by Yoon Joung Lee
American actress, Merly Streep, was born Mary Louise Streep in 1949 in Summit, New Jersey. She spent her childhood in Bernardsville, New Jersey as the oldest sibling ahead of two older brothers, Harry and Dana. From her young age, she was extremely interested in music, taking opera singing lessons from a renowned coach. When she went to high school, she took acting classes and acting became her dominant interest. In 1971, she received her B.A, in Drama/Acting at Vassar College. She later attended Yale School of Drama and earned her degree in Drama.
After graduating from the Yale School of Drama, she moved to New York and performed in several theater productions including the New York Shakespeare Festival productions of Henry V, The Taming of the Shrew with Raul Julia, and Measure for Measure opposite Sam Waterston and John Cazale. She also starred on Broadway show, Happy End, the Brecht/Weill musical. In 1976, she starred on Tennessee Williams’ 27 Wagons Full of Cotton and Arthur Miller’s A Memory of Two Mondays. Her performance brought her a Tony Award nomination for Best Featured Actress in a Play. Later, she also received Drama Desk Award nominations for her two Broadway shows, Anton Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard and the Bertolt Brecht-Kurt Weill musical Happy End.
Because her outstanding theater work caught people’s attention, she began auditioning for film roles. In 1977, she made her first feature film debut on Julia as the high society friend of Jane Fonda’s Lillian Hellman. In 1978, she played a leading role in NB C miniseries TV show Holocaust, a well-to-do German woman trying to save her Jewish husband from the Nazi concentration camp. With this show, she was brought a degree of public recognition and she won a leading actress Emmy.
In 1978, she fell in love with the film, The Deer Hunter’s co-star, John Cazale. But she soon found out he had bone cancer. She nursed him until his death on March 12, 1978. After The Deer Hunter was released, she was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance.
In 1979, she was on Kramer vs. Kramer which she played a role of a woman who abandons her family to come back and fight for custody of her son. This role brought her first Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.
During the 1980s, she spent her much of time trying various roles. In 1982 in Sophie’s Choice, she played Sophie Zawistowski who is a Brooklyn-based concentration camp survivor traumatized by her experiences during the Holocaust. For her role in Sophie’s Choice, she won her second Academy Award, this time for Best Actress. In Out of Africa in 1985, she won another Academy Award nomination with her role as a Danish plantation owner living in Kenya.
During 1990s, she was awarded Academy Awards for several films including Postcards from the Edge and The Bridges of Madison County as she begun playing challenging roles, many Hollywood actresses have struggled. She was nominated for Academy Award with two films, The Hours and Adaptation in 2002. In 2003, she won her second Emmy Award for her work on Angels in America.
Her later roles in The Manchurian Candidate (2004) and Prime (2005) showed her comic skills. In 2006, she played the inimitable magazine editor in The Devil Wears Prada and earned Academy Award, SAG and Golden Globe nominations for Best Actress. That same year, she also played characters related to music. She was cast as country music singer, Yolanda Johnson in the film A Prairie Home Companion. In 2008, she again played a musical role in Mamma Mia, the film adaptation of the ABBA musical.
With the film Doubt, she won various awards including Academy Award, Golden Globe nominations and a SAG award for Best Actress. Also, with her next project, Julie & Julia, which she played the famous chef, she won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress. She soon earned another Golden Globe nod with her romantic comedy film It’s Complicated.
In 2011, she played a role of former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady which brought her several awards including a Golden Globe and an Oscar for Best Actress. She has been married to sculptor Don Gummer since 1978. She is a mother of four adult children.