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20.06.2014 Meryl Streep: The Living Legend

Meryl Streep has been nominated for an Oscar a record 18 times, and is often regarded the greatest actress Hollywood has ever produced. Bidness Etc takes a look at her illustrious career and accomplishments
No account of Meryl Streep – one of the greatest living artists of our time – is complete without her list of accomplishments. And an impressive list it is, too: three Oscars, eight Golden Globes, two Emmys, myriad nominations, and an unfinished career that spans thirty years and includes almost fifty feature films.

Here’s a look at the life of the highly acclaimed actress, who has been nominated for Hollywood’s biggest honor, the Academy Award, 18 times – a record unmatched by any other Hollywood actor.

A Conventional Childhood
Born on June 22, 1949, the actress was born Mary Louise Streep, named after her mother, a traditional housewife. Her father, Harry Streep Jr., was a corporate executive. Meryl spent her early childhood with two elder brothers in the suburbs of Summit, New Jersey. Although she had a penchant for performing from an early age, neither she nor anybody else had envisioned that she would one day become an accomplished A-list celebrity. In fact, aged 12, she had instead expressed interest in becoming an opera singer. Her dutiful mother would take her to the renowned opera coach Estelle Liebling for training.

Developing A Passion For Acting
Her interest in acting evolved in her adolescent years. In High School, she joined the cheerleading squad and discovered that she quite enjoyed the limelight. But she was often insecure about her physical appearance, which led her to dye her hair blonde from the original dark brown at the tender age of 15.

Meryl recalls that it was her performance in her High School musical, “Oklahoma,” that ignited in her a desire to pursue acting. Tellingly, she described the interaction with the audience as “intoxicating.” After graduating from Bernardsville High School, she enrolled at Vassar College, where she studied drama and cultivated her newly developed interest in performing by participating in several productions. Later, she attended the Yale School of Drama where she performed in over 50 plays over the course of four years. It was there that she first became the “talk of the town,” mesmerizing Yale students with her enchanting performances.

Personal Life And Her Talent For The Stage
After Yale, Streep came to New York to start her acting career proper. She made her public debut in 1971 in “The Playboy of Seville.” Four years later she would get her big Broadway break in “Trelawney of the Wells.” In 1976, she played a nun in Shakespeare’s “problem play,” “Measure for Measure.” She co-starred alongside John Cazale, with whom she began a relationship, and the couple was soon engaged. However, that engagement was to last a short 18 months as Cazale tragically passed away of bone cancer in 1978. Shortly after Cazale’s death, she married sculptor Don Gummer, with whom she has four children.

Between 1975 and 1981, Streep was recognized for her theatre work. “27 Wagons Full of Cotton” earned her a Best Featured Actress award, and she received Drama Desk award nominations for her work in “The Cherry Orchard” (1976) and “Happy End” (1977). The same year, Meryl tasted the silver screen with her performance in “The Deadliest Season,” and shortly after made her big debut in “Julia.”

Critical Acclaim Through Early Films
Her cameo in “Julia” was enthusiastically received by both the mainstream and critics. Her second movie and first “commercial” enterprise, “The Deer Hunter,” in which she starred opposite then-fiancé Cazale, was widely appreciated and earned a first Oscar nomination. She won her first Emmy award for 1978’s “Holocaust,” and it didn’t take long to add an Academy Award to her mantelpiece, with “Kramer vs. Kramer.” Within three years, a second Academy Award was hers for her portrayal of a Polish Holocaust victim in “Sophie’s Choice.”

One of Streep’s defining talents is her ability to “easily” portray characters of various nationalities and speak in various and subtle accents.

In 1980s, the acclaimed actress appeared in several back-to-back hit films, including “The French Lieutenant’s Woman,” “Silkwood,” “Out of Africa,” and “Heartburn.” In 1988, she was honored with the Best Actress Award for the drama, “A Cry in the Dark,” during the 89th Cannes Film Festival. Between 1984 and 1990, she was awarded with six People’s Choice Awards for her performances.

1990s-Early 21st Century
Unlike other actresses, Meryl is known for jumping headlong into unusual roles without the slightest hesitation. In the early 1990s, she starred in several light, comic films with dark and weighty names like “Postcards from the Edge,” “Death Becomes Her,” and “The House of Spirits.” These films were not as commercially successful as some of her other successes, but Streep has said that she really cherished her time on those sets.

