What you may not already know about Meryl Streep


I am again deeply indebted to International Movie Data base (IMDb) for providing the following information about Meryl Streep, arguably the most talented film actress in recent years. My personal favorites include The Deer Hunter (1978), Kramer vs. Kramer (1979), Sophie’s Choice (1982), Out of Africa (1985), Postcards from the Edge (1990), Angels in America (2003), A Prairie Home Companion and The Devil Wears Prada (2006), Julie & Julia (2009), and The Iron Lady (2011).

Credit: Michelle Quance/Variety/Shutterstock

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o Replaced Madonna for the lead role of Roberta Guaspari in Music of the Heart (1999). Learned to play the violin, by practicing six hours a day for eight weeks, for that role.

o Has a fear of helicopters.

o Attended and graduated from Bernards High School in Bernardsville, New Jersey (1967) where she was a cheerleader and homecoming queen.

o Received her Bachelor’s degree cum laude from Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York (1971).

o Received her Master’s degree in Fine Arts from Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut (1975).

o Was romantically involved with actor John Cazale for two years, culminating with his death at age 42 in 1978 from lung cancer. She is very reluctant to discuss the relationship with anyone. The couple had been sharing a loft at 146 Franklin Street in Manhattan’s Tribeca district.

o Before succeeding as an actress, she was a waitress at the Hotel Somerset in Somerville, New Jersey.

o She rewrote her court room scene in Kramer vs. Kramer (1979) and afterward She left her just-claimed Oscar on the back of a toilet during the 1979 festivities.

o The children’s television series Sesame Street (1969) has featured a character named “Meryl Sheep” in her honor.

o Her character Karen Silkwood from her film Silkwood (1983) was ranked #47 on the American Film Institute Heroes list of the 100 years of the Greatest Screen Heroes and Villians.

o Presented Paul McCartney with the 1990 Grammy Lifetime Achievement award. Attended The Beatles concert at Shea Stadium in 1965 with an “I love Paul” sign, which she mentioned when presenting the award to McCartney.

o Spent a year as a transfer student at Dartmouth College where she participated in theater.

o Originally applied to law school but slept in on the morning of her interview and took it as a sign she was destined for other things.

o According to Katharine Hepburn’s official biographer A. Scott Berg, Meryl Streep was her least favorite modern actress on screen: “Click, click, click,” she said, referring to the wheels turning inside Streep’s head.

o Took serious singing lessons. At age 12, she studied to become an opera singer.
Acting career began on the stage.

o Early in her career, Streep received a letter from Bette Davis, whom most critics and cinema historians rank as the greatest American movie actress ever. Davis told Streep that she felt that she was her successor as the premier American actress. Davis, a double winner who was nominated 10 times for an Academy Award, all of them Best Actress nods, set the record for most acting nominations with her tenth in 1963 for What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962), a record later surpassed by Katharine Hepburn with her 11th nomination (and 3rd win) for The Lion in Winter (1968). Hepburn extended her record with her 12th nomination (and fourth win) for On Golden Pond (1981).

o Her husband, Don Gummer, is a sculptor.

o Her father was a drug company exec; her mother, an artist-turned-housewife who kept an art studio behind the house. Her father loved to play the piano and her mother to sing. Meryl was given singing lessons at a young age. Her mother died in 2001 and her father in 2004.

o Son Henry Gummer is an actor, filmmaker and co-founder of a rock band; daughter Mary Willa, whose stage name is Mamie Gummer, is an off-Broadway actress; daughter Grace Gummer is an actress; and daughter Louisa Jacobson is a model.

o The longest she has gone without an Oscar nomination is five years, between Postcards from the Edge (1990) and The Bridges of Madison County (1995).

o Robert De Niro said she is his favorite actress to work with.

o Was nominated for Best Actress in 1988 along with Cher. When Cher was announced, just before the cameras cut away from the other four actresses, Streep could be seen springing to her feet in delight and applauding for Cher. During her acceptance speech, Cher thanked Streep personally (addressing her as Mary Louise Streep), as they had worked together on Cher’s first film, Silkwood (1983). As the camera briefly cut away to Streep sitting in the audience, she blew Cher a kiss.

o She was considered for the role of Evita Peron in Evita (1996), which went to Madonna.

