Gifted actors whose passionate but tragic romance was cut short by death
By Mahlia Lone
Everyone knows that Meryl Streep is the best actress of her generation and that she has been nominated for a record breaking 20 Academy Awards for acting and has won three so far. Gifted with an uncanny ability to mimic accents and with an inherent capability to transform herself into any character, there is another factor that has raised her acting ability above that of her peers. Actors generally tap into the pain in their personal lives to add depth to a dramatic role. Because she lived through a great tragic romance early on in her life before she hit it big as an actress, she was able to bring this combination of vulnerability, fragility, acute sadness and fortitude not only to her next role in Kramer vs. Kramer but also to many others in her career, like The French Lieutenantâ€™s Woman, Sophieâ€™s Choice, Out of Africa, The Bridges of Madison County, etc. This is the story not of her happy marriage, but her earlier tragic romance that changed her forever and contributed to making her the exceptional actress we all adore
The first born of artist Mary Wolf Wilkinson and pharmaceutical executive Harry William Streep Jr., Meryl was named Mary Louise Streep at birth. She was born in New Jersey in 1949 and was followed by two brothers. Her father had German Swiss ancestry, while her mother belonged to a family of 17th-century English-Irish immigrants who were amongst the first to settle and purchase land in Pennsylvania and Rhode Island. Her direct maternal ancestor Lawrence Wilkinson was one of the first Europeans settlers in Rhode Island. Another ancestor, William Penn was the founder of Pennsylvania. In the U.S. such families of early settlers are looked upon highly and considered â€œold, landed gentry.â€
Mary Louise, a popular but shy girl, appeared in school plays and was the cheerleader at Bernards High School. Meryl recalled her mother encouraging and motivating her by saying, â€œYouâ€™re capable. Youâ€™re so great. You can do whatever you put your mind to. If youâ€™re lazy, youâ€™re not going to get it done. But if you put your mind to it, you can do anything.â€
An intelligent, driven girl, she attended the prestigious Vassar College where she appeared in the college production of Miss Julie. Her drama professor Clinton J Atkinson said, â€œI donâ€™t think anyone ever taught Meryl acting. She really taught herself.â€ She quickly became known for her ability to mimic accents and to effortlessly memorize her lines, a big requirement for an actor. After earning her BA degree cum laude (with honours) in 1971, she started her MFA from the Yale School of Drama.
Meryl Streep was a high school cheerleader
here, she appeared in over a dozen plays in diverse roles varying from Helena in Shakespeareâ€™s A Midsummer Nightâ€™s Dream to an 80-year-old woman in a wheelchair in a comedy. Her first professional job after receiving her degree from Yale in 1975 was at the Eugene Oâ€™Neill Theater Centerâ€™s National Playwrights Conference during which she acted in an incredible five plays in just six weeks. Armed with a sound background in theatre, Meryl moved to New York City and was cast in Measure for Measure opposite John Cazale, fourteen years her senior and already a respected theatre and film actor.
John Cazale was born and bred in Massachusetts. He had Irish ancestry from his motherâ€™s side and Italian from his fatherâ€™s. Cazale had also studied drama at Oberlin College and Boston University, after which he moved to New York City and became friends with another aspiring actor, Al Pacino, with whom he lived in a communal house.
Cazale possessed unusual looks – a slim frame, high forehead, prominent nose and sad eyes. Pacino reminisced, â€œWhen I first saw John, I instantly thought he was so interesting. Everybody was always around him because he had a very congenial way of expressing himself.â€
Young John Cazale
Of the sixâ€‚movies Cazale starred in (including through archive footage in Godfather Part III) all were nominated for Best Picture by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and three won, a unique feat on his part
The two friends were cast in Israel Horovitzâ€™s play, The Indian Wants the Bronx, for which they both won Obie Awards, given to off-Broadway productions, for the1967-1968 season. Cazale also played the lead in Horovitzâ€™s Line. In this, he was noticed by a casting director who suggested him to director Francis Ford Coppola for his epic gangster movie Godfather (1972). Cazale plays the feeble-minded older brother Fredo to Pacinoâ€™s Michael Carleone. The film later became a cult classic and broke box office records making the newcomer famous overnight.
