Meryl Streep was born on June 22, 1949, in Summit, New Jersey. She began her career on the New York stage in the late 1960s and appeared in several Broadway productions. She began appearing in films in the 1970s and soon began earning major accolades, eventually winning Oscars for Kramer vs. Kramer, Sophie's Choice and The Iron Lady among a league of nominations. Equally able to wow audiences in drama, comedy and musicals, she has come to be considered one of the greatest actresses of our time.
Born on June 22, 1949, in Summit, New Jersey, Meryl Streep is considered one of the greatest actresses working today. A graduate of Vassar College and Yale Drama School, she is equally adept at performing on stage or in front of the cameras. Streep began her career on the New York stage in the late 1960s and appeared in several Broadway productions, including a 1977 revival of the Anton Chekhov drama The Cherry Orchard.
Meryl Streep broke into films in the 1970s with a role in the 1977 drama Julia. The next year she appeared in The Deer Hunter opposite Robert De Niro and Christopher Walken, for which she earned her first Academy Award nomination for best supporting actress. Also in 1978, she won her first Primetime Emmy for her role in the film Holocaust. In 1979, her portrayal of a woman who abandons her family only to come back and fight for custody of her son in Kramer vs. Kramer brought Streep her first Academy Award win for best supporting actress.
Lead Actress Oscar
A chameleon onscreen, Meryl Streep spent much of the 1980s submerged in a variety of roles. In Sophie's Choice (1982), she convincingly played a Polish woman traumatized by her experiences during the Holocaust. Streep won her second Academy Award—her first for best actress—for her work on the film. In Out of Africa (1985), she took on the role of a Danish plantation owner living in Kenya. The role earned her another Academy Award nomination.
As she reached her 40s, Streep continued to find challenging roles—a feat many mature actresses have struggled with in Hollywood. She received an Academy Award nomination for her work in several films, including two big-screen adaptations—one of Carrie Fisher's novel Postcards from the Edge (1990) and the other of Robert James Waller's romantic drama The Bridges of Madison County (1995), in which she starred opposite Clint Eastwood. Streep also received an Oscar nod for her work in Music of the Heart (1999), which tells the true story of a teacher who brings music into the lives of kids in New York's Harlem neighborhood by teaching them how to play the violin.
By the start of the new millennium, Streep was as busy as ever. In 2002, she appeared in two critically acclaimed films: The Hours and Adaptation. Streep was then nominated for an Academy Award for her portrayal of author Susan Orlean in Adaptation. The following year, Streep lit up the small screen in the television adaptation of the award-winning play Angels in America. She won her second Emmy Award for her work on the program, which had her tackling several roles.
Streep got a chance to show some of her comic skills as a villain in the political thriller The Manchurian Candidate (2004). Continuing to explore lighthearted fare, she starred in Prime (2005), a romantic comedy with Uma Thurman and Bryan Greenberg. Streep played psychoanalyst Lisa Metzger, whose client falls in love with her son. She also played the inimitable magazine editor Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada (2006), for which she earned Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations for best actress. That same year, she was cast as country music singer Yolanda Johnson in Robert Altman's A Prairie Home Companion (2006), and continued in musical roles as Donna in the film adaptation of the ABBA musical Mamma Mia! (2008).
Returning to more serious work, Streep appeared in the 2008 film Doubt, which addresses sexual abuse in the Catholic church. She played a nun who becomes suspicious of a priest's behavior (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) toward a young student. Streep yet again earned Academy Award and Golden Globe nods.
In 2009, Streep took on one of the culinary world's most beloved figures, Julia Child. She played the famous chef in the film Julie & Julia, based on the bestselling nonfiction book of the same title. For this role she won the Golden Globe Award for lead actress in a comedy or musical, and received an Academy Award nomination. She then starred in Nancy Meyers' romantic comedy It's Complicated, with co-stars Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin, which earned her another Golden Globe nod.
