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22.01.2017 'Think about the bigger picture': life lessons from Meryl Streep and other successful women

Meryl Streep photographed  by Brigitte Lacombe
Meryl Streep photographed by Brigitte Lacombe
They’ve won Oscars, Pulitzers and Nobel peace prizes: eight women at the top of their game tell us how they got there. Meryl Streep has been nominated for more Academy Awards than any other actor, and has won for Kramer vs Kramer, Sophie’s Choice and The Iron Lady. 

"I didn’t always want to be an actor. I thought I wanted to be a translator at the UN and help people understand each other. Some young people come into acting because they see it as glossy and heightened and more sort of divine than their existence; but what interests me is getting deep into someone else’s life, to understand what compelled them to move in one direction or the other. That other stuff, I’ve never liked. My mother used to say, “People would give their right arm to walk down that red carpet. Enjoy it!” You just can’t change who you are.

The influencers in our industry are overwhelmingly men: the critics, the directors’ branch of the Academy. If they were overwhelmingly female, there would be a hue and cry about it. Women have 17% of the influence, more or less, in every part of the decision-making process in the industry and, inevitably, that’s going to decide what kind of films are made. But the material that comes to me is still interesting. I’m 67, so mostly I get things for people that age, and there are wonderful projects that would never have existed even 10 years ago. Twenty years ago, I would have been playing witches and crones.

Going from job to job, never knowing where the next one would be, has allowed me to spend time with my four kids – more than if I’d worked at a desk job. That’s a really tough gig, and I don’t know if I could have had four kids and done that. Decisions I made in my career were not always based on aesthetic criteria: was it near, was it going to be shot in the vacation? You make all sorts of compromises in order to have this other thing that you value. My girls and my son and my husband are all way too much in each other’s business, I would say, but we’re close and that’s important. I always tried to stay challenged and work hard, but also keep my hand in and stir the pot at home.

I spent far too much time when I was younger thinking about how much I weighed. If I could go back, I’d say, “Think about the bigger picture.” Of course, it’s a visual medium. We think about our looks. I don’t bring a suitcase with my dossier in it to an audition, I bring my body, so you can’t moan about the fact that you’re judged on your looks: it’s showbusiness. But the other thing is that you’re representing lives, and lives look all different ways and shapes. That’s one thing I do see changing, and it’s really good. It makes the cultural landscape richer."

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03.06.2017 13:22:44
marci6549
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