- Mary Louise Streep
June 22, 1949 (age 71)
- Don Gummer
- Mary Wolf Wilkinson, Harry William Streep, Jr.
Meryl Streep (born Mary Louise Streep; June 22, 1949) is an American actress of theater, film and television. She is widely regarded as one of the greatest film actresses of all time.
Streep made her professional stage debut in The Playboy of Seville (1971), before her screen debut in the television movie The Deadliest Season (1977). In that same year, she made her film debut in Julia (1977). Both critical and commercial success came quickly: she was nominated for an Academy Award for her work in The Deer Hunter (1978), and won Best Supporting Actress for Kramer vs. Kramer (1979). She later won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her roles in Sophie's Choice (1982) and The Iron Lady (2011). Streep has received eighteen Academy Award nominations, more than any other actor (male or female) in history.
Streep has also received 28 Golden Globe nominations, winning eight, more nominations and more competitive (non-honorary) wins than any other actor (male or female) in history. Her work has also earned her two Emmy Awards, two Screen Actors Guild Awards, a Cannes Film Festival award, five New York Film Critics Circle Awards, two BAFTA awards, two Australian Film Institute awards, five Grammy Award nominations, and a Tony Award nomination, among several others. She was awarded the AFI Life Achievement Award in 2004 and the Kennedy Center Honor in 2011 for her contribution to American culture through performing arts, the youngest actor in each award's history. President Barack Obama awarded her the 2010 National Medal of Arts. In 2003, the government of France made her a Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters.
Streep was born in Summit, New Jersey. Her mother, Mary Wilkinson Streep (1915–2001), was a commercial artist and an art editor, and her father, Harry William Streep, Jr. (1910–2003), was a pharmaceutical executive. She has two brothers, Dana David and Harry William III.
Streep's father was of German and Swiss-German ancestry. Her patrilineal line traces back to Loffenau, Germany, from where her second great-grandfather, Gottfried Streeb (sic), emigrated to the United States, and where one of her ancestors served as mayor. Another line of her father's family was from Giswil in the canton of Obwalden, a small town in Switzerland. Her mother had English, German, and Irish ancestry. Some of Streep's maternal ancestors lived in Pennsylvania and Rhode Island, and were descended from 17th century immigrants from England. Her eighth great-grandfather, Lawrence Wilkinson, was one of the first Europeans to settle Rhode Island. Streep is also a distant relative of William Penn, the founder of Pennsylvania, and records show that her family is among the first purchasers of land in the state. Streep's maternal great-great-grandparents, Manus McFadden (b. 1831) and Grace Strain (b. 1832), were natives of the Hook Head district of Dunfanaghy, County Donegal, Ireland.
She was raised a Presbyterian, and grew up in Bernardsville, New Jersey, where she attended Bernards High School. She had many school friends who were Catholic, and regularly attended Mass because she loved its rituals. She received her B.A., in Drama, at Vassar College in 1971 (where she briefly received instruction from actress Jean Arthur), but also enrolled as an exchange student at Dartmouth College for a quarter before it became coeducational. She subsequently earned an M.F.A. from the Yale School of Drama. While at Yale, she played a variety of roles onstage, from Helena in A Midsummer Night's Dream to an eighty-year-old woman in a wheelchair in a comedy written by then-unknown playwrights Christopher Durang and Albert Innaurato.
Streep performed in several theater productions in New York and New Jersey after graduating from Yale School of Drama, including the New York Shakespeare Festival productions of Henry V, The Taming of the Shrew with Raúl Juliá, and Measure for Measure opposite Sam Waterston and John Cazale. At this time she entered a relationship with Cazale, with whom she lived until his death three years later. She starred on Broadway in the Brecht/Weill musical Happy End, and won an Obie for her performance in the all-sung off-Broadway production of Alice at the Palace.