Al Pacino,Marlon Brando, James Caan, , & John Cazale in The Godfather (1972)
The Godfather Part II
Pleased with the success, Coppola cast Cazale opposite Gene Hackman in his psychological mystery thriller The Conversation, which won the Palm dâ€™Or at the â€™74 Cannes Film Festival.
Next, Cazale reprised his role as Fredo Corleone in The Godfather Part II (1974). Film critic Bruce Fretts wrote in Entertainment Weekly, â€œCazaleâ€™s devastatingly raw turn intensifies the impact of the dramaâ€™s emotional climax.â€
With Al Pacino in Dog Day Afternoon
With Gene Hackman in The Conversation
Dominic Chianese who plays Ola in the second installment of the trilogy spoke about the depth with which he inhabited a role: â€œJohn could open up his heart, so it could be hurt. Thatâ€™s a talent few actors have.â€
Cazale again starred alongside Pacino in Sidney Lumetâ€™s 1975 crime drama Dog Day Afternoon, for which he was nominated for a Golden Globe award. Lumet said, â€œOne of the things that I love about the casting of John Cazale was that he had a tremendous sadness about him. I donâ€™t know where it came from; I donâ€™t believe in invading the privacy of the actors that I work with, or getting into their heads. But, my God â€” itâ€™s there â€” every shot of him. And not just in this movie, but in Godfather II also.â€
Michael Schulman relates the story of how Cazale and Meryl met in his biography of the actress, Her Again: Becoming Meryl Streep. The 27 year old ingÃ©nue met Cazale, the more established and well respected 41 year old actor, during an audition for New York Cityâ€™s famed Shakespeare in the Park in 1976. They had great chemistry together and she was cast opposite him in Measure for Measure in Central Park. Their instant connection was obvious to their cast mates and director Joe Papp. The relationship became so intensely physical that Merylâ€™s consistently chapped lips were noticed by the crew on a regular basis.
It was love at first sight for both of them. â€œOnce Cazale was in that play,â€ actor Marvin Starkman said, â€œthe only thing he talked about was her.â€
â€œHe wasnâ€™t like anybody Iâ€™d ever met. It was the specificity of him, and his sort of humanity and his curiosity about people, his compassion,â€ remembered Meryl later.
Though not a huge star, Cazale was considered â€œa rare talent, in demand among the great directors of the era.â€ He was known among directors as â€œ20 Questions,â€ because he wanted a detailed back story of the character he would be portraying.
â€œTime moved differently for John Cazale. Everything went slower. He wasnâ€™t dim, not by a long shot. But he was meticulous, sometimes maddeningly so.â€ Pacino described having dinner with Cazale, â€œI mean, youâ€™d be done â€” washed, finished and in bed –before he got halfway through his meal. Then the cigar would come out (Cuban of course). Heâ€™d look at it, light it, taste it. Then finally smoke it.â€
In Shakespeareâ€™s Measure for Measure, Central Park, 1976
At the 75th birthday party for the legendary
Lee Strasberg, the father of method acting in America and director of the Actors Studio
Meryl Streep in NYCâ€™s Theater District,1978
Cazale introduced his best buddy Pacino to his new girlfriend whom he raved about. However, Pacino thought his friend was simply infatuated, â€œI didnâ€™t go see (the play) but I met her with him and she seemed alright, a bit shy.â€
According to film critic Bruce Fretts, Cazale â€œwas the walking embodiment of the aphorism, â€˜acting is reacting,â€™ providing the perfect counterbalance to his recurring co-stars, the more emotionally volatile Al Pacino andâ€‚Robert De Niro.â€ Cazale was the perfect foil to his fellow actors and brought out the best in them
Cazale was also described as â€œshy and emotionally sensitiveâ€ by those who knew him well. Though he was famous, money was still tight. Cazale would take Meryl to dinner in Little Italy, where restaurant owners that were fans of The Godfather franchise wouldnâ€™t dream of accepting payment from Fredo Corleone.
