Often described as the “best actress of her generation”, there is no doubt that everyone knows exactly who Meryl Streep is.
“I’ve had a long career, haven’t I?” Meryl agreed when we met 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.”
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 certainly won’t get tired of Meryl! But how much do you know about Meryl Streep when she was young? From Kramer vs Kramer to Postcards from the Edge, we take a look back through Meryl’s incredible early career moments…
The Deer Hunter (1978)
In 1978 at the age of 29, Meryl Streep starred as Linda in the war drama film The Deer Hunter which was co-written and directed by Michael Cimino. It told the story of a trio of steelworkers whose lives were changed forever after fighting in the Vietnam War. Meryl’s character Linda was the object of affection for two of the main characters, Mike and Nick.
The film actually marked Meryl’s first Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress.
Kramer vs. Kramer (1979)
In Kramer vs. Kramer with Dustin Hoffman, Meryl’s character Joanna left her husband Ted, allowing for a lost bond to be rediscovered between Ted and his son, Billy. However a heated custody battle soon ensues over the divorced couple’s son.
Manhattan (1979 film)
Also released in the same year, Manhattan was a romantic comedy directed by Woody Allen also starring Diane Keaton alongside Meryl who played lesbian Jill, ex wife of Woody’s character.
The French Lieutenant’s Wife (1981)
Another romantic comedy, The French Lieutenant’s Wife was based on the novel of the same name. Meryl played Sarah, a disgraced woman who an already engaged Charles (Jeremy Irons) falls in love with. Their romance goes on to defy the stifling conventions of the Victorian age.
Did you catch Meryl in Plenty? Adapted from David Hare’s play of the same name, the film spanned nearly 20 years from the early 1940s to the 1960s. Meryl Streep starred as Susan Traherne, an Englishwoman who is changed by her experiences as a fighter for the French Resistance during World War II when she has a one-night stand with a British intelligence agent.
A Cry in the Dark (1988)
1988 Australian drama film Evil Angels (which was released as A Cry in the Dark outside Australia and New Zealand) detailed every parents worst nightmare when Meryl’s character Lindy Chamberlain and her husband Michael fight to prove their innocence to a public convinced that they were complicit in their baby daughter’s death. The film was sadly a box office bomb, grossing only $6.9 million against its $15 million budget however Meryl’s performance received high praise.
Postcards From Edge (1990)
Meryl starred alongside Carrie Fisher and Dennis Quaid in this comedy where Meryl’s character, a substance-addicted actress tries to look on the bright side when as she is forced to move back in with her mother to avoid unemployment. Meryl went on to win an American Comedy Award for Funniest Lead Actress in a Motion Picture.
Death Becomes Her (1992)
Something looks a bit different about Meryl here, eh? In black comedy Death Becomes Her, rivals played by Meryl and Goldie Hawn, drink a magic potion that promises eternal youth. Unfortunately, the pair experience unpleasant side effects when they die and become walking and talking corpses. The film has developed a strong cult following, particularly among the LGBT community.
Starring a stellar cast of Meryl, Cher, and Kurt Russell, Silkwood is a 1983 American biographical drama film inspired by the life of Karen Silkwood, a nuclear whistleblower and labor union activist.