Streep began auditioning for film roles, and later recalled an unsuccessful audition for Dino De Laurentiis for the leading female role in King Kong. In New York City, she appeared in the 1976 Broadway double bill of Tennessee Williams' 27 Wagons Full of Cotton and Arthur Miller's A Memory of Two Mondays. For the former, she received a Tony Award nomination for Best Featured Actress in a Play. Her other early Broadway credits include Anton Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard and the Bertolt Brecht-Kurt Weill musical Happy End in which she originally appeared off-Broadway at the Chelsea Theater Center. She received Drama Desk Award nominations for both productions.
Streep's first feature film role was Julia (1977), in which she played a small but pivotal role during a flashback scene. Streep was living in New York City with Cazale, who had been diagnosed with bone cancer. He was cast inThe Deer Hunter (1978), and Streep was delighted to secure a small role because it allowed her to remain with Cazale for the duration of filming. She was not specifically interested in the part, commenting, "They needed a girl between the two guys and I was it."
She played a leading role in the television miniseries Holocaust (1978) as a German woman married to a Jewish artist in Nazi era Germany. She later explained that she had considered the material to be "unrelentingly noble", and had taken the role only because she had needed money. Streep travelled to Germany and Austria for filming while Cazale remained in New York. Upon her return, Streep found that Cazale's illness had progressed, and she nursed him until his death on March 12, 1978. She spoke of her grief and her hope that work would provide a diversion; she accepted a role in The Seduction of Joe Tynan (1979) with Alan Alda, later commenting that she played it on "automatic pilot", and performed the role of Katherine in The Taming of the Shrew for Shakespeare in the Park. With an estimated audience of 109 million, Holocaust brought a degree of public recognition to Streep, who was described in August 1978 as "on the verge of national visibility". She won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress – Miniseries or a Movie for her performance.
The Deer Hunter (1978) was released a month later, and Streep was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance.
Streep drew critical acclaim for her performance in each of her three films released in 1979: the romantic comedy Manhattan, the political drama The Seduction of Joe Tynan and the family drama, Kramer vs. Kramer. She was awarded the Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actress, National Board of Review Award for Best Supporting Actress and National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Supporting Actress for her collective work in the three films. Among the awards won for Kramer vs. Kramer were the Academy Award and Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress.
After supporting roles in two of the 1970s' most successful films, the consecutive winners of the Academy Award for Best Picture, The Deer Hunter and Kramer vs. Kramer, and praise for her versatility in several supporting roles, Streep progressed to leading roles. Her first was The French Lieutenant's Woman (1981). A story within a story drama, the film paired Streep with Jeremy Irons as contemporary actors, telling their modern story as well as the Victorian era drama they were performing. A New York Magazine article commented that, while many female stars of the past had cultivated a singular identity in their films, Streep was a "chameleon", willing to play any type of role. Streep was awarded a BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role for her work.
Streep lived with actor John Cazale for three years until his death in March 1978. "I've hardly ever seen a person so devoted to someone who is falling away like John was," said Al Pacino about Streep. "To see her in that act of love for this man was overwhelming."
Streep married sculptor Don Gummer on September 30, 1978. They have four children: Henry Wolfe Gummer (b. 1979), Mamie Gummer (b. 1983), Grace Gummer (b. 1986), and Louisa Jacobson Gummer (b. 1991). Both Mamie and Grace are actresses, while Henry is a musician.
When asked if religion plays a part in her life, in an interview in 2009, Streep replied, "I follow no doctrine. I don't belong to a church or a temple or a synagogue or an ashram." In an interview in December 2008, she also alluded to her inability to follow a religion when she said, "So I've always been really, deeply interested, because I think I can understand the solace that's available in the whole construct of religion. But I really don't believe in the power of prayer, or things would have been avoided that have happened, that are awful. So it's a horrible position as an intelligent, emotional, yearning human being to sit outside of the available comfort there. But I just can't go there." When asked from where she draws consolation in the face of aging and death, she responded, "Consolation? I'm not sure I have it. I have a belief, I guess, in the power of the aggregate human attempt – the best of ourselves. In love and hope and optimism – you know, the magic things that seem inexplicable. Why we are the way we are. I do have a sense of trying to make things better. Where does that come from?"