From the Archive: Meryl Streep on Acting

In July 1989, Wendy Wasserstein wrote about her friend and colleague Meryl Streep's approach to acting.


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—From “Meryl Streep Comes Calling” by Wendy Wasserstein, from the July/August 1989 issue of The Saturday Evening Post

So many people who write about the movies don’t understand either the process or the creation of the actor. Most of them — even the most sophisticated — are swept away by whether it’s a character they like or dislike. They confuse the dancer with the dance. With my work, they get stuck in the auto mechanics of it — the most obvious stuff, like what’s under the hood. They mention the accent or the hair — as if it’s something I’ve laid on that doesn’t have anything to do with the character. The news is that most of the great practitioners of the art of acting know exactly what they’re doing. u

But you rarely if ever see it written about in reviews, in critiques, in specific language.

Every actor I’ve ever met knows about the process and talks about it. So you would think the people who judge actors would at least familiarize themselves with the art form and its process.

They’ll give credit for the wrong thing — God knows I’ll take it however it comes — like the easiest moment in the film for the actor, because all you do is appear. Say you’re supposed to have been dead for 15 years and you come around the corner and the music swells, and they write, “The moment when she came around the corner — she wasn’t dead! And the look on her face.” Well, if she’s beautiful and backlit, all she has to do is think about lunch and the shot will work.

Caught in the act: Streep with Martin Short in Only Murders in the Building. (Courtesy Patrick Harbron/Hulu)
Read the entire article “Meryl Streep Comes Calling” from the July/August 1989 issue of The Saturday Evening Post

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