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'The Iron Lady' And Four Other Memorable Meryl Streep Portrayals Of Real People

April 9th, 2012 2:45pm EDT

The Iron Lady This week, the DVD/Blu-Ray release of “The Iron Lady” hits stores. The film garnered Meryl Streep 29 different acting award nominations, including her 17th Academy Award nomination (and third win) and her 26th Golden Globe Award nomination (and eighth win), solidifying her place in Hollywood as the most-nominated actor in the history of the industry. The film was released to mixed reviews but it is her performance as Britain’s first (and thus far only) female Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher that makes this movie a compelling viewing. Streep has made a name for herself turning real people into memorable movie characters but of her three Academy Awards only her win for portraying Margaret Thatcher was for a non-fictional character. We thought the release of “The Iron Lady” was a great time to look back on five of Meryl Streep’s most memorable depictions of real-life people.

Silkwood (as Karen Silkwood) 1983: Nominated for an Academy Award, a Golden Globe and a BAFTA (but winning none) for her performance as the doomed titular character, Streep played union activist and chemical technician Karen Silkwood in one of her more understated roles. Drastically changing her look with a short, dark haircut and adding a soft accent to reflect Silkwood’s Texas roots, Streep immerses herself in the role of a blue-collar worker who can barely make ends meet. Nothing over the top, just a quite, tragic performance of a woman who continued to fight even when she was in over her head. Iconic movie moment: Streep, as Silkwood, getting what has come to be known as a “Silkwood Shower”.

A Cry in the Dark (as Lindy Chamberlain) 1988: Another Academy Award nomination coupled with another Golden Globe nom. As she did in Silkwood, Streep played another real-life character most of the film-viewing public would come to know mostly just through her portrayal. With shorter, darker, hair, and an Australian accent, Streep made us believe she was the mother of three happily camping when her infant daughter disappeared. The movie teeters on melodrama and might have been better suited for the small screen, but Streep’s performance rises about the plodding direction and tedious tempo of the film. Iconic movie moment: “The dingo took my baby”.

Angels in America (as Ethel Rosenberg) 2003: No Oscar considerations for this HBO film, but there was an Emmy Award and a Golden Globe for her multiple-character performances. Streep goes all out in ‘Angels’, portraying an angel, an older, male rabbi, the Mormon mother of a closeted gay man and the ghost of Ethel Rosenberg haunting Al Pacino’s Roy Cohn, but it’s her performance as Rosenberg that stands out the most. “Angels’ is a wonderful example of how Streep can submerge herself into a role and get lost in it without losing the intangible quality that is classic Meryl Streep. Iconic movie moment: Rosenberg tells Cohn on his deathbed that he was disbarred. “I wanted the news should come from me…”

Julie and Julia (as Julia Child) 2009: It is a testament to Streep that she took a famous person so embedded in the psyche of people all over the world and made her into a fresh, unique and fun character. Most portrayals of The French Chef are over the top but Steep plays her close enough to the vest that she doesn’t turn into a caricature of the woman she’s portraying, just a warm, relatable woman with a passion she wouldn’t let other squelch. Iconic movie moment: If you ever watched the real Julia Child, close your eyes and listen to Streep say “I’m Julia Child… bon appetite!” and you won’t be able to tell the difference.

The Iron Lady (as Margaret Thatcher) 2011: The film opens with an elderly Margaret Thatcher entering a grocery store to buy a pint of milk. As she slowly approaches the cashier, you can see how frail and old she’s become. One quick glance and for a moment there is no doubt you are looking at the Margaret Thatcher…except you aren’t. To her credit, Streep is always quick to remind people that makeup artist J. Roy Helland has a lot to do with her success in roles like this one and makeup plays a big part in why Streep is so believable as The Iron Lady. But there is no denying that, as she seems to do with all her roles, Meryl Streep decided she was going to become Margaret Thatcher and she did. Her mannerisms, her voice, the roll of her eyes, it’s all Maggie and it’s all Meryl. Iconic movie moment: After being told she won't be taken seriously becasue her voice is screechy and she needs to calm down, "If the Right Honourable gentleman could perhaps attend more closely to what I'm saying rather than how i am saying it, he may receive a valuable education in spite of himself!"

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