Meryl Streep might be considered Hollywood royalty today, but she wasn’t born into the role. When she first came onto the acting scene, she was just an average girl with a big dream. Little could she have predicted that her role in 1978’s The Deer Hunter was going to skyrocket her to award-winning success. She has been nominated for a record-breaking total of 21 Academy Awards over the course of her career, of which she won three. Today, she’s still doing some of her best work. Adored by both audiences and critics alike for her performances in films such as 1979’s Kramer vs. Kramer, 1982’s Sophie’s Choice, and 2006’s The Devil Wears Prada, there are few working Hollywood icons that command as much respect as Meryl. This accomplishment is made even more incredible due to the fact that she started out as just a simple girl from New Jersey. Join Facts Verse as we take a look at Meryl Streep’s stunning transformation.
Meryl Streep was born Mary Louise Streep on June 22 of 1949. She was born in New Jersey and raised there by her mother and father. Her father was a manager working in the human resources department of the pharmaceutical company Merck & Co. Her mother was an artist. Streep recalls how her active imagination as a child helped her hone her acting abilities at a young age. She says her first conscious attempt at acting was a portrayal of the Virgin Mary for her parents and siblings at the age of 6. Though they were just playing around in the living room, it was an experience that left an impression on the young girl. According to her, it made her feel “quieted” and “holy”.
Both of Meryl’s parents were supportive of their daughter’s artistry. Streep has recalled her mother, an artist herself, saying that she could “do whatever [she] put [her] mind to”. However, they didn’t coddle the young woman, ensuring her that “if you’re lazy, you’re not going to get it done”. This message inspired a good deal of confidence and work ethic in the young Meryl, who began singing and acting as much as she could wherever she went. By the time Meryl was 13, her parents had signed her up for opera lessons. While the lessons certainly instilled a professionalism in the young girl, she has said that her true passion lied in the realm of popular music. At the time, the radio was filled with new hits from the likes of Bob Dylan, Barbara Streisand, and The Beatles. As well, she has shared that she had a healthy interest in both “cheerleading and boys”, saying that she was very much “a typical teenager”. Despite this, it’s hard to imagine a typical teenager growing up to be one of the most renowned stars on the planet!
In high school, Meryl exercised her talents in the school’s theater performances. She was an active member of the drama club, putting on such performances as The Music Man. Streep had seen the musical before on Broadway, and was enamored with the idea of bringing it to life at her high school. According to her, she simply “loved singing”. Despite her traditional acting and singing exercises, Meryl also found another unique way to stretch her acting talents. According to her, the true role of her high school career was that of a “generically pretty high school girl”. In order to fit in, she turned to fashion magazines and her own ideas of what a popular high school student should act like. She wore exuberant makeup, bleached and straightened her hair, and even changed the way the she laughed. She went so far as to modify her own talkative and curious personality, thinking “opinions were not attractive”. Although Meryl was incredibly successful in her efforts to fit in, she eventually grew tired of not being herself.
In college, Meryl threw out her carefully curated high school persona and began figuring out who she truly wanted to be. According to the star, this revelation made her feel free, allowing her to find her “actual personality” and “actual voice”. Importantly, she says that she felt that she was allowed to be “funny… loud, and obnoxious”. This minor transformation in Meryl from reserved and shy schoolgirl to emboldened and educated woman was mirrored in the public sentiment of the time. It was a period of liberation for women, and Meryl was soon going to find herself poised uniquely at the forefront. If you’re enjoying this video so far, be sure to hit the like button to show your support! As well, subscribe to the channel if you’d like to be among the first to know when more Facts Verse videos are on their way!
Meryl Streep graduated from Vassar College in 1975. From there, she headed to the Yale School of Drama to complete a three-year program in a class that was mostly filled with male students. Although the program was rigorous, Streep has expressed that she had a good time and learned a lot. After completion of the program, Streep started receiving roles in Broadway productions. It was during this period of her life that she met beloved character actor John Cazale. The two fell in love, and were married in 1976. However, tragedy was soon to befall the marriage. John Cazale died two years later, in 1978. According to Streep, Cazale “wasn’t like anybody [she’d] ever met”. The passionate love the two shared made them the envy of their peers, but it wasn’t meant to last. After a diagnosis of lung cancer, John Cazale passed away.
