It is the birthday of the “greatest-living actress,” Meryl Streep, born in New Jersey in 1949. Streep has more Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations than any other actor. She has also won two film-industry lifetime achievement awards and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
After college, Streep did not have plans to become an actor. But Robert De Niro’s performance in Taxi Driver convinced her that it was what she wanted to be.
One of her earliest auditions for a film role was for the lead in Dino De Laurentiis’s King Kong. Laurentiis — in Italian — said to his son about Streep, “This is so ugly. Why did you bring me this?” Streep understood the language, however, and replied, “I’m very sorry that I’m not as beautiful as I should be but, you know — this is it. This is what you get.”
In the end, it was the man who inspired her to begin, Robert De Niro, who also gave her the first big break, recommending her for the role of his girlfriend in The Deer Hunter (1978).
Streep has become known for her masterful ability to pick up the proper accents of her characters. In the Holocaust movie Sophie’s Choice, Streep spoke in English, German, and Polish — all with a consistent Polish accent. She took elocution lessons to master the vocal style of Margaret Thatcher for her role in The Iron Lady, a particular challenge because the real Thatcher had curated a unique accent as part of her political persona. Lin-Manuel Miranda recently consulted her for advice on his cockney accent for when the two star in an upcoming remake of Mary Poppins.