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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Hollywood’s peerless star

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There is a strong case to be made that Meryl Streep, who picks up a lifetime achievement award at the Cannes Film Festival on Tuesday, is the most respected actor of her generation.

Streep, 74, has amassed a record haul of awards and built a filmography of modern classics that stretches across six decades, from dramas such as The Deer Hunter, The French Lieutenant’s Woman, and Kramer vs. Kramer, to family favorites like Mamma Mia! and The Devil Wears Prada.

It is her vocal skills that have often set her apart – from the Danish drawl in Out of Africa to her note-perfect impersonation of Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady, to learning Polish so well for Sophie’s Choice that locals believed she was one of them.

She has picked up other skills along the way, practicing six hours a day for eight weeks to learn the violin for Music of the Heart.

Streep has admitted her efforts could sometimes go too far. She took a method acting approach to her turn as a fashion magazine boss in The Devil Wears Prada, maintaining her icy facade even off-camera, but later said that it was a “horrible” experience and vowed never to do it again.

But her dedication has paid off time and again.

She has a record 21 Oscar nominations and three wins, a record eight Golden Globes, two BAFTAs, and many other prizes.

And unlike many of her contemporaries, she has remarkably few duds among her 60-plus appearances, still scoring regular critical acclaim with recent films such as The Post, The Laundromat, and Don’t Look Up.

Surprisingly, she has been at Cannes only once before – though she did manage to win best actress that year – for 1989’s A Cry in the Dark.

Streep has never been one to get carried away by the trappings of fame, preferring to live as anonymously as possible at her home, where she has raised her four children.

“Being famous gets in the way of a lot of things,” she once said. “My family really does come first. It always did and always will.”

Born Mary Louise Streep in June 1949 to a New Jersey pharmaceutical executive and a commercial artist mother, Streep went to an exclusive school where she became a cheerleader and began acting in plays.

She continued acting at the historic Vassar liberal arts college, where she studied English and drama, before winning a drama scholarship to Yale, where she graduated in 1975.

Her Broadway debut came the same year with Trelawny of the Wells, for which she won rave reviews, making her film debut two years later with World War II drama Julia.

Her career went stellar with three lauded films over the next two years, The Deer Hunter, Kramer vs. Kramer, and Woody Allen’s Manhattan.

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