Meryl's magic! As she gets a record 17th Oscar nomination, the many faces of Ms Streep
Meryl Streep as Margaret Thatcher in her latest film The Iron Lady
Meryl Streep is the greatest living actress. Says who Well, her fellow actresses. Diane Keaton once described her as ‘my generation’s genius’— not a bad accolade.
And with her latest Oscar nomination for her take on Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady, Streep has been put forward for the award 17 times — 14 times for best actress, three times for best supporting actress. Her nearest rivals are Katharine Hepburn and Jack Nicholson with 12 nominations apiece.
That said, she’s only won twice (for Kramer vs Kramer and Sophie’s Choice).
Inevitably, she has her critics. Some say she is cold and too technical but they’re wrong. There’s warmth aplenty in Mamma Mia! — for which, unusually, she wasn’t nominated. Plus, if your rivals — actors are nominated for Oscars by their peers — keep telling you that you’re the best, then you probably are.
1978 The Deer Hunter
Streep’s first nomination, as best supporting actress, came with only her second film, The Deer Hunter, a Vietnam war story starring Robert De Niro (with whom she’s pictured) and Christopher Walken.
The Deer Hunter: Streep's first nomination, as best supporting actress, came with this – only her second film
Hers was a small role — as Walken’s
girlfriend — but she lit up every scene she was in, possibly because she
wrote her own script.
1979 Kramer vs Kramer
Kramer vs Kramer: In this film, Streep plays a wife caught up in an acrimonious divorce
In this film, Streep plays a wife caught up in an acrimonious divorce from her husband Ted (Dustin Hoffman). For this great performance, she won her first Oscar, for best supporting actress.
1981 The French Lieutenant’s Woman
She stars opposite Jeremy Irons in a complex story, about forbidden romance in two eras, playing a 19th-century English maiden abandoned by her French lover.
The French Lieutenant's Woman: She stars opposite Jeremy Irons in a complex story, about forbidden romance in two eras
Streep revealed her astonishing gift for mastering accents in this film, earning her the first of many nominations for best actress.
1982 Sophie’s Choice
Anyone who thinks Streep’s acting is
cold should watch her in this film, as the Polish mother (her accent is
impeccable again) in a Nazi concentration camp, who has to decide which
of her children to sacrifice.
With a truly heart-rending performance, she deservedly won her first (and so far, only) best actress Oscar.
Sophie's Choice, left in 1982, and right, in 1983, in Silkwood as a factory worker
With her fifth Oscar nomination in seven years, Streep showed her remarkable versatility, this time as a factory worker who blows the whistle on her employer’s dangerous practices. It’s a subtle performance, which in myriad small ways makes you believe wholeheartedly in the character she creates.
1985 Out of Africa
Another film, another accent, as the Danish writer Karen Blixen having a love affair with a big-game hunter (Robert Redford) in Kenya. Here, she got top billing and deserved it, because in a pretty dreary film Redford was unconvincing and Streep’s lively, engaging performance (and the African countryside) were the only things worth watching.
Ironweed: Streep and Jack Nicholson play vagrants in Depression-era America
Another indifferent film enlivened by two nominated stars — Streep and Jack Nicholson (above). They play vagrants in Depression-era America: she a sad, muttering bag lady; he a family man dragged down by fate. Plain, shapeless, shambling and rheumy-eyed, she provides a haunting, angry portrait of a woman whom life has abandoned.
1988 A Cry in the Dark
Streep as a Danish writer in Out of Africa in 1985, left, and right in a Cry in the Dark as Australian mother Lindy Chamberlain
One of her finest roles as Lindy Chamberlain, the Australian mother who was charged with murder after her baby was snatched by a dingo during a camping trip. Streep is fantastic — conveying a character who was arrogant, stubborn yet suffering deeply.
1990 Postcards from the Edge
Postcards from the edge: Streep stars as a drug addiction young actress
Streep proves she can do comedy as well as drama, as a drug-addicted young actress with a more famous mother in this film, also starring Gene Hackman (above). Streep is quick with the one-liners and lends a sweetness to a woman on the verge of a breakdown.
1995 The Bridges Of Madison County
Yet another change of tack — a weepy this time. Streep plays a sturdy Iowan farmer’s wife conducting an illicit affair with a photographer (Clint Eastwood, right) in the Sixties.
The Bridges of Madison County: Streep plays a sturdy Iowan farmer's wife
Once more, the accusations of coldness look absurd when you consider the subtle passion in her performance.
1998 One True Thing
One True Thing: Streep plays a mother dying of cancer in 1998
Most stars play much the same character. Not Streep. In this engagingly mannered performance as a mother dying of cancer who is being cared for by her daughter (Rene Zellweger, below), she shows her ability to adapt to any role.
1999 Music of the Heart
Left, in Adaptation in 2002, and right, in Music of the Heart in 1999 where she plays an abandoned wife who becomes an inspirational violin teacher
Here we discover Streep bedraggled in dressing gown and curlers as an abandoned wife who somehow becomes an inspirational violin teacher. But she never seems to care how she looks; she’s an actress first, a movie star second, which is probably why she has been at the top for so long and can rescue indifferent movies such as this all on her own.
A dazzling, convoluted film in which Streep plays a writer who, among other things, gets mixed up with Nicolas Cage (left) and investigates orchid theft in Florida. Part thriller, part comedy, she deals effortlessly with whatever the script throws at her. This, incidentally, was her record-breaking 13th nomination (and her third in the best supporting actress category).
In the Devil Wears Prada, left, Streep plays the monstrous editor of a New York fashion magazine, while in Doubt, right, she plays a nun in the Bronx in the 1960s
2006 The Devil Wears Prada
If you still doubt that Streep can do comedy, watch this. She gives a glorious performance as the monstrous editor of a New York fashion magazine — she who must be obeyed. It’s a very funny film, well played throughout, but Streep dominates just about every scene she’s in, apparently without even trying.
Streep plays a nun, Sister Aloysius, who runs a school in the Bronx in the Sixties and accuses a priest (Philip Seymour Hoffman) of paedophilia. Pale with red-rimmed eyes, she is stern, humourless and powerful. Compare this with her other nominated roles and you can see that no actress has ever been less typecast.
2009 Julie & Julia
Julie and Julia: Streep plays the American cookery writer Julia Child
Here Streep plays the American cookery writer Julia Child and, again, shows her uncanny ability to impersonate other people. This is a funny, charming film; and Streep’s performance is the reason to watch.