Meryl Streep Best Actress Oscar: Dressed to Win
Best Actress Academy Award winner Meryl Streep, whose golden dress and earrings match – or rather, outshine – her golden Oscar statuette, poses backstage at the 84th Academy Awards held on Feb. 26, '12, at the former Kodak Theatre at Hollywood & Highland in Los Angeles. Last year's Best Actor winner, Colin Firth (The King's Speech), handed Streep the award for her performance as right-wing British prime minister Margaret Thatcher in Phyllida Lloyd's biopic The Iron Lady, co-starring Jim Broadbent as Thatcher's husband.
That was Streep's 17th Oscar nomination and her third win – second in the Best Actress category. Her previous two Oscar triumphs were the following:
- Best Supporting Actress as a divorcée who leaves her family and later decides to fight for the custody of her son in Robert Benton's Kramer vs. Kramer (1979).
Cast: Dustin Hoffman. Jane Alexander. Justin Henry.
- Best Actress as a Nazi concentration camp survivor in Alan J. Pakula's Sophie's Choice (1982).
Cast: Kevin Kline. Peter MacNicol.
Meryl Streep's Best Actress Oscar 2012 competitors were the following:
- SAG Award winner Viola Davis for Tate Taylor's The Help.
- Michelle Williams (as Marilyn Monroe) for Simon Curtis' My Week with Marilyn.
- Rooney Mara for David Fincher's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
- Six-time Oscar nominee Glenn Close for Rodrigo García's Albert Nobbs.
Meryl Streep Oscar nominations
Below is the list of Meryl Streep's previous Oscar nominations (not including her two wins listed above); unless otherwise noted, all were in the Best Actress category.*
- Best Supporting Actress for Michael Cimino's The Deer Hunter (1978).
Cast: Robert De Niro. Christopher Walken.
- Karel Reisz's The French Lieutenant's Woman (1981).
Cast: Jeremy Irons.
- Mike Nichols' Silkwood (1983).
Cast: Kurt Russell. Cher.
- Sydney Pollack's Out of Africa (1985).
Cast: Robert Redford. Klaus Maria Brandauer.
- Hector Babenco's Ironweed (1987).
Cast: Jack Nicholson. (Glenn Close was also a nominee, for Adrian Lyne's Fatal Attraction.)
- Fred Schepisi's A Cry in the Dark (1988).
Cast: Sam Neill. (Glenn Close was also a nominee, for Stephen Frears' Dangerous Liaisons.)
- Mike Nichols' Postcards from the Edge (1990), as a fictionalized version of Carrie Fisher (Star Wars' Princess Leia).
Cast: Shirley MacLaine (as a fictionalized version of Singin' in the Rain actress Debbie Reynolds). Dennis Quaid. Gene Hackman. Richard Dreyfuss. Annette Bening. Rob Reiner. Mary Wickes.
- Clint Eastwood's The Bridges of Madison County (1995).
Cast: Clint Eastwood.
- Carl Franklin's One True Thing (1998).
Cast: Renée Zellweger. William Hurt. Tom Everett Scott.
- Wes Craven's Music of the Heart (1999).
Cast: Cloris Leachman. Aidan Quinn. Angela Bassett. Gloria Estefan. Charlie Hofheimer. Kieran Culkin. Jay O. Sanders. Michael Angarano.
- Best Supporting Actress for Spike Jonze's Adaptation (2002).
Cast: Nicolas Cage. Chris Cooper. Tilda Swinton.
- David Frankel's The Devil Wears Prada (2006), as a fictionalized version of Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour.
Cast: Anne Hathaway (as a fictionalized version of Wintour's former assistant Lauren Weisberger). Emily Blunt. Stanley Tucci. Simon Baker. Adrian Grenier.
- John Patrick Shanley's Doubt (2008).
Cast: Amy Adams. Philip Seymour Hoffman. Viola Davis.
- Nora Ephron's Julie & Julia (2009), as chef Julia Child.
Cast: Amy Adams.
- John Wells' August: Osage County (2013).
Cast: Julia Roberts. Chris Cooper. Ewan McGregor. Dermot Mulroney. Sam Shepard. Margo Martindale. Abigail Breslin. Juliette Lewis. Benedict Cumberbatch.
- Best Supporting Actress for Rob Marshall's Into the Woods (2014).