â€œThey were great to look at, because they were kind of funny-looking, both of them,â€ said the playwright Israel Horovitz. â€œThey were lovely in their way, but it was a really quirky couple. They were head-turners, but not because, â€˜Wow, is she a beauty!â€™ â€
â€œThe romance moved as fast as John moved slow.â€ Soon Meryl moved in to Cazaleâ€™s loft on Franklin Street, Tribeca. He promised to marry her as soon as he got his first big break. â€œThey were the envy of the New York theater world,â€ writes Schulman. Both were naturally gifted actors with legendary director Joe Papp as their patron. All was well until one day in May 1977, Cazale, who was starring in Agamemnon, had been feeling ill enough to miss performances. Papp got him an emergency appointment with his own Upper East Side doctor. The doctor called in Meryl, Cazale, Joe and Gail Papp after the tests results came in. Cazale had terminal metastasized lung cancer. Gail Papp recalled, feeling â€œlike youâ€™ve been struck dead on the spot.â€
â€œJohn fell silent. For a moment, so did Meryl. But she was never one to give up, and certainly not one to succumb to despairâ€¦.She looked up and said, â€˜So, where should we go to dinner?â€™â€
John Cazale, Robert De Niro and John Savage in The Deer Hunter
John Cazale, Meryl Streep and Robert De Niro in The Deer Hunter
While Cazale had to immediately quit the play, Meryl, the consummate professional, who was starring in the musical Happy End showed no sign of anxiety or grief. The show must always go on. Cazale visited her at the theater still smoking his cigars. She didnâ€™t nag or criticize him, but simply made her dressing room off-limits to smokers. The most subtle of hints!
Riding the subway
â€œShe had a kind of tough love,â€ actor Christopher Lloyd said, â€œand didnâ€™t let him malinger.â€ The two lovers tried to keep the severity of his condition between them. Even Cazaleâ€™s brother, Stephen, didnâ€™t realize how sick his brother was until one day after the three of them had been lunching in Chinatown, Cazale spat up blood on the sidewalk. Al Pacino took him to radiation treatments and would sit patiently in the waiting room and Cazale would insist heâ€™d get better.
Though mortally ill, Cazale took a role in Vietnam War drama The Deer Hunter, opposite Robert De Niro. Finding out about the extent of his illness, neither the filmmakers nor the production company, EMI, wanted to cast Cazale. It was risky bringing an actor on board who could die on them during filming, his insurance cost would be too high and the film would look dated with a dead star. â€œI was told that unless I got rid of John, (they) would shut down the picture,â€ director Michael Cimino said later. â€œIt was awful. I spent hours on the phone, yelling and screaming and fighting.â€
In the end, De Niro himself covered the cost of Cazaleâ€™s insurance, which the actor has never confirmed or denied. â€œHe was sicker than we thought, but I wanted him to be in it,â€ De Niro later said.
Meryl also took a role in the film just to be close to her dying boyfriend, though she didnâ€™t think highly of the role of the token â€œgirlâ€ in the movie. Her character was â€œessentially a manâ€™s view of a woman. Sheâ€™s extremely passive, sheâ€™s very quiet, sheâ€™s someone whoâ€™s constantly vulnerable,â€ Meryl said.
