2020 Kageno Benefit - 23.září
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24.07.2015 Meryl & Kevin Together Again

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Even though it’s the middle of summer, Meryl Streep’s four kids already have a pretty good idea what they’re getting for Christmas. “The presents are always airline tickets,” says the three-time Oscar winner, whose grown-up children are scattered around the country—two in Los Angeles, one in New York City and the other in Santa Fe, N.M.
“I try to get everyone at home at Christmastime,” says the actress, 66.

For Streep’s longtime collaborator Kevin Kline, family is a bit easier to corral. Both of his children, a grown son and a daughter, are still in New York, where he lives with his wife (their mother), actress Phoebe Cates.

“We have dinner all together once a week at least,” says Kline, 67. “The kids haven’t banished us from their lives.” Daughter, Greta, 21, is a musician who regularly performs in the city. Frequently Kline goes to her shows. Sometimes, he becomes part of her shows.

“I got a review in the New York Times,” he says, grinning. “The critic said, ‘There was a man at the back who looked like Kevin Kline and was shushing people.’ ”

In many ways, sitting down with Streep and Kline feels like a family reunion (we met in London for this Parade interview and photo shoot). The two Oscar winners have been working together on stage and screen for more than 30 years, ever since their dazzling performances in Sophie’s Choice (1982), which marked Kline’s big-screen debut—and won Streep her second of three Academy Awards (the others came for Kramer vs. Kramer and The Iron Lady). The conversation rattles merrily back and forth, punctuated with peals of laughter and wide-ranging memories.


Rockin’ As Ricki


Streep and Kline’s latest collaboration, Ricki and the Flash, is a musically infused rock ’n’ roll drama from Oscar-winning director Jonathan Demme (The Silence of the Lambs, Philadelphia). Streep is Ricki, a guitar-strumming bohemian who left her family to pursue musical stardom in a band, while Kline is Pete, her ex-husband, who stayed behind and finished the job of raising their three kids.

The film features energetic performances from Ricki and her band, the Flash, in which Streep strums and sings alongside her onscreen lover, played by ’80s pop hit-maker Rick Springfield. The heart of the film, however, is a story about family, which Ricki is unable to reconcile with her rock ’n’ roll dream. Streep and Kline have fared much better in this regard, enjoying successful show-biz careers while raising their respective children, though both concede that juggling their commitments has often been far from easy.

“I went through a period where I picked movies according to location,” Streep says. If the job took her away from home for more than two weeks, she would decline. “I would never do anything too far away.”

With her 19 Oscar nominations and three wins, just imagine what other success she might have enjoyed without this self-imposed limitation. She has no regrets, however, happily raising her son (Henry, 35) and daughters (Mamie, 31; Grace, 29; and Louisa, 24) with her husband, sculptor Don Gummer. Henry is now a musician and Louisa is a model, while Mamie and Grace are both actors.

Streep believes that acting is often kinder to family life than regular nine-to-five employment. “In America you have just two weeks off a year,” she says. “Actors, on the other hand, are at home a lot.”


When Acting Is a Family Affair


With two daughters both in the business, Streep sometimes gets to see them at work—and work with them. In fact, her Ricki is mom to Mamie’s Julie in Ricki and the Flash. But with the mother-daughter relationship far from friendly on screen, director Demme instructed them to remain in character, forbidding them from talking to one another between takes to maintain the movie’s ongoing tension between the two characters.

“That kind of annoyed me,” says Streep.

“That makes me feel a bit Draconian,” chuckles Demme. “I told Mamie, ‘I don’t want you to think that you’re Mamie and that’s mommy Meryl over there. I hope there’ll be a minimum of hanging out and being your usual selves while we’re shooting, because we’re going for something very exceptional here that has nothing to do with loving your mom.’ And Mamie really rose to the occasion; I’m really proud of her.”