Streep received widespread acclaim for her work in 2011's The Iron Lady. She portrayed former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher, a dynamic and forceful politician who was both admired by some and detested by others. While Thatcher was called cold and unfeeling, Streep believed that Thatcher "was canny about the fact that in order to be taken seriously, she wasn't able to show certain emotions because she was a woman." Streep's thoughtful and nuanced performance as Thatcher garnered her several awards, including a Golden Globe.
The Iron Lady also brought Streep her third Academy Award in 2012. In her acceptance speech, the gifted performer seemed to be especially modest and self-effacing. "When they called my name, I had this feeling that I could hear half of America going, 'Oh no! Oh come on, why her? Again!'"
Commenting on her last Academy Award victory, "I was a kid when I won this, like, 30 years ago. Two of the [current] nominees were not even conceived," Streep explained. While she may be an industry veteran, the Academy Awards still have a special meaning to this legendary star. "I thought I was so old and jaded, but they call your name and you just go into a sort of white light," Streep said later.
The following year Streep starred in the volatile family drama August: Osage County, earning yet another Oscar nomination, and 2014 saw the actress taking the lead in the dystopic sci-fi film The Giver. Later that year she was also featured as a witch in the screen adaptation of famed Stephen Sondheim musical Into the Woods, for which Streep has earned additional Golden Globe and Oscar nods. (As of 2015, Streep has received 19 Academy Award acting nominations, an industry record.)
In 2015, Streep starred opposite her real-life daughter Mamie Gummer in the Jonathan Demme and Diablo Cody film Ricki and the Flash. She plays an aging rock star who returns home to reconcile with her family. Later that year she portrayed real-world British voting activist Emmeline Pankhurst in Suffragette. In 2016, she received a Golden Globe nomination for her portrayal of 1940s New York heiress Florence Foster Jenkins in the film by the same name, and a Cecil B. DeMille Award for lifetime achievement at the Golden Globes.
During her acceptance speech, Streep warned against intolerance and disrespect and, without naming him, criticized president-elect Donald Trump’s campaign rhetoric and an 2015 incident where he appeared to mock a disabled New York Times reporter.
“An actor’s only job is to enter the lives of people who are different from us, and let you feel what that feels like," Streep said. "And there were many, many, many powerful performances this year that did exactly that. Breathtaking, compassionate work.
“But there was one performance this year that stunned me. It sank its hooks in my heart. Not because it was good; there was nothing good about it. But it was effective and it did its job. It made its intended audience laugh, and show their teeth. It was that moment when the person asking to sit in the most respected seat in our country imitated a disabled reporter. Someone he outranked in privilege, power and the capacity to fight back. It kind of broke my heart when I saw it, and I still can’t get it out of my head, because it wasn’t in a movie. It was real life. And this instinct to humiliate, when it’s modeled by someone in the public platform, by someone powerful, it filters down into everybody’s life, because it kinda gives permission for other people to do the same thing. Disrespect invites disrespect, violence incites violence. And when the powerful use their position to bully others we all lose.”
She went on to speak about the importance of a “principled press to hold power to account” and the need to support journalists to help “safeguard the truth.” She ended her acceptance speech quoting her friend Carrie Fisher, who had passed away just two weeks before the awards ceremony: “As my friend, the dear departed Princess Leia, said to me once, take your broken heart, make it into art.”
Streep’s speech was the most talked about moment of the Golden Globe Awards on social media. The following day it drew criticism from president-elect Trump, who tweeted: “Meryl Streep, one of the most over-rated actresses in Hollywood, doesn't know me but attacked last night at the Golden Globes. She is a Hillary flunky who lost big. For the 100th time, I never "mocked" a disabled reporter (would never do that) but simply showed him 'groveling' when he totally changed a 16 year old story that he had written in order to make me look bad. Just more very dishonest media!”
In January 2017, Streep was nominated for another Oscar for her role in Florence Foster Jenkins, her 20th Oscar nomination.
Streep has been married to sculptor Don Gummer since 1978. The couple has four adult children, including daughters Mamie and Grace, who have both been pursuing acting careers.
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