Cast: Anna Kendrick. Chris Pine. Johnny Depp. Emily Blunt. Tracey Ullman. Lucy Punch.
* List of Meryl Streep Oscar nominations updated in April 2016.
Meryl Streep movies
In the last (almost) four decades, Meryl Streep has been featured in nearly 60 motion pictures. Shockingly, that means the American cinema's grand dame has actually not been shortlisted for an Oscar numerous times.
Examples of movies for which she could have been nominated (i.e., no other Streep nomination in that particular acting category that year) – but wasn't – include (unless otherwise noted, as Best Actress):
- Falling in Love (1984).
Dir.: Ulu Grosbard.
Cast: Robert De Niro. Meryl Streep. Harvey Keitel. Jane Kaczmarek.
- Heartburn (1986).
Dir.: Mike Nichols.
Cast: Jack Nicholson. Meryl Streep. Jeff Daniels. Maureen Stapleton. Stockard Channing.
- She-Devil (1989).
Dir.: Susan Seidelman.
Cast: Meryl Streep. Roseanne Barr. Ed Begley Jr. Linda Hunt. Sylvia Miles.
- Death Becomes Her (1992).
Dir.: Robert Zemeckis.
Cast: Meryl Streep. Goldie Hawn. Bruce Willis. Isabella Rossellini. Adam Storke.
- The River Wild (1994).
Dir.: Curtis Hanson.
Cast: Meryl Streep. Kevin Bacon. David Strathairn. Joseph Mazzello. Benjamin Bratt. John C. Reilly.
- Marvin's Room (1996).
Dir.: Jerry Zaks.
Cast: Meryl Streep. Diane Keaton. Leonardo DiCaprio. Hume Cronyn. Gwen Verdon. Robert De Niro.
- The Hours (2002). That year, Streep was shortlisted as Best Supporting Actress for Adaptation.
Dir.: Stephen Daldry.
Cast: Meryl Streep. Nicole Kidman. Julianne Moore. Ed Harris. Toni Collette. Jeff Daniels.
- The Manchurian Candidate (2004), as Best Supporting Actress.
Dir.: Jonathan Demme.
Cast: Denzel Washington. Liev Schreiber. Meryl Streep. Bruno Ganz. Jon Voight.
- Lions for Lambs (2007), either as Best Actress or Best Supporting Actress.
Dir.: Robert Redford.
Cast: Tom Cruise. Robert Redford. Meryl Streep. Andrew Garfield. Michael Peña. Peter Berg.
- Hope Springs (2012).
Dir.: David Frankel.
Cast: Meryl Streep. Tommy Lee Jones. Steve Carell. Jean Smart. Ben Rappaport.
- Ricki and the Flash (2015).
Dir.: Jonathan Demme.
Cast: Meryl Streep. Rick Springfield. Kevin Kline. Sebastian Stan.
Partial list of Meryl Streep movies updated in April 2016.
Her next film, Stephen Frears' Florence Foster Jenkins, will quite possibly earn Streep her 20th Academy Award nod.
Meryl Streep Oscar Q&A: Faulty Academy Award history knowledge
Below are a few excerpts from the Meryl Streep q&a held in the press room during the 2012 Oscar ceremony.
Besides revealing that she doesn't speak Spanish, Streep also (implicitly) revealed that she doesn't know all that much about Oscar history – perhaps much too busy being an active part of it.
Referring to her comment on the Academy Awards' stage that her Best Actress win for The Iron Lady would be her last time up there, a journalist asked Streep whether she didn't “want to give Katharine Hepburn a run for her money.”
Streep's reply: “Did she have more?”
Katharine Hepburn is the only performer to have won four Academy Awards, all in the Best Actress category.
- Lowell Sherman's Morning Glory (1932-33).
- Stanley Kramer's Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967).
- Anthony Harvey's The Lion in Winter (1968; tied with Barbra Streisand in William Wyler's Funny Girl).
- Mark Rydell's On Golden Pond (1981).
Meryl thrill: Human-making make-up
Regarding her third Oscar win, Meryl Streep declared:
Oh, I was thrilled. I thought I was so old and jaded, but they call your name, and you just go into sort of a, I don't know, a white light. And it was just thrilling. It was like I was a kid again. I mean, it was – I was a kid when I won this, like, 30 years ago. Two of the nominees [sic; actually just one: Rooney Mara] were not even conceived. So, you know, it was great.