o Her accumulation of 21 Oscar nominations (3 wins) was accomplished over a period of 38 years.
Bette Davis scored 10 nominations (2 wins) over 28 years (all leading roles). Katharine Hepburn garnered 12 nominations (4 wins) after a relatively lengthy 48 years (all leading roles).

o Occasionally mistaken for friend Glenn Close, Streep was pregnant with her fourth child while shopping in a Los Angeles baby store where the staff lavished her with huge amounts of baby paraphernalia. Just as she was about to leave they whispered, “We loved you in Fatal Attraction (1987).”

o Signs checks with her real name – Mary Louise Gummer.

o Through the television series Faces of America with Henry Louis Gates Jr. (2010), she learned that she is a distant relative of director Mike Nichols.

o Landed the breakthrough role of Linda in The Deer Hunter (1978) after Robert De Niro had seen her playing Dunyasha in Anton Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard at Manhattan’s Lincoln Center (1977). Streep had been playing opposite Irene Worth, Raul Julia and Mary Beth Hurt.

o On her 60th birthday, her husband brought her a toaster and one of her daughters brought her a rocking chair. Despite having to work until late on the day, her children cooked her a birthday meal when she returne

o Kept the sunglasses she wore in The Devil Wears Prada (2006) and used them again during the “Money Money Money” sequence in Mamma Mia! (2008).

As of 2018, she is the most nominated actress with 21 Academy Award nominations.

o Recipient of the 2011 Kennedy Center Honors, along with Barbara Cook, Neil Diamond, Yo-Yo Ma and Sonny Rollins.

o Is one of only four thespians to be nominated for acting honors by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences over five decades – 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, 2000s, 2010s. Along with Laurence Olivier (1930s-1970s), Paul Newman (1950s, 1960s, 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s) and Katherine Hepburn (1930s, 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, 1980s).

In 2013, she presented the Best Actor Oscar to Daniel Day-Lewis for Lincoln (2012). The previous year, she had received her third Oscar (second for Best Actress) for The Iron Lady (2011), and she give Lewis his third Best Actor Oscar. Both won their third Oscar for playing a Head of Government of a different nationality: Streep was an American actress playing a British Prime Minister, while Day-Lewis is a British actor playing an American President. In addition, Day-Lewis was not the only actor playing Abraham Lincoln that year. The role was played in Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (2012) by Benjamin Walker, who was married to Streep’s daughter Mamie Gummer.

o  Acting mentors were Jean Arthur and Joseph Papp.

o She was awarded Commander of the Order of the Arts and Letters by French culture minister Jean-Jacques Aillagon in 2003.

o Ever since her first Oscar nomination, 66 actresses have been one of her four co-nominees in the same category, spanning an age gap of 81 years (five generations) from Katharine Hepburn to Emma Stone. Among them, 13 actresses were co-nominated twice: Cate Blanchett, Debra Winger, Helen Mirren, Jane Alexander, Jessica Lange, Judi Dench, Julianne Moore, Kate Winslet, Kathy Bates, Sandra Bullock, Emma Stone, Julianne Moore and Susan Sarandon. So far, her greatest rival, with three Oscar co-nominations, is still Glenn Close.

o Her role in Music of the Heart (1999) is the only performance for which Wes Craven directed an actor to an Oscar nomination.

o She presented director Mike Nichols his AFI Lifetime Achievement Award in 2010.

o Is one of 19 actresses to have received a Best Actress Oscar nomination for a performance where they acted out a labor and/or birth; hers being for A Cry in the Dark (1988).

o She is one of only four actors to have been Oscar nominated for a performance in a film from Walt Disney Pictures, for Into the Woods (2014). The only other actors to have achieved this feat are Julie Andrews, Richard Farnsworth, and Johnny Depp.

o She has worked with 11 directors who have won a Best Director Oscar: Fred Zinnemann, Michael Cimino, Woody Allen, Robert Benton, Mike Nichols, Sydney Pollack, Robert Zemeckis, Jonathan Demme, Robert Redford, Steven Spielberg, and Steven Soderbergh.

o Friends with Diane Keaton and Viola Davis.

o As of 2019, Meryl Streep holds the record for most Academy Award nominations for Best Actress (17 nominations); as well as, the records for most Golden Globe nominations for Best Actress – Drama (14), Best Actress – Comedy or Musical (10), and Best Supporting Actress (5, tied with Lee Grant and Maureen Stapleton ) in feature films.

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To learn more about Meryl Streep‘s life and work, please click here.

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