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      Facts

      Wow! Meryl Streep is one hell of real woman! The newspapers and gossip magazines all say so, so there! Hell, she's so real that not only does she know where the dishwashers are located in her home (or is that 'homes'?), she also knows how they work! Incredible. And a Meryl Streep quote would confirm that she's just like "us". "You can't get spoiled if you do your own ironing," she said. Respect. Enough said.

      Except it isn't. If I sound cynical it's because I mean to. Meryl Streep is a fine actress but that's what she is: a successful actress earning shitloads of cash for playing 'us'. And earning shitloads of cash means she is not like 'us' as we don't and as soon as one earns shitloads of cash at playing 'us' then one is 'them'.

      So let's forget the pretence of being 'us' and let's pay homage for someone who can get her tongue round an accent better than most and be someone she's not better than most. Mary Louise Streep.

      Born June 22, 1949 in Summit, NJ, Streep's interest in acting began while she attended Bernards High School, prior to which she had taken operatic voice lessons. Beginning with Daisy Mae in Lil' Abner, Streep appeared in several school productions, but also found time to be a good student, a cheerleader, and the Homecoming Queen. Upon graduation, she studied drama at Vassar, Dartmouth, and Yale, where she appeared in between 30 and 40 productions with the Yale Repertory Theater.

      With her education finished, Streep headed for the New York stage where she launched her career off-Broadway. She then spent time on Broadway in shows such as Tennessee Williams' 27 Wagons Full of Cotton, for which she was Tony nominated, before making her television debut in Robert Markowitz's The Deadliest Season (1977). That year she also made her feature film bow in Fred Zinnmann's Julia (1977), playing Anna Marie opposite heavyweights Jane Fonda, Vanessa Redgrave, and Hal Holbrook. The following year, Streep earned an Emmy for her performance in Marvin J. Chomsky's miniseries Holocaust. She first worked with DeNiro in Michael Cimino's The Deer Hunter (1978). Though her role was small, she played it with an energetic sensitivity that earned her the first of many Oscar nominations.

      She was next seen as Woody Allen's ruthless lesbian ex-wife in his classic comedy Manhattan (1979), and became better known following her turn as the conflicted Joanna Kramer opposite Dustin Hoffman in the tear-jerking divorce saga Kramer Vs. Kramer (1979).

      Streep greeted the '80s with a great performance in The French Lieutenant's Woman (1981). In Alan J. Pakula's haunting Sophie's Choice (1982), she gave a wrenching performance as a Polish Catholic forced to make an impossible choice, and also displayed her unusual facility for foreign accents. Streep then played an entirely different kind of role as a victimized nuclear plant worker who mysteriously disappears just before she is to turn in crucial evidence against her employers in the anti-nuke thriller Silkwood (1983). More highly successful dramas (such as Out of Africa (1985) and Heartburn (1986)) and awards followed, and by the end of the decade, there was little doubt that Meryl Streep was the dramatic actress of her generation.

      Ironically, this was around the time that Streep's career began to wane. Perhaps it was because she made the guardian sin for a woman in male-dominated Hollywood: she was getting older. But there were other reasons. Critics such as Pauline Kael derided the aloofness she projected onscreen, comparing her to a technician or an automaton rather than a living, breathing, and fallible actress. Some even criticized her extraordinary ability to convincingly reproduce accents. Perhaps there was some justification to the criticism, possibly because Streep's performances were becoming too predictable. This was possibly why Streep shocked both critics and audiences when she chose to play the flighty, vain romantic novelist Mary Fisher opposite low-brow comedienne Roseanne Barr in Susan Seidelman's black comedy She-Devil (1989). The film was generally panned, but Streep's gleefully over-the-top performance stole the show, with even the harshest critics admitting their surprise at seeing Streep's wicked, previously hidden side.

      That year she continued on her comedic bent by lending her voice to a guest character on the satirical Fox animated television series The Simpsons, and had further success playing Suzanne, a middle-aged, everything-a-holic nearly has-been actress attempting to forge a new career while contending with her even more famous mother in Postcards From the Edge (1990). In this film, Streep used her early vocal training to belt out a couple of tunes, showing the world yet another dimension of her talent; her acting efforts earned her yet another Oscar nomination.

      Through the '90s, Streep alternated between dramatic and comedic roles, and in 1994, she again surprised her fans when she appeared as a muscular expert whitewater rafter who must fight a raging river and two dangerous fugitives to save her family in the action thriller River Wild (1994). In interviews, she said she did the film because she wanted to have an adventure like Harrison Ford and to overcome a few of her own fears. In 1995, Streep took a more low-key role as a dowdy, earthbound farm wife who finds Illicit love with an itinerant photographer (Clint Eastwood) in The Bridges of Madison County. Following the critical and commercial success of Bridges, Streep went on to star with Diane Keaton and Leonardo DiCaprio in 1996's Marvin's Room before garnering yet another Oscar nomination for her performance as a terminally ill wife and mother in One True Thing (1998). Her next project, a screen adaptation of Brian Friel's Dancing at Lughnasa (1998), was a decidedly quieter affair, in which Streep once again showcased her uncanny aptitude for foreign accents. Though she would play things relatively low-key in the first two-years of the new millennium (such as lending her voice to the Blue Mecha in Steven Spielberg's A.I.), Streep proved she was still an actress of considerable dramatic power when she hit audiences with a powerful combonation of Adaptation and The Hours in the last days of 2002. Earning an Oscar nomination for the former and a Golden Globe nomination for the latter, Streep's remarkable range connected with audiences in her respective roles as an author looking to recapture the unpredictibility of youth or a woman who prepares a final party for a close friend (Ed Harris) who is dying of AIDS.

      In addition to her feature-film career, Streep has also narrated documentaries such as Arctic Refuge: A Vanishing Wilderness; she has even continued to make the rare television appearance, as in the 1997 ABC network telemovie ...First Do No Harm.



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