Dino De Laurentiis for the leading female role in King Kong. De Laurentiis commented to his son in Italian, "She's ugly. Why did you bring me this thing?" and was shocked when Streep replied in fluent Italian.[22] In New York City, she appeared in the 1976 Broadway double bill of Tennessee Williams' 27 Wagons Full of Cotton and Arthur Miller's A Memory of Two Mondays. For the former, she received a Tony Award nomination for Best Featured Actress in a Play. Her other early Broadway credits include Anton Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard and the Bertolt Brecht-Kurt Weill musical Happy End in which she originally appeared off-Broadway at the Chelsea Theater Center. She received Drama Desk Award nominations for both productions.

Streep's first feature film was Julia (1977), in which she played a small but pivotal role during a flashback scene. Streep was living in New York City with Cazale, who had been diagnosed with bone cancer.[23] He was cast in The Deer Hunter (1978), and Streep was delighted to secure a small role because it allowed her to remain with Cazale for the duration of filming. She was not specifically interested in the part, commenting, "They needed a girl between the two guys and I was it."[24]

She played a leading role in the television miniseries Holocaust (1978) as a German woman married to a Jewish artist in Nazi era Germany. She later explained that she had considered the material to be "unrelentingly noble",[24] and had taken the role only because she had needed money.[25] Streep travelled to Germany and Austria for filming while Cazale remained in New York. Upon her return, Streep found that Cazale's illness had progressed, and she nursed him until his death on March 12, 1978. She spoke of her grief and her hope that work would provide a diversion; she accepted a role in The Seduction of Joe Tynan (1979) with Alan Alda, later commenting that she played it on "automatic pilot",[24] and performed the role of Katherine in The Taming of the Shrew for Shakespeare in the Park.[26] With an estimated audience of 109 million, Holocaust brought a degree of public recognition to Streep, who was described in August 1978 as "on the verge of national visibility".[25] She won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress – Miniseries or a Movie[27] for her performance.

The Deer Hunter (1978) was released a month later, and Streep was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance.

Streep played a supporting role in Manhattan (1979) for Woody Allen, later stating that she had not seen a complete script and was given only the six pages of her own scenes,[28] and that she had not been permitted to improvise a word of her dialogue.[29] Asked to comment on the script for Kramer vs. Kramer (1979), in a meeting with the producer Stan Jaffee, director Robert Benton and star Dustin Hoffman, Streep insisted that the female character was not representative of many real women who faced marriage breakdown and child custody battles, and was written as "too evil".[24] Jaffee, Benton and Hoffman agreed with Streep, and the script was revised.[24] In preparing for the part, Streep spoke to her own mother about her life as a mother and housewife with a career,[30] and frequented the Upper East Side neighborhood in which the film was set.[24] Benton allowed Streep to write her dialogue in two of her key scenes, despite some objection from Hoffman.[31] Jaffee and Hoffman later spoke of Streep's tirelessness, with Hoffman commenting, "She's extraordinarily hardworking, to the extent that she's obsessive. I think that she thinks about nothing else but what she's doing."[32]

Streep drew critical acclaim for her performance in each of her three films released in 1979: the romantic comedy Manhattan, the political drama The Seduction of Joe Tynan and the family drama, Kramer vs. Kramer.[21] She was awarded the Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actress, National Board of Review Award for Best Supporting Actress and National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Supporting Actress for her collective work in the three films. Among the awards won for Kramer vs. Kramer were the Academy Award and Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress.[21]

[edit] 1980s

 

 

Streep at the 61st Academy Awards, 1989

After prominent supporting roles in two of the 1970s' most successful films, the consecutive winners of the Academy Award for Best Picture,

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