They filmed Cazaleâ€™s scenes first while he still had the strength and somehow with the actors and director rallying behind him, they managed to get through his part of the shoot. As the shoot wrapped up and the film went into post production, Meryl had no choice but to accept the lead role of a German woman married to a Jewish artist in Nazi era Germany in the nine-hour TV miniseries Holocaust to help pay Cazaleâ€™s mounting medical bills. All she really wanted to do was be by his side. But the filming was in Austria and Germany, and Cazale was too weak to leave NYC. Streep never complained, outwardly she was all â€œcheery professionalism,â€ but inwardly she quietly agonized. â€œThe material was unrelentingly noble but grim,â€ she later said. They shot on location at an actual concentration camp, which she found even more disturbing and depressing. The shoot went over schedule and she spent 2Â½ months in Austria, longer than sheâ€™d been told. She felt like that each day they were separated was another day lost forever. â€œI was going crazy. John was sick, and I wanted to be with him.â€
â€œShe was very anxious to do her very last scene and then zip back out,â€ director Marvin Chomsky said. â€œI mean, I donâ€™t even think we had a moment to say goodbye.â€
When Meryl returned to New York, Cazale was even worse than she had expected. For the next five months, Meryl focused on taking care of Cazale and accompanying him to chemotherapy treatments, morphing from lover to nurse. â€œMeryl stayed by his side every single moment,â€ The Deer Hunter director Cimino said. â€œBy her devotion to John, I knew she had great courage.â€
During his final days, Meryl stood by his bedside in their Manhattan apartment constantly, performing comedic routines and reading from the newspaper putting on different accents. â€œShe took care of him like there was nobody else on earth,â€ Joe Papp said of Streepâ€™s commitment to Cazale. â€œShe never betrayed him in his presence or out of his presence, never betrayed any notion that he would not survive. He knew he was dying, the way a dying man knows it. She gave him tremendous hope.â€ His cancer had spread to the bones, a very painful stage, and he was increasingly weak. She went with him to every doctorâ€™s appointment, every radiation treatment and never betrayed a lack of hope. â€œShe was always a strong-willed, persistent, hopeful person, and I think she just applied all her spirit and strength to taking care of him. She wasnâ€™t one to create drama around it or draw attention to herself. She just bore down and did what needed to be done.â€ Everyone was astounded by the strength of character, devotion and fortitude such a young woman showed.
â€œI was so close that I didnâ€™t really notice the deterioration,â€ Meryl later said that being alone with him helped her cope with what was to be the final parting.
Meryl wrote to her Yale drama teacher Bobby Lewis, of her true emotional state, â€œMy beau is terribly ill and sometimes, as now, in the hospital, he has very wonderful care and I try not to stand around wringing my hands, but I am worried all the time and pretending to be cheery all the time, which is more exhausting mentally physically emotionally than any work Iâ€™ve ever done.â€
In early March 1978, Cazale was admitted to Memorial Sloan Kettering. Meryl kept vigil at his bedside. â€œWhen I saw that girl there with him like that I thought, â€˜Thereâ€™s nothing like that,â€™â€ Al Pacino recalled. â€œAs great as she is in all her work, thatâ€™s what I think of when I think of her.â€
A few days later, one night, his doctor told her softly, â€œHeâ€™s gone.â€
â€œMeryl wasnâ€™t ready to hear it, much less believe it. What happened next, by some accounts, was the culmination of all the tenacious hope Meryl had kept alive for the past 10 months. She pounded on his chest, sobbing, and for a brief, alarming moment, John opened his eyes. â€˜Itâ€™s all right, Meryl,â€™ he said weakly. â€˜Itâ€™s all right.â€™ Then he closed his eyes and died. Streepâ€™s first call was to Cazaleâ€™s brother, Stephen. She sobbed throughout. â€˜I tried,â€™ she told him.â€
Actor James Woods, who was in The Holocaust with Meryl, recounted â€œCazale was lucky enough to have as the last vision of his life, Merylâ€™s lovely face.â€
John Cazale was buried at the Holy Cross Cemetery in his hometown in Massachusetts. The Deer Hunter hadnâ€™t even premiered yet, a film he had fought so hard to work in despite his prognosis.
Pacino sighed, â€œAll I wanted to do was work with John for the rest of my life. He was my acting partner.â€
The Boston Globe ran a story about his legend: â€œWhy was Cazale so influential? In part, it was because of his commitment to the craft of acting.â€ Meryl was quoted saying he was â€œmonomaniacalâ€ where his craft was concerned and this â€œchallenged his co-stars to take their own game up a notch.â€ Cazale appeared in archive footage in The Godfather Part III (1990), 12 years after his death. The Godfather Part III was also nominated for Best Picture, so every feature film in which he has starred in has been nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture, quite a unique achievement. His image was also used posthumously in the Godfather video game. Broadwayâ€™s McGinn/Cazale Theatre was named after him and he was celebrated in the documentary film, I Knew It Was You, directed by Richard Shepard, which premiered at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival.
