An Evening with Meryl Streep
Last night at the Royal Ontario Museum, in celebration of the ROM’s Vanity Fair Portraits exhibit, Meryl Streep took the stage with Johanna Schneller to discuss “The Question of Celebrity”. 90 minutes of full-on girlcrush. WORSHIP.
I met up with 2 friends afterwards and this is how Gabrielle explained it:
What are you great at? The one thing you do that is better than anything else you do? Think about what it is and then know this – it’s still not as good as Meryl Streep’s acting.
And then, and then Meryl tells you that acting is not hard.
She’s not self deprecating. It’s honesty as opposed to self modesty. For her, incredible as it may seem, it’s just not hard. What’s interesting though is that she says that what IS hard is the process of wrangling a script to make it what it should be. And that’s the challenge of Meryl Streep. That she has a gift. And she has to find the material worthy of her gift.
It was an insightful anecdote. She was talking about Deer Hunter. And she explained that they were ok with her adjusting her own dialogue. Because, in her words, very cheeky too – why would they care what the woman has to say?
Indeed. Why would they?
And this is why she waits.
Candidly she admitted that she is not a producer, she does not write screenplays. Meryl Streep is an actor.
“I’m the girl who waits to be asked. So if it’s well written and weird, I’ll do it. But I don’t seek out the material. I don’t buy books to adapt them. I don’t curry favour. I just wait.”
Certainly, now, she can afford to wait. And she can afford to turn some down. You would think that more would follow in her footsteps. This is not the case.
“Young actresses feel they have to succumb to bad material”.
They do. All the time.
Is it a question of beauty? Meryl seems to think it was at the beginning. And again, it’s not delivered facetiously. It’s not that she’s trying to downplay her looks. She’s thought about it, she truly believes it, she seriously considers herself to be fortunately only moderately attractive:
"You stop worrying about so much of a young girl's life. I worried about if I was attractive enough – the things we concern ourselves from 12 on. After a while I got tired of it. I was never pretty enough. But beautiful women have a tougher time. They see themselves in only one way. I saw myself in a malleable way. I could be whatever I wanted.”
This is when Johanna cued up a clip from Manhattan. And there she was, long blonde hair, the most elegant features, and, contrary to what she had just told the audience – she was GORGEOUS.
Her response when the video ended:
“Hmmm. I was prettier than I thought I was.”
The entire session was like this. Meryl musing. And SO f-cking quotable. And funny. Of her work in A Cry in the Dark she laughed that she still gets shouted at from cab drivers in New York:
The dingo stole my baby!
My Twitter became my notepad last night as I frantically tapped out her thoughts. I was seated in the media row. Normally at these events, there’s barely anything worth writing down. With Meryl the pages were flying. Click here for more wisdom from Meryl on acting lessons, on how women are still hostage to a double standard, and on the difference between the truth and a lie.
Let’s end however on how she ended. Because it was THE BEST.
After Johanna Schneller concluded her portion, the announcer opened the floor to questions from the crowd. Before beginning though he called out for Sarah from Nova Scotia explaining that he had received an email from Sarah’s father who wrote that Sarah is Meryl’s biggest fan. And she and mother scraped and scrounged to fly to Toronto from Nova Scotia, barely able to find accommodation, for the opportunity to hear Meryl speak. Sarah’s dad hoped that Sarah could be selected if there was a Q&A. He also revealed that Sarah one day hopes to become a movie producer.
Young Sarah, trembling, walked towards the microphone. In tears she told Meryl that she was her biggest fan. And that she was not expecting this moment so she did not come ready with a question. But could Meryl give her a hug?
Meryl opened up her arms and took her in. A real embrace. A motherly embrace. And she told Sarah that she was impressed that Sarah wants to produce and that she should think about business school too.
Other questions followed. Someone asked about Meryl’s inspiration (her mother), and which character most closely resembled her own personality (Mamma Mia), and whether or not formal training is a necessity to which she answered that the real necessity is learning about everything ELSE. Because how can you play anything when you don’t know anything?
It’s was time for one final question. And everyone was disappointed but we had already run long.
So this woman approaches the mic gushing:
“Meryl, I love you SO MUCH. I did not come here from Nova Scotia and I don’t have a question, but can you give me a hug anyway?”
What did Meryl do?
She SHUT IT DOWN.
It was a waste of a last question. Meryl is too smart to let you get away with wasting a last question. She told the woman to hug the person next to her instead and blew her a kiss.
I would have been happy to die on the spot.
Meryl confided that the most important thing her mom ever told her was that she was “CAPABLE”.
We should all tell our girls that they are CAPABLE.
CAPABLE > SPECIAL
Please note - this is a file photo of Meryl Streep and not from last night. No pictures were allowed from the crowd and there were only 2 photogs present last night and I don't know where their images are. Sorry!
File photo from Wenn.com