Then, in the mid-90s, came an adaptation of “The Bridges of Madison County,” a widely acclaimed film about two not-so-young people and their love story, which earned her yet another Academy Award nomination.

In 1997, Meryl took a short break from film to go back to television, and star in the TV movie, “First Do No Harm.” In 1999, she portrayed a music teacher in “Music of the Heart,” a role originally designed for Madonna. Meryl has said that prior to signing up for a role, she feels as though “[her] heart is racing,” and that she never takes anything on unless she feels a “connection” to the character she is mean to portray. That would perhaps explain her unusual decision to chart a route back to TV. For her part in “Music of the Heart, a low-budget film, she spent months training on the violin.

After disappearing from the stage for more than two decades, Meryl took upon the role of Arkadina in the Chekov play, “The Seagull.” A year later, she was praised by critics for her portrayal of eccentric author Susan Orlean in “Adaptation.”

In 2003, Meryl received her second Emmy and a Golden Globe for playing four roles in the TV series “Angels in America.” In 2004, she was deservedly awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award by the American Film Institute.

2006 Onwards:
Three years later, Meryl starred as the ruthless and glamorous Miranda Priestley (a part reportedly based on “Vogue” editor, Anna Wintour) in “The Devil Wears Prada.” Streep earned accolades for her decision to distance the character from the real-life Wintour to achieve a more authentic film character.

Although she failed to get the role of Mrs. Lovett in Tim Burton’s adaption of “Sweeney Todd,” she refused to give up and instead approached the producers of “Mama Mia.” Of course, her perseverance paid off and she played Donna. The film was the highest-grossing musical film of all time a short while after its release.

“A Prairie Home Companion,” “Doubt,” and “Julie & Julia” showed off some of Streep’s versatility, before she added yet another Oscar to her already substantial list with “The Iron Lady” in 2011. Streep played indefatigable ex-British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in a performance that critics variously called “memorable,” “astonishing,” and “flawless.” Her most recent film, “August: Osage County” was released earlier this year. Streep, naturally, gained another Academy Award nomination, but lost out to Cate Blanchett for “Blue Jasmine.”

Upcoming Projects
Despite acting in over 50 films and receiving over 130 international accolades thus far, Meryl has expressed no intention of slowing down, let alone coming to a complete halt. She has adorned the theatre, television, and cinemas with meticulously crafted portrayals of characters in almost every genre.

Her latest experiment is the upcoming sci-fi film, “The Giver,” based on the novel of the same name by Lois Lowry. The film – which will see Meryl playing Chief Elder, an authoritarian responsible for keeping the balance in society – is scheduled to be released this August.

“Into the Woods,” an upcoming Disney movie, will feature Meryl’s singing talents in a portrayal of a witch. The movie is set to hit theaters this Christmas. Streep also signed up to play a rockstar mother in Diablo Cody’s “Ricki and the Flash” a few months ago.

Meryl Streep’s Payroll
The actress, who is known to charge $7-8 million on average per film, is envied by many for being one of the highest-paid actresses in Hollywood. Although it is true that Meryl’s movies are not as commercially successful as those of more “conventional” actors and actresses, her impressive resume, which includes as many as 132 awards, is reason enough for those hefty paychecks.


Note: Estimates for movies’ sales and earnings have been taken from various sources, including Box Office Mojo, Forbes, celebrity net worth, and IMDB.

In Forbes’s list for 2013, she was placed at 73 on the list of the 100 most powerful celebrities in the world, with a salary of $7 million between July 2012 and June 2013. Meanwhile, Angelina Jolie –who led the chart among the actresses—earned an estimated $33 million. Jennifer Aniston was another female celebrity on the list, with an annual salary of $20 million. The 45-year-old actress received $11 million, or 2.3% of the revenues generated by “Horrible Bosses” and “We’re the Millers.”

It’s true, though. Meryl Streep does have an above-average salary. But scroll down the list of her accomplishments and take in the sheer heft of all she’s done in Hollywood. In many ways, she’s unparalleled by any other actor in Hollywood – ever.
05.07.2014 09:59:47
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