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Me and Meryl Streep

The venue was a small,trendy Soho hotel tucked away in a side street away from the madding crowd. I go up the stairs past the candy pink sofas and expensive looking contemporary art. A PR person tells me Meryl is running late. She's jet-lagged and hungry so do I mind waiting while she has a sandwich. I'm shown into a comfy suite where I meet Meryl's personal make-up artist who is clearly a regular companion He's on the phone ordering the sandwiches. "She forgets to eat on these trips" he clucks in a maternal way. He's late 50s, grey haired, dressed in black, slightly camp but not in an over the top way. He asks us if we've seen the musical Priscilla. Apparently the make-up is stupendous.My producer, who is about to get married, gets some tips on applying false eyelashes.
After 20 minutes we are ushered along the corridor to meet Meryl. It's dark outside and the light in the room is dim but I note that there is something luminous about her skin. The make-up is minimal, she looks almost bare faced, not a false eyelash in sight. Dressed in black trousers and a green silk top, I observe that she's smaller and thinner than I imagined, but then movies stars always seem diminished in real life, stripped on the lights, the large screen and the celluloid. Meryl is clearly nervous, arms crossed over her chest. "I don't like radio interviews" she confesses. I wonder if she needs a camera to feel comfortable but keep that thought to myself. This is a performance for her but not one she relishes. As the interview progresses I conclude that Meryl Streep prefers to inhabit the skin of others, not her own, certainly not in front of a stranger and a journalist ta boot.
We're discussing her role at Maggie Thatcher in The Iron Lady which I've seen the day before. She is nervous about the way we Brits will percieve her portrayal. It's flawless of course. The accent is pitch perfect and so is the body language; the purposeful stride made staccato by high heels, the large handbag gripped with just the right amount of force and the slightly forced smile, stretched richter across the Iron Lady's face. Hard work goes into a performance like that. She says she locked herself in a hotel room for over a week and watched tapes of Maggie over and over again going right back to her very first TV interviews in the 1950s when she was first elected as an MP to FInchley. Her voice was very different then, higher says Meryl who then launches into an imitation of the sort of "elecution posh" we're used to hearing in post war British films.
I point out that the film will probably upset a lot of people. The Left won't like it because it's too sympathetic and the Right won't like it because it shows Thather as she is now, diminished by dementia. Meryl points out its not her job to judge. She's just trying to empathise, to slip into Thatcher's skin. After a while I try to change the subject from the Iron Lady to Merly Streep. But she's not having any of it. I begin to understand why we know so little about this HOllywood star. She won't let us in. I ask how she feels about 3 of her 4 children going into showbiz. She smiles fondly "are you asking whether I would have preferred them to become bio-chemists or doctors instead of actors "?. A big sigh follows, "I worry for my two daughters with a mother like me but they seem happy" She tails off. There's a knock on the door. My time is up. I've met Meryl Streep but then again I'm not sure...........

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December 2011
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