La Presse at the 77th Cannes Film Festival | Meryl Streep, Imperial

(Cannes) Meryl Streep, imperious, was acclaimed by some 2,300 admirers at the end of a meeting organized Wednesday at the Cannes Film Festival. I looked for a less clichéd adjective that would suit him just as much; I didn’t find any. It wasn’t a one-on-one meeting with me, of course, but rather a masterclass, as they say in France, hosted by journalist Didier Allouch in a packed Grand Théâtre Lumière.


Published at 7:15 p.m.

I couldn’t be more in the front row: front row, right in the center, barely two meters in front of the greatest American film actress of her generation, nominated 21 times for the Oscars, a record. Sometimes it’s worth standing around for an hour and a half for an hour-long conversation. “If she sputters, we’ll be the first to know,” I whispered to my young seatmate who seemed delighted by this proposition.

The day before, during the opening ceremony, Meryl Streep received an honorary Palme d’Or from Juliette Binoche. “You have changed the way we look at women in cinema,” Juliette Binoche told him, very moved to give him this prize for his entire career.

And what a career! A montage of his best-known films was presented from the outset, recalling his greatest roles, with a soundtrack of The Winner Takes it All of ABBA, which she sang in Mamma Mia! Then she talked about the main films that have marked her career.

What was she like? Exactly as you imagine: comical, lively, witty, full of self-deprecation, with a smile capable of lighting up a (very large) room. This honorary Palme d’Or made her particularly happy, she quipped, because at home, she “does not receive any form of respect” from her husband, her four children and her five grandchildren…

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PHOTO VALERY HACHE, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Actress Meryl Streep spoke with French journalist Didier Allouch.

She obviously doesn’t like talking about herself, which was the whole point of the exercise. She arrived with a playful glance at her interviewer’s questions, placed on the coffee table in the middle of the stage. “I like to see the questions in advance! » She immediately admitted to being in the wake of the day after partying until 2 a.m. with the crew of the opening film, The second act by Quentin Dupieux.

Meryl Streep has not returned to the Cannes Film Festival since she won the Best Actor Prize there 35 years ago for A Cry in the Dark by Frank Schepisi, in the role of an Australian mother suspected of infanticide. “I would have needed a dozen bodyguards, although I never needed them in the United States. It was madness! »

She says she leads a very boring life. “I’m not a rockstar!” » she declared, to which many spectators responded: “ Oh, yes, you are! ” Speaking of Kramer vs. Kramer (1979) by Robert Benton, which won her her first Oscar, she specified, “for those under 70”, that it was a film about divorce. The story of a woman who leaves her husband and leaves him to care for their child.

Finding that the novel which inspired the film was vengeful towards the women’s liberation movement, and that the screenplay ignored the point of view of the female character, it was she herself who wrote the speech that her character delivers to the court. “ Kramer vs. Kramer is a film about feminism and the backlash against feminism,” says the woman who has always campaigned for women’s rights, notably in the Time’s Up movement!

To prepare for his role in The Deer Hunter (1978) by Michael Cimino, which launched her career, Meryl Streep says she drew on her own youth in a small town in New Jersey. “There are young people from my high school who went to fight in Vietnam and who did not come back. My boyfriend at the time became a heroin addict when he returned. I realize now for the first time that Michael Cimino also suggested that I write some of my dialogue. It doesn’t happen to me often, though! »

At the top of his art

Trained in classical singing before her theater studies at the Yale School of Drama, Meryl Streep enjoys singing in her films. “But,” she says, “I always preferred rock and roll and Joni Mitchell to opera. At school, a teacher made us sing in front of the whole group. I have chosen It’s Lonely at the Top by Randy Newman, which I sang ironically because I didn’t have a penny. »

She is today at the top of her art, thanks to a truth in emotion that all actors must envy. However, she has a lot of doubt about her abilities, she admits, and often believes that she will not succeed. “My husband claims I say that all the time!” »

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PHOTO LOIC VENANCE, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Meryl Streep on the red carpet at the Cannes Film Festival on Tuesday

In Sophie’s Choice (1982) by Alan J. Pakula, which earned her her second Oscar, she played a Holocaust survivor. Her eyes glaze over with sadness when she talks about it. ” It was hard. I don’t like to think about it. »

For the role, she learned German and performed in English with a Polish accent. One of many accents – Australian, Irish, English for The Iron Lady (2011) by Phyllida Lloyd for which she won a third Oscar – which she adopted in her career, thanks to her musical ear. “If I hadn’t mastered accents, I would have been playing a girl from New Jersey my whole life!” »

To the delight of the spectators, she recounted a number of filming anecdotes. In Out of Africa (1985) by Sydney Pollack, Robert Redford initially had difficulty washing his hair in a river where hippos were hanging around. “But after five takes, I was in love with him!” It’s a sex scene. You see people fucking in the movies, but it’s rarely this sensual. »

She has appeared in both dramas and comedies (it has just been confirmed that she will be back in the next season of the TV series Only Murders in the Building) and never sought to make blockbusters. The 74-year-old icon experienced a slump at the turn of the 1990s before finding commercial success at the ages of 58 and 60, she explains, thanks to Mamma Mia! And The Devil Wers Prada.

She has been the muse of great filmmakers, including Mike Nichols and Clint Eastwood, but what does she think makes a good director? “A confident, passionate filmmaker who builds trust and has a story to tell. The older ones make it more fun, but that’s not the most important thing. »

And when he or she doesn’t have all these qualities? “I’m going home to cook!” » A queen, even at home.

The hosting costs for this report were paid by the Cannes Film Festival, which had no say in the matter.

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