*Story First Published February, 2012.
There are certain privileges in life that should never be taken for granted and meeting Meryl Streep is one of them.
At this moment the woman whom fellow actress, Diane Keaton called “my generation’s genius” is sitting in her New York hotel room, more ethereal and elegant than even the most feverish imagination might have allowed for, discussing privileges of a different kind– her kind.
Like the favour of reaching old age (not that at 62 she is old yet, even though she feels it.) Like the dispensation of living an authentic life, a life of meaning. And, yes, as you might expect for an actress, the license to play full-blooded, complex women like whistle blower, Karen Silkwood, legendary chef, Julia Child and, most recently, The Iron Lady, herself, Margaret Thatcher.
“The opportunity to be these different women is a privilege, to imagine them and to open them up for view,” she says now. “And we don’t see enough older women in the movies.
“I feel I’ve gotten more chances than most actors to play really interesting characters. So to be given the chance is 90 per cent of the job and then to fill it out, and to live up to the opportunity … that’s where I try to live, in that little wedge. But to get the job is the big, big thing now. There aren’t that many places in acting, except in the theatre, for your convictions unless you produce films yourself, or write and produce them, which I don’t.”
By now most of us are aware that Meryl Streep has just managed to pull off arguably the most sublime performance of her career as Margaret Thatcher, Britain’s first and only female prime minister, and that she is being widely tipped to win her third Oscar in 32 years.
What we are, perhaps, less aware of is that in playing Britain’s most successful post-war leader, particularly in these years where dementia has robbed Thatcher of her once iron-clad mental faculties, Meryl Streep has come to investigate both the rewards and ravages of old age.
“I see myself old everyday,” she says, laughing joyously. “And the weird thing is when you’re in the movies you see yourself young everyday and the contrast is shocking.”