Soon after John’s passing, Meryl was introduced to another man by her brother. This man was a sculptor by the name of Don Gummer. Meryl wasn’t looking for love, but she soon found herself falling for the man just as hard as she had fallen for John. Before 1978 was over, Meryl and Don were married. Although many close to Meryl expressed concern that she was marrying too fast after John’s passing, it appears that she made the right decision. Meryl and Don are still married today, over 40 years later. In addition to losing one husband and gaining another, Meryl also received her big break in 1978. It came in the form of Michael Cimino’s The Deer Hunter. She starred alongside Robert De Niro and Christopher Walken. That year, she was nominated for her performance in the film at the Academy Awards. From there, it was a short trip to true stardom.
If The Deer Hunter brought Meryl to the attention of both audiences and critics, 1979’s Kramer vs. Kramer showed the world that her performance in that film was more than just a fluke. The film swept the Academy Awards, earning Meryl her first win. She won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, the same award that her performance in The Deer Hunter was nominated for. The film itself won Best Picture and Dustin Hoffman won Best Actor. Dustin Hoffman and Meryl Streep played a couple going through a custody battle in the film. Although the film was a major success for Meryl, it wasn’t an easy shoot for the young actress. Whether insane artistic passion or sadistic bullying, Hoffman was intent on making Meryl’s life a living hell during the 12 days that she worked on the picture. Notoriously, Hoffman chose to slap Meryl for real during a heated scene, which the young actress had no idea was going to happen. That footage ended up in the final film and likely wasn’t too pleasant of an experience for the rising star to see.
After having to play the supposed supporting role to Dustin Hoffman’s lead, Meryl’s Academy Award win granted her the opportunity to start taking on true starring roles for herself. First, she appeared in 1982’s Sophie’s Choice. Her performance in that film lead to her receiving her second Academy Award, this time for out-and-out Best Actress. In 1985, she appeared in the much-loved biopic film Out of Africa. Meryl retained her Hollywood success into the 1990s with roles in such films as 1992’s darkly comedic Death Becomes Her and 1995’s Bridges of Madison County, the latter of which was directed by Clint Eastwood.
Into the 2000s, Meryl began taking on roles that called for an older actress. Soon, this lead to somewhat of a commercial revitalization for her. She became a matriarchal figure to the audience, representing the epitome of wisdom and class. This suited her for motherly and affable roles, such as 2009’s Julie & Julia. In that film, she portrayed none other than Julia Childs herself. Meryl also took on an antagonistic matriarchal role in 2006’s The Devil Wears Prada, where she played an incredibly successful and feared magazine mogul. Despite taking on some older characters, the actress has shown that she has maintained her youthful vibrancy via roles in more energetic fare, like 2008’s Mamma Mia!
At this moment in time, Meryl Streep has been nominated for 21 Academy Awards. This means that she has more Academy Award nominations than any other single person in history, whether for acting or otherwise. Despite this incredible achievement, the actress has only won three times. While her first two wins came from Kramer vs. Kramer and Sophie’s Choice, her third came from 2011’s The Iron Lady. In that film, Meryl portrayed notorious Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Margaret Thatcher. In 2014, she was given the Presidential Medal of Honor by Barack Obama. Today, when she isn’t continuing her acting career, she enjoys a peaceful and quiet life with her husband. The two have had four children over the course of their marriage. Although Meryl Streep is a superstar in the eyes of the public, her favorite roles are as a mother and wife.
Meryl Streep has acted in over 70 movies since her Hollywood debut in The Deer Hunter. Comment down below to share your favorite role that the actress has played, or if you think she deserved to win for more than just three of her 21 Academy Award nominations. As always, like this video to show your support, and subscribe and hit the notification bell to be among the first to know when more videos are on their way!