Meryl Streep is an American actress and singer. Cited in the media as the “best actress of her generation”, a designation she objects to. Streep is particularly known for her versatility in her roles, transformation into the characters she plays, and her accent adaptation.
Find out more facts about her, here!
1. Mary Louise Streep was born on June 22, 1949 in Summit, New Jersey.
2. Her parents were Mary Wolf Wilkinson, a commercial artist and art editor and Harry William Streep Jr, a pharmaceutical executive. The eldest child, she has two younger brothers, Dana David and Harry William III.
3. Streep’s father was of German and Swiss ancestry. Her father’s lineage traces back to Loffenau, Germany, from where her second great-grandfather, Gottfried Streeb, immigrated to the United States, and where one of her ancestors served as mayor.
4. Another line of her father’s family was from Giswil, Switzerland. Her mother had English, German, and Irish ancestry.
5. Some of Streep’s maternal ancestors lived in Pennsylvania and Rhode Island and were descended from 17th-century immigrants from England.
6. Her eighth great-grandfather, Lawrence Wilkinson, was one of the first Europeans to settle in Rhode Island.
7. Streep is also a distant relative of William Penn, the founder of Pennsylvania, records show that her family is among the first purchasers of land in the state.
8. Streep’s maternal great-great-grandparents, Manus McFadden and Grace Strain, the namesake of Streep’s second daughter, were natives of the Horn Head district of Dunfanaghy, Ireland.
9. Streep’s mother, whom she has compared in both appearance and manner to Dame Judi Dench, strongly encouraged her daughter and instilled confidence in her from a very young age.
10. Although Streep was naturally more introverted than her mother, at times when she later needed an injection of confidence in adulthood, she would consult her mother, asking her for advice.
11. Streep was raised as a Presbyterian in Bernardsville, New Jersey, where she attended Bernards High School.
12. Author Karina Longworth described her as a “gawky kid with glasses and frizzy hair”, yet noted that she liked to show off in front of the camera in family home videos from a young age.
13. At the age of 12, Streep was selected to sing at a school recital, which led to her having opera lessons from Estelle Liebling.
14. Despite her talent, she remarked that “I was singing something I didn’t feel and understand. That was an important lesson—not to do that. To find the thing that I could feel through”.
15. She quit after four years. Streep had many Catholic school friends, and regularly attended mass.
16. Although in high school Streep appeared in numerous school plays, she was uninterested in serious theatre until acting in the play Miss Julie at Vassar College in 1969, in which she gained attention across the campus.
17. Vassar drama professor Clinton J Atkinson noted, “I don’t think anyone ever taught Meryl acting. She really taught herself”.
18. Streep demonstrated an early ability to mimic accents and to quickly memorize her lines.
She received her BA cum laude from the college in 1971, before applying for an MFA from the Yale School of Drama.
19. At Yale she supplemented her course fees by waitressing and typing, and appeared in over a dozen stage productions a year, to the point that she became overworked, developing ulcers. She contemplated quitting acting and switching to study law.
20. Streep played a variety of roles onstage, from Helena in A Midsummer Night’s Dream to an 80-year-old woman in a wheelchair in a comedy written by then-unknown playwrights Christopher Durang and Albert Innaurato.
21. One of her teachers was Robert Lewis, one of the co-founders of the Actors Studio. Streep disapproved of some of the acting exercises she was asked to do, remarking that the professors “delved into personal lives in a way I find obnoxious”.
22. She received her MFA from Yale in 1975.
23. Streep also enrolled as a visiting student at Dartmouth College in the fall of 1970, and received an Honorary Doctor of Arts degree from the college in 1981.
24. She made her professional stage debut in The Playboy of Seville in 1971, and went on to receive a 1976 Tony Award nomination for Best Featured Actress in a Play for A Memory of Two Mondays/27 Wagons Full of Cotton.
25. She made her screen debut in the 1977 television film The Deadliest Season, and made her film debut later that same year in Julia.
26. In 1978, she won an Emmy Award for her role in the miniseries Holocaust, and received her first Academy Award nomination for The Deer Hunter.
27. Nominated for 19 Academy Awards in total, Streep has more nominations than any other actor or actress; she won Best Supporting Actress for Kramer vs. Kramer (1979), and Best Actress for Sophie’s Choice (1982) and for The Iron Lady (2011).
28. Streep is one of the six actors to have won three or more competitive Academy Awards for acting.
29. Her other nominated roles are The French Lieutenant’s Woman (1981), Silkwood (1983), Out of Africa (1985), Ironweed (1987), Evil Angels (1988), Postcards from the Edge (1990), The Bridges of Madison County (1995), One True Thing (1998), Music of the Heart (1999), Adaptation (2002), The Devil Wears Prada (2006), Doubt (2008), Julie & Julia (2009), August: Osage County (2013), and Into the Woods (2014).
30. She returned to the stage for the first time in over 20 years in The Public Theater’s 2001 revival of The Seagull, won a second Emmy Award in 2004 for the HBO miniseries Angels in America (2003), and starred in the Public Theater’s 2006 production of Mother Courage and Her Children.