Streep has worked with her daughters before, back to 1986 on Heartburn, in which she starred alongside Jack Nicholson. Mamie, then 18 months old, played a 1-year-old.

“Typical actress,” quips Kline, “lying about her age even then.”

Streep also worked with Grace, in The Homesman, the 2014 Western directed by her dear actor friend Tommy Lee Jones, and in The House of the Spirits in 1993.

“Gracie played me as a 5-year-old,” recalls Streep of The House of the Spirits. “She had never been in anything but she looked a lot like me, so they gave her this big part. She had to come into a room, look into a coffin, have an asthma attack and then cry. That’s a lot to do.”

“I said, ‘Gracie, you’re going to have to…’ and before I could get anything else out of my mouth she said, ‘I know, Mom, I know.’ So you talk about advice you give your children—they already know it all. And she was great.”


No Stars In Their Eyes


Kline’s kids, Greta and Owen, have also performed with their dad. Owen appeared in Dave (1993), and both were featured in The Anniversary Party (2001). They popped up independently of their father in The Squid and the Whale (2005).

“One of the good things about having your parents in this job is that there’s no mystique to show business,” Kline says, and Streep agrees. “They know what the deal is,” she says. “They see all my friends who started exactly when I did, and they see them at 60 still having to go in and audition, and waiting by the phone hoping that they’ll get a callback for a commercial. They don’t have any illusions about what it is. I am very impressed by my girls.”

The feeling is surely mutual; Streep is one of America’s most talented, most distinguished actresses. She grew up in New Jersey and attended Vassar before graduating from Yale Drama School in 1975.

One of her earliest stage roles was in Measure for Measure at Shakespeare in the Park in New York City in 1976, where she met and fell in love with The Godfather actor John Cazale. She then appeared alongside him in The Deer Hunter (1978), her first major movie, and nursed him through a tragic illness, until his death later that year.

She married Gummer six months later and her career went from strength to strength. She made a memorable turn in Woody Allen’s Manhattan before Kramer vs. Kramer (both 1979). Then came Sophie’s Choice.


‘I Was a Nobody’


“When our director on Sophie’s Choice, Alan J. Pakula, told me I had been cast,” says Kline, “he said, ‘You know who just called? Meryl Streep, and she said you’d make a great Nathan [the movie’s male lead].’ I said, ‘Great—who is she?’ ”

Kline is making a joke, though Streep insists he’s not too far from the truth. “He’s right: I was a nobody,” she says. “I’d been cast over all these wonderful famous actresses.”

Streep and Kline also worked together in director Robert Altman’s final movie, A Prairie Home Companion (2006), in which Streep was able to exercise her vocal chops. She was in fact trained as a singer as well as an actress, performing in a Motown band during college. More recently, she showcased her singing skills in the musicals Mamma Mia! and Into the Woods. Now, in Ricki and the Flash, she’s belting it out once again, and part of her role required her to learn how to play a 1968 Fender Telecaster.

“We did everything live,” she says. “It always had to be the whole song, run all the way through, and [director] Jonathan recorded it—what you see and hear is what we did. We had just two weeks rehearsal and then what I played and sang went in the movie. It was a lot of pressure.”

“I think Meryl’s been waiting for the role of Ricki for a long time,” Demme says. “It was an excuse for her to learn how to play electric guitar and just get up there and go. She put so much time into rehearsal, and into her research and learning guitar and everything—by the time she gets there, she’s confident and ready to do it. Whether literally or metaphorically, she’s ready to rock.”

“I thought the band’s performances were terrific,” adds Kline, who attended Indiana University where he began student life as an aspiring classical pianist. “I knew that you loved classical music, Meryl, but I didn’t know that you loved rock ’n’ roll in that deep, primal way that one needs to sing it.”

Yet she does. And that’s Meryl Streep. Her Christmas gifts to the children might be predictable, but the woman herself is still full of surprises.

-Will Lawrence
04.08.2015 20:48:37
kabby15
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