After his death, a grieving Meryl went to stay with a friend in Canada not able to bear the apartment she had shared with him. When she returned, she had to vacate the apartment, so her brother arrived to help her move with his friend sculptor Don Gummer, also a Yale alumni, who gallantly offered his own Soho apartment to stay in while he was travelling. They started corresponding through letters and she realized he wanted to be more than her friend. â€œMeryl was shattered by John Cazaleâ€™s death and I did what I could to help and pretty quickly I realised I was falling in love with her,â€ Gummer confessed later.
1978 was an eventful year for her career wise as well. Despite not liking her role, the subsequent success of The Deer Hunter not only exposed Streep to a wider audience but also earned her a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. She won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie for her performance in Holocaust, which 109 million viewers had watched, bringing her greater visibility.
Despite the awards success, she was still not enthusiastic towards her film career and preferred theatre. Hoping to divert herself from the grief of Cazaleâ€™s death, she wanted to keep busy. She performed the role of Katherine in Shakespeareâ€™s The Taming of the Shrew for Shakespeare in the Park, bringing greater insight and a different interpretation to the role. She argued that Kate was not an independent woman broken by a man but one who learns the deep satisfaction of giving herself over to love. â€œWhat Iâ€™m saying is, â€˜Iâ€™ll do anything for this man. Look, would there be any hang-up if this were a mother talking about her son? Service is the only thing thatâ€™s important about love. Everybody is worried about â€˜losing yourselfâ€™ â€” all this narcissism. Duty. We canâ€™t stand that idea now eitherâ€¦.But duty might be a suit of armor you put on to fight for your love,â€ she told a reporter.
Just six months after Cazaleâ€™s death, Don and Meryl were married in the garden of her parentsâ€™ home in September 1978. Her friends, family and even her mother were concerned that the relationship was of a rebound nature coming so soon after Cazaleâ€™s death. But Meryl was adamant saying, â€œI havenâ€™t got over Johnâ€™s death, but Iâ€™ve got to go on living and Don has showed me how to do that.â€ Her instincts were spot on.
Streep was cast in her breakout role Kramer vs. Kramer (1979) at the same time. â€œImagine losing the love of your life, then finding your husband and starring in your first big movie role all at the same time. Itâ€™s just crazy,â€ writes Schulman.
â€œThe death is still very much with me. It has forced me to confront my own mortality, and once you do that, you look at things differently,â€ Meryl said. And she had become profoundly different as global audiences were about to find out.
At the audition, the filmâ€™s male lead Dustin Hoffman said he realized that Meryl Streep was perfect for the role of Joanna because he knew she had lost John Cazale only months earlier, and clearly she was still shaken to the core. Here was an actress who could draw on a fresh pain, who was herself in the thick of emotional turmoil. It was Merylâ€™s weakness not her strength that convinced him.
The filmâ€™s director Robert Benton recalled, â€œShe said a few things, not much. And she just listened. She was polite and nice, but it wasâ€”she was just barely there. There was a fragile quality she had that made us think that this was Joanna, without making her neurotic. Merylâ€™s Joanna wasnâ€™t neurotic, but she was vulnerable, frail.â€
Streep, however, has a totally different version of events, and told Ms. magazine that she impressed the directors by telling them exactly how to fix the script. Joanna is an unhappily married woman who abandons her husband and child. Meryl thought that the script portrayed the female character as â€œtoo evilâ€ and insisted that it was not a true representation of the real women who faced marriage breakdowns and child custody battles. She did extensive research for the role by observing mothers and children interact in the Upper East Side parks since she hadnâ€™t had any children of her own by then. The filmmakers agreed to the script revisions suggested by her and Benton even allowed her to pen her own dialogue in two key scenes, despite Hoffmanâ€™s reported objections.