She added that it was “doubly wonderful” because her “long time collaborative colleague” J. Roy Helland also took home an Oscar – shared with Mark Coulier – for their work on The Iron Lady. “But he won not for some, you know, monster-making, but for making a human being, and it's very unusual in that branch that they give it to somebody who's just trying to transform people.”
As an aside, in the last decade (2002-2011), including The Iron Lady, there have been five Best Make-Up winners – in other words, half of the total – that were singled out for “making a human being.” The other four films in question: Frida (2002), Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004), La Vie en Rose (2007), The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008).
Not meeting Margaret Thatcher
When asked whether she had met Margaret Thatcher while doing research for the role, Streep replied:
No, I haven't. Really, she has retired from public life almost entirely now in the last two years. So, no, I didn't. But I studied her, and I studied, you know, there's so much archival footage. And then the challenge was to imagine her present life, and that was completely an active imagination on – Abi Morgan, the writer's part, and my part, but there was a lot of freedom in that, but also responsibility to a real person and to history.
So, it was – it was really very, very satisfying as an actor, as an artist, to make a film that starts out about Margaret Thatcher and ends up being really about all of us. So, that's all I'll say about that.
Regarding her three Oscar wins, “what was it like the first time around and the second time around and is this better in some way?”
I read a poem yesterday, and it had nothing to do with this but it said, one of the lines jumped out and it said, “It's as strange to be here once as it is to return.”* So, that's true. It is strange, the whole thing is strange. I mean, if you're a human being, it's weird. If you are not, I don't know. Probably fun.
* From Don Paterson's Rain: Poems.
The Women's Museum
In addition to briefly discussing “Streep fatigue” and how “it shocked me that it didn't override this tonight,” and mentioning journalist Tina Brown's three-day summit Women in the World in New York City, Meryl Streep talked about the National Women's History Museum.
There is no national women's history museum [the NWHM was founded in 1996, but it doesn't have a permanent site], but there is a lot of history that is not written about the contributions of women in our country and around the world. And I think it would be really, really inspiring for people all around the world to have this fantastic center where you can learn the stuff that hasn't been written about women, because for many, many centuries, history was not interested in us.
… And our history is invisible and I think it would be great for boys and girls to go to a place where they could learn about the contributions of their foremothers as well as their forefathers.
Through the looking glass: When Margaret Thatcher stares back at you
And finally, when asked to described “that moment when you first looked in the mirror and saw the face of Margaret Thatcher looking back at you,” Meryl Streep explained:
Well, by the time we had achieved the right amount of less, and less, and less, I had become acclimated to not looking at Margaret Thatcher in the mirror – and thought it was me, and that was important to me that I wasn't looking at rubber, that I was looking at me. … I'd already sort of morphed in a way, in my head and in my heart, with her, and her concerns and her interests – her zeal, her mission, her sense of rightness, and all of that.
Streep then recalled that “when we first had the old age make-up on, I saw my dad.” That may sound like something out of a movie, but Streep swears “I looked so much like my dad. Maybe my dad looked like Margaret Thatcher, I don't know. So, is that the end?”
That's the end.
Until Meryl Streep's next Oscar win, that is.
More Meryl Streep articles
Below are links to a few more Meryl Streep posts at Alt Film Guide.
- Meryl Streep and Tom Cruise: Oscar night.
- Meryl Streep and husband Don Gummer; Oscar speech.
- Meryl Streep and make-up artist (and fellow Oscar winner) J. Roy Helland.
- Meryl Streep Oscar ad controversy.
- Meryl Streep Breaks Oscar Record (Again).
- Meryl Streep Breaks New York Film Critics Awards' Record.
- Meryl Streep SAG Awards.
Meryl Streep Oscar photo: Todd Wawrychuk / © A.M.P.A.S.
Meryl Streep Oscar Red Carpet golden dress photo: Heather Ikei / © A.M.P.A.S.
Colin Firth kissing Meryl Streep photo: Todd Wawrychuk / © A.M.P.A.S.
Meryl Streep Oscar stage image: Michael Yada / © A.M.P.A.S.
Meryl Streep Oscar q&a transcript: Courtesy of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (A.M.P.A.S.) website.