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At last, one of the most respected contemporary actresses in Hollywood won the golden statue last night in what turned out to be one of the best Academy Award shows of the new millennium. Surprise was written all over the 62-year-old actress’ face as her name was announced by last year’s Leading Man, Colin Firth.
Meryl Streep was awestruck but composed as she approached the stage and gracefully accepted the statue. In her speech, she reminisced about her long career which includes 17 Oscar nominations to date — making her the most nominated actor in the Award’s history. Her last win was almost 20 years ago so this year was a welcome release of appreciation for the revered actress.
Backstage, the eager Oscar press corps were ready to quiz the newly-made third-time winner.
Q. I wanted to ask you about what you said on stage because you said that it would probably be your last time there winning an Oscar?
A. Yes, I’m pushing the tolerance.
Q. Maybe you don’t want to give Katharine Hepburn a run for her money?
A. Did she have more?
A. Oh, well, okay.
Q. No, but really, how did you feel winning this third award, and why did you think
A. 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 were not even conceived. So, you know, it was great. And it was doubly wonderful because my long time collaborative colleague, Roy Helland, makeup man, hairdresser, he won too, and he won for not an outside he won with his colleague Mark Coulier, who is a great British prosthetics designer, 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. And so I was really, really proud for him.
Q. In researching your role, did you have a chance to meet Margaret Thatcher?
A. 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
Q. We love you there, and I’ve been following your career, too, but I am learning that you have very good relationship with a lot of staff member as well as your family. What is the trick of sustaining such a deep, good relationship in such a busy life?
A. You can ask every working woman that question and get a million different answers because it’s it’s the juggle and the challenge that we have, but honestly, in my life, because it’s in the arts, I don’t go to work every day. So my day has been more flexible than other working women. Even when I was young and broke, I could I was only working ever for four months at a time, and I was unemployed. So my children never knew when I was going to be home. It was very valuable. But, you know, I think it’s a struggle. And it’s an ongoing struggle. Women have to do it all, you know. And so, the more flexible work becomes, the more engaged the dads become, the better.
Q. And my question is, you won for ‘Kramer vs. Kramer’ for the very first time, and then ‘Sophie’s Choice’, and now for ‘Iron lady’. Which one of those was this is impossible question to answer, I guess, but talk about, you know, those different experiences in getting up there and accepting, you know, three times now, what was that you know, what was it like the first time around and the second time around and is this better in some way?
A. 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 is 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.
Q. You had mentioned that it has been a long time since the last time you won. Were you worried that it never was going to happen again?
A. No. I have I mean, I have everything I’ve ever dreamed of in my life. And no. I mean, I think there’s room for other people. Frankly, I understand Streep fatigue. And it shocks me, it shocked me that it didn’t override this tonight. So, I was really, really happy but I don’t take anything for granted, that’s for sure.
Q. Congratulations. In your very moving speech this evening, you mentioned jokingly we might all be sick of you in the future. I hope that doesn’t happen, but it seems like you have the beginning of a second project in life with The Women’s Museum. Would you talk a little bit about that?
A. Thank you for asking about that. There is no national women’s history museum, 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 yet, 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.
Q. Expounding on that idea, with young girls today, young women watching the Oscars, what advice would you give to them if they are thinking about going into filmmaking or acting?
A. Or anything.
Q. Or anything?
A. Or anything. Never give up. Don’t up, don’t give up. I mean, many girls around the world live in circumstances that are unimaginably difficult. And it’s not, you know, show business is a golf game compared to the way most kids grow up in the world. But I would say never give up. On March 8, 9, and 10, Tina Brown is hosting something called Women in the World in New York, a 3 day symposium bringing activists around the world on behalf of issues concerning women and girls, and it’s a great, great thing. Hope you will write about it and go see it. And thank you very much.
Q. Have you paid tribute to the great work of Roy and Mark on your makeup? Can you describe that moment when you first looked in the mirror and saw the face of Margaret Thatcher looking back at you?
A. 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. You know, I sort, of at that point in the process of creating a character, 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. But honestly, when we first had the old age makeup on, I saw my dad. You know. I looked so much like my dad. Maybe my dad looked like Margaret Thatcher, I don’t know. So, is that the end?
Q. That is the end.
A. Okay. Thank you very much.
Image Courtesy of Bryan Crowe / ©A.M.P.A.S. (Top Image)