Award-winning actress Meryl Streep, 69, reveals how she stays true to herself and keeps it real both on camera and behind the scenes.
Acting the part
I loved playing Miranda in The Devil Wears Prada – there’s a delicious delight in playing the boss from hell. I would compensate by being nice and sweet with my husband! I didn’t stay in character when they yelled “cut”, but I felt I couldn’t suddenly become cheerful and chummy with Anne Hathaway, either, so she might have felt I was being distant, but it was better for the film. I always really try to get past the appearance of a character and show how they are deep down. I’m sure this desire came from my childhood. I was insecure, so in my acting I wanted to get past all that and find the truth in the women I played. I often felt misunderstood and I was trying to show people who I really was.
I’ve been busier in recent years; I started looking for roles more intently because my children were becoming adults. The Devil Wears Prada attracted a lot of attention and that has probably helped bring me more offers than before. I also think that I’ve benefited from more women executives making decisions in Hollywood, and attitudes are evolving so films like Mamma Mia! or Julie & Julia can be made, even though they’re not geared to teenage audiences.
I never wanted to be away from home for long periods when my children were very young. I felt I’d accomplished a lot of my goals as an actress, and that I’d try living a more balanced life and only do smaller projects where I’d be away two months, max. I have no regrets. I’ve always been a pretty happy woman who enjoys being a mother and living a very normal family life. Acting is a wonderful obsession of mine that I feed from time to time. But my real self is the woman who invites her neighbour over for tea and a nice chat, or talks to her children about how their lives are evolving.
I worry about my oldest daughters, who have followed me into acting and have to deal with the same stresses and disappointments that I went through. Acting might be my passion, but my four children have always been my greatest joy in life. It was heartbreaking watching them leave, because I’ve always loved and dedicated myself to them. I still love whenever we get together and I can fuss over them.
My biggest weakness
I am someone who worries, and I suffer a lot of anxiety when I start on a film. By the end of my thirties, at the height of my success, I was worn out. I felt there was a huge amount of pressure on me, and sometimes it would make me miserable. I wanted to relax, so I dropped out of sight for a while and enjoyed family life. I still go through that anxiety before every film. I drive myself crazy with doubt and self-loathing. Every time I’m considering a project or about to begin shooting, I tell my husband the same thing: “I’ve never felt so distressed and worried.” And each time he says: “You always do this!”