Interview by Christine Spines
Christine recorded her conversation with Meryl Streep in 2008 for a profile she wrote for Entertainment Weekly.
The Animated Transcript
Christine Stines is a Los Angeles-based arts journalist who spent fifteen years covering Hollywood.
You’re not supposed to speak ill of the dead, but Earl Blackwell finally died, and I was on his blacklist every year for being the worst dressed person.
Oh, was he some sort of society columnist or something?
Blackwell’s list every year is the worst dressed people in America. I was a regular on that list. Anyway.
The thing that was relentless for me here was how you look. I just… I couldn’t put up with it. I mean, it just drove me crazy.
But you chose a whole career that is pretty concerned with that stuff.
It wasn’t the career I chose. The career I chose was a drama major in college, at Yale, when I played a 90-year-old woman. One of my most celebrated roles. Then I played a really fat person. I played a lot of different things. That’s how I thought I loved to wrangle my talent, my need to express myself. I like to do it that way.
I never thought I was somebody that would be on the cover of magazines in fashions, wearing fashions. It’s like not me. But that is what movie stardom entails. I always wore my own clothes a lot of the time, in interviews. In the marketing of a movie. I could…
Are these your own clothes?
Actually this is not. These are mine. These shoes are mine. But I missed … I got famous before you had to do all this stuff. I went up for King Kong. I remember that.
That would have been fun.
Jessica Lang’s part. Dino De Laurentiis, he was sitting there. He was meeting all these girls. I came in. I had really tried to look nice. His son was sitting in the room, and Dino spoke to him in Italian. I know Italian, studied Italian. So he said, “Why do you send me this pig. This woman, she’s so ugly.”
So I looked at him and I said, “brutta”.
What does that mean?
“I’m very sorry that I disappoint you”. He was so used to treating girls like bimbos. Of course, he would never imagine that a blond person would speak Italian.
I found my knitting bag just last week, and in it was a half-finished sweater for a boyfriend, long gone, and the knitting book, the knitting pattern which was in Women’s Day Magazine, 1967. I looked through this magazine and I just couldn’t believe it. I showed it to my daughters and they were screaming.
Because the second page, big, great big ad, “Join the only profession where you can make as much as a man. Be an accountant.” Yeah. There was a column called, “What Men Say About Women.” “The worst thing that a man can do to a woman is to let her get on top. They asked us in so many different ways not to let them, and if we don’t, they’re happier, and we’re happier.” Just a really different world. It’s hard to explain that to people.
Sometimes you look out the window and you look at all the windows, and think inside very single one of them is somebody with some huge, weird, terrible problem, some great jokes. There’s a lot of lives worth embodying. It’s very exhilarating to step into somebody else’s shoes. It’s very humbling to imagine somebody else’s really life and their pain. It’s my drug.
Well, I mean, I have so much doubt. I am an actor.
But you’re connecting with people so much right now.
That’s a great thing. Because I have a lot to say about the world, clearly. Only I can’t put together, as you can see, a clear sentence about it all, but through the work I can say what I think.
Meryl’s Many Wins
Academy Awards: 3 Golden Globes: 8 Emmys: 2 SAG Awards: 2
Fighting Back Against the Boys
At the Tribeca Film Festival, it was announced that Meryl partnered with the organization New York Women in Film and Television to fund a Writer’s Lab for female filmmakers over 40. Find out more about the initiative here.
Pioneers in Hollywood
Before Hollywood became known as a boys’ club, they were some remarkable female pioneers who helped turn the film industry into a world-changing force. Meet these women on our blog.
Meryl at the Women in the World Summit
Meryl recently sat on a panel with Selma filmmaker Ava Duvernay and documentarian Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy and addressed representations of women (or lack thereof) in popular culture:
“This act of empathy, that women go through from the time we’re little girls—we read all of literature, all of history, it’s really about boys, most of it. But I can feel more like Peter Pan than Tinker Bell, or like Wendy. I wanted to be Tom Sawyer, not Becky. And we’re so used to that act of empathizing with the protagonist of a male-driven plot. I mean, that’s what we’ve done all our lives. You read history, you read great literature, Shakespeare, it’s all fellas, you know?”
Meryl’s Stereotype-Shattering Roles
Meryl has made a career out of playing strong female characters – complex women who expressed a range of emotions, strengths, and vulnerabilities. Here are some favs:
Julia Child – Julie and Julia
Margaret Thatcher – The Iron Lady
Miranda Priestly – The Devil Wears Prada
Isak Dinesen – Out of Africa
Karen Silkwood – Silkwood
Vincent Luigi Molino via Flickr
Yale Repertory Theatre
Vassar College Drama Dept. Archives