December 3, 2008

Meryl Streep is the Queen of Hollywood

Meryl Streep is having a good year. In fact, she's had a couple of good years. Looking back on her career she's had some really big peaks: 1979-1985 with films like Kramer vs. Kramer; The French Lieutenant's Woman; Silkwood; Sophie's Choice; and Out of Africa. A big valley in the late 80's and early 90s with She-Devil, Death Becomes Her, and Postcards from the Edge. But mostly she's been steady, consistent, fantastic actress whose films got nominated for awards but didn't make a lot of money.

Until now.

Now she's a box office star. It started with The Devil Wears Prada and has been cemented with Mamma Mia!

EW's Christine Spines has this week's cover story on Streep and her resurgence. One thing I love about Streep is that she has never been afraid to talk about how Hollywood treats women. She never suffered (at least as far as I can tell) a backlash for her honesty and outspokenness. Everyone who writes a script for a woman over 40 wants her first. She's on the top of every list. I also love that Streep is a feminist and supports women's organizations like Equality Now.

Here are some great quotes from the piece:

But given that Hollywood treats actresses over 40 as if they've passed their sell-by date, Streep's transformation into a bankable movie star at age 59 is astounding.

Studios are now carving out space in their summer schedules, between the Pirates and the Pixars, for a Streep film. ''A Meryl Streep slot,'' says Sony Pictures chairman Amy Pascal. ''Who ever thought you'd say that?''

Nobody. The common assumption is that women will go see movies starring men, but men won't buy a ticket to see a movie about a woman. Streep has changed the game. Of the 50 highest-grossing films of all time worldwide, only one is female-driven: Mamma Mia! ''She's the hottest actress in America,'' says Nora Ephron, who wrote and directed Streep's August '09 film, Julie and Julia, in which the actress plays chef Julia Child.

There's a poetic justice to the fact that Streep's career has also eclipsed those of her male contemporaries — Pacino, De Niro, Dustin Hoffman, and even Nicholson — almost none of whom can match her box office clout. She's clearly loving her new power. ''It's all completely improbable and sort of great,'' she giggles. An unrepentant feminist, Streep seems to take particular joy in beating the guys on their own turf. ''Well, they have their own fun,'' she allows.

Her crusade, at this point, is to show Hollywood how much money can be made from female-driven movies.

I've never paid attention to that stuff, but this was just bringing it in. It's so gratifying because it's the audience that nobody really gives a s--- about.''
I wish I could report that since Streep is doing so well things are filtering down for other women, but it doesn't look so good. Think about Diane Keaton. She was on top of the world with Something's Gotta Give, and now she's had two stinkers in a row and one that went straight to video which I recently wrote about. In general, the scripts looked terrible. That seems to be a consistent problem with films by and about women. I know there are good scripts out there. Let's get some of them into the pipeline.

Meryl Streep: Box Office Queen (EW)