Filming with Hoffman, himself in the midst of separating from his first wife Anne Byrneâ€”a case of life imitating artâ€”posed a challenge for Meryl due to his intense method acting techniques. Schulman elaborates: â€œOn the second day, they continued shooting the opening scene, when Ted follows the hysterical Joanna into the hallway. They shot the bulk of it in the morning and, after lunch, set up for some reaction shots. Dustin and Meryl took their positions on the other side of the apartment door. Then something happened that shocked not just Meryl but everyone on set. Right before their entrance, Dustin slapped her hard across the cheek, leaving a red mark. Always a professional, Streep continued on with the scene without making a commotion, but Hoffman wasnâ€™t done. In a later scene where Joanna tells Ted sheâ€™s leaving him, Hoffman took to extreme measures to get the emotion he wanted from Streep. Improvising his lines, Dustin delivered a slap of a different sort: outside the elevator, he started taunting Meryl about John Cazale, jabbing her with remarks about his cancer and his death. â€˜He was goading her and provoking her,â€™ producer Richard Fischoff recalled, â€˜using stuff that he knew about her personal life and about John to get the response that he thought she should be giving in the performance.â€™ Hoffman brought up Cazaleâ€™s death again in a courtroom scene and made Streepâ€™s eyes tear up when he whispered her late boyfriendâ€™s name in her ear.â€
Dustin Hoffman & Meryl Streep in Kramer vs. Kramer
Mery Streep & Dustin Hoffman both won Oscars for Kramer vs. Kramer
The stars meet Queen Elizabeth II in a special royal screening of the film in London in 1980
By the time shooting wrapped up, Hoffman admitted, â€œSheâ€™s extraordinarily hardworking, to the extent that sheâ€™s obsessive. I think that she thinks about nothing else but what sheâ€™s doing.â€ But the lead pairâ€™s relationship had become so tense and strained during filming that producers feared the movie would be a disaster. As it turns out it was a resounding success, raking in more than $106 million at the box office, even beating out Star Trek. Film critic Stephen Farber raved that Joanna displayed Merylâ€™s â€œown emotional intensityâ€ and that she was one of the â€œrare performers who can imbue the most routine moments with a hint of mystery.â€ Kramer vs. Kramer got nine Academy Award nominations and won Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Actor for Hoffman and Best Supporting Actress for Streep, which she famously left in the ladies room after giving her speech. A star was born, but at quite a personal cost.
With Jeremy Irons in The French Lieutenant’s Woman
In Sophieâ€™s Choice
Accepting her second Oscar for Sophieâ€™s Choice in 1983
With Robert Redford in Out of Africa
In the next decade, Meryl Streepâ€™s career went from strength to strength. She was featured on the cover of Newsweek with the headline â€œA Star for the 80s.â€ In the story within a story drama of The French Lieutenantâ€™s Woman (1981) in which she is paired with English actor Jeremy Irons, she puts on a cut glass English accent. She was awarded a BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role for her effort. In Sophieâ€™s Choice (1982), she portrays a Polish Jew at a death camp faced with the unimaginable dilemma of choosing which of her two children lives, only to ultimately lose both. William Styron had written the novel with Ursula Andress in mind for the role of Sophie, but Meryl was determined to play the part. She filmed the harrowing â€œchoiceâ€ scene when her character is ordered by an SS guard at Auschwitz to choose which one of her two children would be gassed and which would proceed to the labor camp in one take and refused to do it again, finding it extremely painful and emotionally exhausting. Emma Brockes wrote in The Guardian, â€œItâ€™s classic Streep, the kind of scene that makes your scalp tighten, but defter in a way is her handling of smaller, harder-to-grasp emotions.â€ Doubtlessly, she knew how to make hard choices and the feeling of helplessness and acute loss. She won her second Oscar for this tragedy. This was voted the third greatest movie performance of all time by Premiere magazine.
