Monday, 24th June 2019

Musings On Acting by Meryl Streep

Posted on 08. Nov, 2015 by in Actors

Musings On Acting by Meryl Streep

Meryl Streep really needs no introduction: She’s widely considered to be one of the best film actors alive. She’s portrayed real women like Julia Child, Margaret Thatcher and Karen Silkwood to legendary effect, and brought to life fictional ones as wide ranging as Sophie Zawistowski and Miranda Priestly. Anyone who’s seen her knows Streep’s ability to enchant audiences and critics with her chameleon-like ability to fully inhabit the characters she plays. Her incredible career—marked by record-setting nominations and wins (including three Oscars, two Emmys, and eight Golden Globes)—makes her more than qualified to share some words of wisdom on the art and craft of acting.

1. ON THE VALUE OF ACTING.

— From a 1998 appearance on Inside The Actors Studio

2. ON HOW SHE CREATES A CHARACTER.

“I have been smug and willfully ignorant. I’ve cultivated a deliberate reluctance to investigate my own method of working because I’m afraid of killing the goose. I’m afraid if I parse it I won’t be able to do it anymore.”

— From a 2006 lecture at Princeton University

3. ON WHAT SHE HAS ACHIEVED.

“My achievement, if you can call it that, is that I’ve basically pretended to be extraordinary people my entire life, and now I’m being mistaken for one.”

—From a 2006 lecture at Princeton University

4. ON WHAT YOUNG ACTORS SHOULD STUDY.

“My own bias is to educate yourself in everything but acting. Learn about the world. Learn about everything else. Learn about the human condition. That’s the kind of actor I wanted to be. I’m curious about everything and everybody and not to limit myself with a certain kind of acting.”

—From a 2014 interview with the Hartford Courant

5. ON BEING A CELEBRITY VS. BEING AN ACTOR.

— From her 2010 commencement speech at Barnard College

6. ON BEING CALLED THE GREATEST ACTRESS OF ALL TIME.

“I don’t think of myself as the greatest anything—cook, housekeeper, actor or developer of material. I don’t think there’s the best of anything.”

— From a 2010 visit to the University of Texas theater department

7. ON PLAYING JULIA CHILD AND MARGARET THATCHER.

“Julia Child’s so alive. Margaret is so designed, so intent upon making her point. That’s the most important thing—that she win the argument—and there is nothing that stands in the way of that train. Julia’s just alive in front of you; that’s part of why people loved her.”

— From a 2012 interview with NPR

8. ON THE IMPORTANCE OF CURIOSITY.

“…I don’t think you can really be an effective actor if you’re not curious about people and events. And if you’re interested in things, you want to go deeper and you want to know more. At least, the thing [that’s always] ignited my own excitement about working is to know more about somebody: What made them do this? What in God’s name went wrong?”

— From a 2010 speech at the University of Texas

9. ON HER STAGE FRIGHT.

“It’s odd: I have this career that spans continents, but the pathetic thing is that I can’t get up in front of people and speak. I get really, really nervous … Fiction is something you can lie down and wrap yourself up in. In reality, you’re alone on the mountaintop in the wind and the storm, and you don’t know if you’re going to be blown away. In the movies, I know the ending. It’s the first thing I read.”

— From a 1988 feature in Interview Magazine

10. ON CAREER UNCERTAINTY.

“The uncertainly is going to be there. You’re going to be unemployed for months at a time if you’re looking over a 40-year period. I said you have to really make sure you’ve got your life right, to keep your friends close. Relationships matter. Your career is one thing but your life’s work should be in your relationships—which are going to sustain you.”

— From a 2014 interview with the Hartford Courant

11. ON WHAT SHE WISHES SHE HAD KNOWN WHEN SHE WAS YOUNGER.

“I think the power of optimism and understanding what kind of stamina it takes to be an actor. And I don’t mean just physical stamina—spiritual, mental, character stamina. Because it’s very hard to be rejected or have bad reviews, or if you do become successful, to feel the chattering about you in other ways. It’s kind of weird.”

— From a 2010 speech at the University of Texas

12. ON WORK/LIFE BALANCE.

“You have to get your life right before you can get your art going. At least for me the things that matter most are peripheral to my awards or parts I’ve played, my life is what matters.”

— From a 2010 visit to the University of Texas theater department

13. ON THE CHARACTERS SHE FEELS DRAWN TO PORTRAY.

“…I’ve always been drawn to characters who are difficult to translate to other people, prissy women, disagreeable women, women whose motives are easily misconstrued, women who are hard to love.”

— From a 2006 lecture at Princeton University

“I think there’s great worth in it. And the worth is in listening to people who maybe don’t even exist, or who are voices in your past, and through you, come through the work and you give them to other people. I think that giving voice to characters that have no other voice—that’s the great worth of what we do.”“Being a celebrity has taught me to hide, but being an actor has opened my soul.”

November 5, 2015 – 4:00pm

(republisahed/reprinted courtesy of Mental Floss)

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