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Biographies: Meryl Streep

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Reviewer: Trixter

Meryl Streep
BORN: June 22, 1949

Like her longtime acting cohort Robert De Niro, Meryl Streep is known for her ability to disappear inside her characters, transforming herself physically to meet the demands of her roles. A luminous blonde with nearly translucent pale skin, intelligent blue eyes, and a lovely facial bone structure marred only by her long nose and the thinness of her mouth, Streep possesses a fragile, fleeting beauty that allows her to be as earthy and plain as she can be glamorous and radiant. Born June 22, 1949 in Summit, New Jersey, Streep's interest in acting began while she attended Bernards High School, prior to which she had taken operatic voice lessons. Beginning with Daisy Mae in Lil' Abner, Streep appeared in several school productions, but also found time to be a good student, a cheerleader and the Homecoming Queen. Upon graduation, she studied drama at Vassar, Dartmouth and Yale, where she appeared in between 30 and 40 productions with the Yale Repertory Theater.With her education finished, Streep headed for the New York stage where she launched her career off-Broadway. She then spent time on Broadway in shows such as Tennessee Williams' 27 Wagons Full of Cotton, for which she was Tony nominated, before making her television debut in Robert Markowitz's The Deadliest Season( 1977). That year she also made her feature film bow in Fred Zinnmann's Julia (1977), playing Anna Marie opposite heavyweights Jane Fonda, Vanessa Redgrave and Hal Holbrook. The following year, Streep earned an Emmy for her performance in Marvin J. Chomsky's miniseries Holocaust. She first worked with DeNiro in Michael Cimino's The Deer Hunter (1978). Though her role was small, she played it with an energetic sensitivity that earned her the first of many Oscar nominations. She next seen as Woody Allen's ruthless, lesbian ex-wife in Allen's classic comedy Manhattan (1979), and became better known following her turn as the conflicted Joanna Kramer opposite Dustin Hoffman in the tear-jerking divorce saga Kramer Vs Kramer (1979).Streep greeted the '80s with a great performance in The French Lieutenant's Woman (1981). In Alan J. Pakula' s haunting Sophie's Choice (1982), she gave a wrenching performance as a Polish Jew forced to make an impossible choice, and also displayed her unusual facility for foreign accents. Streep then played an entirely different kind of role as a victimized nuclear plant worker who mysteriously disappears just before she is to turn in crucial evidence against her employers in the anti-nuke thriller Silkwood (1983). More highly successful dramas (such as Out of Africa (1985) and Heartburn (1986)) and awards followed with only the occasional misstep (Plenty (1985)), and by the end of the decade, there was little doubt that Meryl Streep was the dramatic actress of her generation. Ironically, this was around the time that Streep's career began to wane. Critics such as Pauline Kael derided the aloofness she projected onscreen, comparing her to a technician or an automaton rather than a living, breathing and fallible actress. Some even criticized her extraordinary ability to convincingly reproduce accents. Perhaps there was some justification to the criticism, possibly because Streep's performances were becoming too predictable. This was possibly why Streep shocked both critics and audiences when she chose to play the flighty, vain romantic novelist Mary Fisher opposite low-brow comedienne Roseanne Barr in Susan Seidelman's black comedy She-Devil (1989). The film was generally panned, but Streep's gleefully over-the-top performance stole the show, with even the harshest critics admitting their surprise at seeing Streep's wicked, previously hidden side. That year she continued on her comedic bent by lending her voice to a guest character on the satirical Fox animated television series The Simpsons, and had further success playing Suzanne, a middle-aged, everything-a-holic nearly has-been actress attempting to forge a new career while contending with her even more famous mother in Postcards from the Edge (1990). In this film, Streep used her early vocal training to belt out a couple of tunes, showing the world yet another dimension of her talent; her acting efforts earned her yet another Oscar nomination. Through the '90s, Streep alternated between dramatic and comedic roles, and in 1994, she again surprised her fans when she appeared as a muscular expert whitewater rafter who must fight a raging river and two dangerous fugitives to save her family in the action thriller River Wild (1994). In interviews, she said she did the film because she wanted to have an adventure like Harrison Ford and to overcome a few of her own fears. In 1995, Streep took a more low-key role as a dowdy, earthbound farm wife who finds Illicit love with an itinerant photographer (Clint Eastwood) in The Bridges of Madison County. Following the critical and commercial success of Bridges, Streep went on to star with Diane Keaton and Leonardo DiCaprio in 1996's Marvin's Room before garnering yet another Oscar nomination for her performance as a terminally ill wife and mother in One True Thing (1998). Her next project, a screen adaptation of Brian Friel's Dancing at Lughnasa (1998), was a decidedly quieter affair, in which Streep once again showcased her uncanny aptitude for foreign accents. In addition to her feature-film career, Streep has also narrated documentaries such as Arctic Refuge: A Vanishing Wilderness; she has even continued to make the rare television appearance, as in the 1997 ABC network telemovie ...First Do No Harm.

Taken From: All Movie Guide

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