This renowned actress was born Mary Louise Streep to father, Harry Streep Jr., a pharmaceutical executive, and mother, Mary, a commercial artist. Harry loved to play the piano and Mary loved to sing, so Streep and her two younger brothers grew up surrounded by music.
She was raised in suburban Bernardsville, New Jersey and as a youth, dreamed of becoming an opera singer, taking up singing lessons at age 12. She attended Bernardsville High School where she was a cheerleader and homecoming queen, before graduating in 1967. Streep had became interested in acting and went on to major in Drama and English at Vassar College. Following her graduation in 1971, she enrolled at the Yale University School of Drama in New Haven, Connecticut, graduating in 1975. She went on to study costume design and playwriting at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire.
At the age of 22, Streep made her professional stage debut in ‘The Playboy of Seville’ (1971) and her Broadway debut was in ‘Trelawney of the Wells’ (1975). She was involved with the theatre from 1975 to 1981, when her film career really began to flourish. She received a Tony Award nomination for Best Featured Actress in a Play for her role in the Broadway production of Tennessee Williams' ’27 Wagons Full of Cotton’ (1976). She also received Drama Desk Award nominations for her roles in ‘The Cherry Orchard’ (1976) and ‘Happy End’ (1977).
Her small screen debut was in the made-for-television movie ‘The Deadliest Season’ (1977) and her big screen debut in ‘Julia’ (1977), in which she gave an excellent performance in a small part in a flashback sequence. The following year, on 15 September 1978, she married sculptor Don Gummer. The couple have four children, Henry (b. 1979), Mary (aka Mamie) (b. 1983), Grace (b. 1986) and Louisa (b. 1991).
Wasting no time in achieving accolades, Streep was nominated for her first Oscar for her second feature film role in ‘The Deer Hunter’ (1978), one of the most powerful films of all time. She won her first Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or TV Movie, for her role in ‘Holocaust’ (1978). She then won two Academy Awards, the first for Best Supporting Actress for her role in ‘Kramer vs. Kramer’ (1979), opposite Dustin Hoffman and the second for Best Actress as Sophie Zawistowski in ‘Sophie’s Choice’ (1982).
She went on to make highly acclaimed performances in several films throughout the remainder of the 1980s. These include her first starring role in a feature film, ‘The French Lieutenant’s Woman’ (1981) with Jeremy Irons; ‘Silkwood’ (1983) with Kurt Russell and Cher; ‘Out of Africa’ (1985) co-starring Robert Redford; ‘Heartburn’ (1986) and ‘Ironweed’ (1987), both with Jack Nicholson; and as Lindy Chamberlain, with Sam Neill in ‘Evil Angels’ (1988), the fact-based film drama, known in America as ‘A Cry in the Dark’, for which she won the 1989 Cannes Film Festival Best Actress Award. She won six People’s Choice Awards for Favourite Motion Picture Actress between 1984 and 1990, the year she was named World Favourite.
Some people viewed Streep’s career as having declined slightly in the early 1990s, due to the lack of suitable parts. There was ‘Postcards from the Edge’ (1990), with Shirley MacLaine and Dennis Quaid, and the farcical black comedy ‘Death Becomes Her’ (1992), with Goldie Hawn and Bruce Willis. The romantic drama ‘The House of Spirits’ (1993) had an all-star cast including Glenn Close, Jeremy Irons, Winona Rider, Antonio Banderas and Vanessa Redgrave and was set in pre-World War II South America. Streep was back on top form with ‘The Bridges of Madison County’ (1995), for which she received an Academy Award nomination, and ‘Marvin’s Room’ (1996) with Leonardo DiCaprio, Diane Keaton and Robert De Niro.
Streep returned to television work, as executive producer of ‘…First Do No Harm’ (1997), a fact-based story in which she also starred. On 16 September 1998, she was given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. ‘Music of the Heart’ (1999) was a role that required her to learn to play the violin, which she did by practicing six hours a day for eight weeks.
Returning to the stage in July 2001, for the first time in more than 20 years, she played Arkadina in Anton Chekov’s ‘The Seagull’. It was a New York production that also featured Natalie Portman, Kevin Kline, Chrisopher Walken, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Marcia Gay Harden and John Goodman. Five years later, she played the title role in ‘Mother Courage and Her Children’.
She provided the voice of the Blue Mecha in Steven Spielberg’s ‘Artificial Intelligence: AI’ (2001) before playing real-life author Susan Orlean, with Nicholas Cage, in the quirky ‘Adaptation’ (2002). Next was ‘The Hours’ (2002) with Nicole Kidman and Julianne Moore, for which Streep received a BAFTA nomination for her leading role performance. She won her second Emmy Award for outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie, as well as a Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actress in a Miniseries or a Motion Picture Made for Television, for the television mini series ‘Angels in America’ (2003), in which she played multiple roles opposite Al Pacino, Emma Thompson and Mary-Louise Parker.
‘The Manchurian Candidate’ (2004) found Streep playing a more comical role than her usual intense performances and was a film she really enjoyed making for that reason. ‘Prime’ (2005), a romantic comedy with Uma Thurman and Bryan Greenberg, cast Streep in the role of psychoanalyst Lisa Metzger, whose client falls in love with her son. She played the inimitable magazine editor, Miranda Priestly, in ‘The Devil Wears Prada’ (2006), for which she earned SAG and Golden Globe nominations for Best Actress.
She was cast as country music singer Yolanda Johnson in Robert Altman’s ‘A Prairie Home Companion’ (2006) and went on to star in a number of movies in 2007, including ‘Dark Matter’, ‘Evening’, ‘Rendition’ and ‘Lions for Lambs’. The latter saw her team up with Tom Cruise and Robert Redford, who directed the feature about US politics and the wars in the Middle East. Streep then took on the role of Donna Sheridan in the film version of the West End musical ‘Mamma Mia!’, which is based on the songs of ABBA. Co-starring Amanda Seyfried, Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth, Stellan Skarsgard and Julie Walters, the movie earned her critical acclaim and led to Golden Globe and Satellite Award nominations. It also became the highest-grossing musical film of all time.
Following the success of the musical, Streep went on to attract even more praise for her role as Sister Aloysius Beauvier in Scott Rudin’s ‘Doubt’, which landed her a nomination for an Academy Award for Best Actress. She won several other major accolades for the film, which paved the way for even greater critical triumph with her next project.
‘Julie & Julia’ (2009) not only earned her another Academy Award nomination, but helped her collect more than a dozen other gongs, including a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress. Next came a voice role in ‘Fantastic Mr. Fox’ and an appearance in ‘It’s Complicated’, both of which led to more recognition. Streep’s versatility also led to her landing the role of former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher in ‘The Iron Lady’ (2011). Her latest roles include 'Into The Woods' (2014) and 'Suffragette' (2015).
Having worked extensively in theatre, television and film for over three decades, Streep is considered by many as one of the most respected and talented actresses of her generation. She certainly is a perfectionist when it comes to her work, preparing meticulously for a new role and is known for her ability to master different accents. She has a way of immersing herself so completely into her character that shows an intensity and love for acting. With many projects underway and due for release in the next few years, Streep is showing no signs of slowing down. We are certain to be blessed with many more performances injected with the magic of Streep.