With Clint Eastwood in The Bridges of Madison County
Roger Ebert critiqued, â€œThere is hardly an emotion that Streep doesnâ€™t touch in this movie, and yet weâ€™re never aware of her straining. This is one of the most astonishing and yet one of the most unaffected and natural performances I can imagine.â€
Merylâ€™s next big release was yet another tragedy, Out of Africa (1985). In the film, she stars as the Danish writer Karen Blixen opposite Robert Redfordâ€™s Denys Finch Hatton. Director Sydney Pollack was initially dubious thinking she wasnâ€™t sexy enough, and had wanted the much prettier but banal Jane Seymour to play the part. Pollack said Meryl impressed him not with her beauty but with her strength of character and forthrightness: â€œShe was so direct, so honest, so without bullshit. There was no shielding between her and me.â€ The two reportedly often clashed during the 101-day shoot in Kenya. Meryl had spent much time listening to tapes of Blixen and began speaking in an old-fashioned and aristocratic fashion, which Pollack thought was too affected. However, she was right yet again. The film was not only a box office winner but won the Oscar for the Best Picture as well.
Her third Oscar win for The Iron Lady in 2012
In her acceptance speech when she won her third Oscar for playing Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady, Meryl honoured her husband, â€œFirst Iâ€™m going to thank Donâ€¦And I want him to know that everything I value most in our lives youâ€™ve given meâ€
Critic Stanley Kaufmann wrote, â€œMeryl Streepâ€™s performance in Out of Africa is at the highest level of acting in film today.â€ The scene where she had to calmly and in a dignified manner meet a line of servants in the intense African heat was filmed in one long take. After giving her take, to everyoneâ€™s surprise she tore off her dress to reveal an enormous insect that had been crawling around inside, such was her dedication, commitment and focus. Her salary went up to $4 million per film after Out of Africaâ€™s critical and commercial success.
With Hillary Clinton, a personal friend
A feminist, staunch Democrat and vocal Trump critic
Her next most successful film was the romance The Bridges of Madison County (1995) directed by and starring Clint Eastwood, who adapted the film from Robert James Wallerâ€™s novel. It tells the story of a photographer working for the National Geographic, who has a love affair with a middle-aged Italian farm wife in Iowa. Her strong yet subtle performance was â€œcrucial to transforming what could have been a weak soap opera into a vibrant work of historical fiction implicitly critiquing postwar Americaâ€™s stifling culture of domesticity,â€ according to author Karina Longworth. She considers it to have been the role in which Streep became â€œarguably the first middle-aged actress to be taken seriously by Hollywood as a romantic heroine.â€ The reason the film touched a chord in middle aged women everywhere is because her character sacrifices her happiness ultimately, but allows herself the luxury of just a single night. You see her tussling with herself over this and you really empathise with her character and the bravery and stoicism she shows. Again, she had delved in her repertoire of personal feelings.
Streep has taken to playing countlesscomedic and a few musical roles in her later career. Perhaps this is due to the fact that she is so happy and secure in her personal life. Despite her â€œhigh level of stardomâ€ for decades, Longworth reiterates that Meryl has managed to maintain a relatively normal and stable personal life, being married for nearly 40 years now.
Don has made a name for himself in art circles and they have four creative children: musician Henry (born 1979), actresses Mamie (born 1983) and Grace (born 1986), and model Louisa (born 1991). Their family home is in Connecticut where their vast property even has a 47 acre lake. However, they try to maintain a down to earth manner.
In every role she plays, Meryl Streep honours John Cazaleâ€™s memory by emulating his ability to inhabit a role and letting the pain of her loss elevate her performances. She admitted how Cazaleâ€™s death profoundly transformed her and will remain a part of her, â€œI didnâ€™t get over it. I donâ€™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.â€
Accepting the Cecil B. DeMille Award at this yearâ€™s Golden Globes, Meryl honoured her recently deceased friend the Star Wars actress Carrie Fisher in her acceptance speech by echoing her words, â€˜â€™Take Yourâ€‚Broken Heart,â€‚Make It Into Artâ€™â€™ just as she has done herself.