Interview By: Jennifer Krieger
Meryl Streep is too young and still too pretty to be a “Dame” but she earns the title anyway through the breadth of her work and her inability to let age slow her down. Whether taking on the role of a Hasidic Rabbi in HBO’s Angel’s In America, or loopy writer Susan Orlean in Adaptation she is a commanding presence; indeed there seems to be nothing she can’t do. In The Manchurian Candidate Streep takes on the role of Eleanor Shaw, a controlling, manipulative, charismatic New York Senator, who may just sound a little too familiar for some. While she swears her performance isn’t based on Hilary Clinton, Streep did let us in on some of her own fiery political views, what it’s like working with Denzel and she gave us the details of her preparation for the film.
“I decided early on not to see the original” Streep declares. With good reason: she was afraid she would find herself influenced by Angela Lansbury’s performance in the original. “I’m kind of a sponge” she admits, and she wanted to start with a clean slate, “from whole cloth.” Besides, according to Streep, the movie is very different from the original version of The Manchurian Candidate, it’s “a rewrite, not a remake.” And it’s important for the audience to view it as such.
As for comparisons of her character to a certain other New York Senator, Streep laughs and recalls how her friend had given her the name of “some crazy guy on the internet” who was spewing these claims and she’d “googled” him and came across his conspiracy-crazy web site. In all seriousness, “My character,” she asserts, “couldn’t be further from Hilary Clinton.”
But Streep does not deny the political relevance of the film. “Events have galloped to keep pace with our
Despite her anger with the way of the world, Streep states “I am not cynical at all.” She is, however scared. “I’m scared that people will get hurt” As an actress, she feels it’s important that she not stand idly by. “We can’t not be speaking up” she proclaims, and she hopes that perhaps this film might cause other’s to speak up as well. Streep expresses her own reticence about the upcoming election and the political repercussions of the Bush administration. “I’m doing what I can,” she sighs, “but I’m not ready for this.”
As for the preparation for such a intense, emotional performance, Streep reflects on her constant insecurity at the beginning of every shoot; “I always think ‘I don’t know what I’m doing,’” she recalls. She laughs, comparing herself to actors with a set method for immersing themselves in a character: whereas, Streep declares “I’m insane, I have no real method for acting,” and when she does take on a role she must undertake what sounds like a grueling process wherein she “disassembles herself, deconstructing everything, opening up a terrifying blank landscape.” And this is how she gives the startling, stunning, nuanced performances that she does.
And speaking of startling, stunning, nuanced performances, Streep sings the praises of her co-stars Denzel Washington and Leiv Shreiber, saying “there are certain actors who
Streep’s next undertaking is the role of Sandra Bullock‘s therapist in Crime. Undoubtedly she will be gracing the screen with her presence for many years to come, firing up the audience with her skill and her candor. As for the Bush administration, she hopes that will soon be a distant memory. Mrs. Streep is dead serious when she remarks of our current Vice President, “We didn’t fire himâ€¦.yet.”