31. Streep has also received 29 Golden Globe nominations, winning eight—more nominations, and more competitive wins than any other actor (male or female).
32. Her work has also earned her two Screen Actors Guild Awards, a Cannes Film Festival award, five New York Film Critics Circle Awards, two BAFTA awards, two Australian Film Institute awards, five Grammy Award nominations, and five Drama Desk Award nominations, among several others.
33. She was awarded the AFI Life Achievement Award in 2004, the Gala Tribute from the Film Society of Lincoln Center in 2008, and the Kennedy Center Honor in 2011 for her contribution to American culture through performing arts. President Barack Obama awarded her the 2010 National Medal of Arts and in 2014 the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
34. In 2003, the government of France made her a Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters.
35. On November 3, 2016, Streep was selected as the recipient of the Golden Globe Cecil B. DeMille Award at the 74th Golden Globe Awards
36. In her entire career, she has been turned down only 4 times out of all the roles she auditioned for. She was ranked #37 in the list of Greatest Movie Star of all time by Entertainment Weekly.
37. She played the leading role in the 1978 miniseries “Holocaust,” which she had admitted to have taken for the financial gain. Her performance in the miniseries brought a wider degree of public recognition and even earned her the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie.
38. She was cast opposite Dustin Hoffman in the drama “Kramer vs. Kramer,” as Joanna Kramer, an unhappily married woman who abandons her husband and child. As she read the script, she felt the female character was portrayed to be “too evil,” and insisted on revising the script to make a representative of real women who faced marriage breakdown and child custody battles.
39. The director Robert Benton allowed Streep to write her own dialogue in two key scenes in the entire movie, including the courtroom speech, though her co-star Hoffman objected it.
40. Her performance in the movie earned her a number of awards including the Academy Award and the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress.
41. At the Governor’s Ball held after the 1980 Academy Awards Ceremony, she accidentally left her just-claimed Oscar for the film in the ladies’ room.
42. One of her most famous challenges, is when she learnt how to play violin by keeping practicing for 6 hours a day for 8 weeks for the lead of the famous movie; “The Music of the Heart” instead of Madonna.
43. Meryl Streep’s first role performance was in Julia in 1977, she was nominated for Oscar one year only after her first role, in the second film; The Deer Hunter in 1978.
44. Her next breakthrough role was in the 1982 movie “Sophie’s Choice,” in which she played the role of a Polish holocaust survivor. It was reported that Streep “threw herself on the ground and begged for the part,” with the director Alan J. Pakula as William Styron, writer of the novel, had Ursula Andress in mind for the part.
45. As a part of preparation for the role, she learned German and Polish and mastered the accents to the extent that while she was shooting on location, the locals thought she was indeed Polish. Roger Ebert said of her delivery that Streep had the enchanting Polish-American accent, “the first accent I’ve ever wanted to hug.”
45. Her performance as Sophie Zawistowska is ranked #3 on Premiere Magazine’s 100 Greatest Performances of All Time, and also won a number of awards including the Academy Award for Best Actress.
46. In the year 2011, she was cast as Margaret Thatcher in the British biographical film “The Iron Lady,” for which she received the Best Actress Awards at the Oscar, Golden Globes as well as the BAFTAs.
47. It was reported that she almost turned down the offer to portray Margaret Thatcher, due to her personal dislike of the former Prime Minister. However, it was Phyllida Lloyd who insisted on Streep playing the role as the director felt she was perfect for the part, because they were both outsiders.
48. Streep spent months watching broadcasts of Margaret Thatcher, to learn her mannerisms and speech, in preparation for the role. She even met with people who Thatcher in real life. She earned 1 million dollars for her work in the movie, which she donated to the Women’s History Museum. While Streep’s performance received rave reviews, former advisers, friends and family of Thatcher criticized Streep’s portrayal as inaccurate and biased.
49. In October 2015, Streep was announced as the President of the Jury for the 66th Berlin International Film Festival, for February 2016.
50. Meryl Streep has a deviated septum. Meryl Streep has a septum in her nose that is crooked. Although it is easily curable, for reasons unknown, Meryl Streep refuses any medical help to fix it.
51. She left her Oscar in the bathroom in 1979. It was the year Meryl Streep was nominated for her role in Kramer vs Kramer. A funny story that she still fondly remembers from that memorable night is of when she went to the bathroom and accidently forgot her Oscar trophy in there.
52. She has kept a souvenir from The Devil wears Prada. In the movie where she acts as the slave driver of a world renowned magazine, Meryl is seen to wear fashionable sunglasses in most of the scenes. After the filming was over, she kept the sunglasses and they can again be seen in the song ‘Money Money’ from her film Mamma Mia.
53. Meryl Streep is married to sculptor Don Gummer and has four children with him Henry (musician), Mamie(actress), Grace and Louisa (model). She has won more than 157 awards in her lifetime and was nominated for over 400 awards.