Meryl Streep is an American actress. Often described as the “best actress of her generation”, Streep is particularly known for her versatility and accents.
Nominated for a record 21 Academy Awards, she has won three. Among other accolades, she has received 32 Golden Globe nominations, more than any other person, and won eight.
Streep has been the recipient of many honorary awards.
She was awarded the AFI Life Achievement Award in 2004, Gala Tribute from the Film Society of Lincoln Center in 2008, and Kennedy Center Honor in 2011 for her contribution to American culture, through performing arts.
President Barack Obama awarded her the 2010 National Medal of Arts, and in 2014, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
In 2003, the government of France made her a Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters. She was awarded the Golden Globe Cecil B. DeMille Award in 2017.
- Full name: Mary Louise “Meryl” Streep
- Profession: American actress
- Born: 22 June 1949 (age 70 years), Summit, New Jersey, United States
- Height: 1.68 m
- Spouse: Don Gummer (m. 1978)
- Children: Mamie Gummer, Grace Gummer, Henry Wolfe, Louisa Jacobson
About Meryl Streep
Mary Louise Streep was born on 22 June 1949, in Summit, New Jersey, United States.
She is the daughter of Mary Wilkinson Streep (née Mary Wolf Wilkinson), a commercial artist and art editor; and Harry William Streep, Jr., a pharmaceutical executive.
She has two younger brothers: Harry William Streep III and Dana David Streep, who are also actors.
Streep’s father Harry was of German and Swiss ancestry. Her father’s lineage traces back to Loffenau, Germany, from where her second great-grandfather, Gottfried Streeb, immigrated to the United States, and where one of her ancestors served as mayor (the surname was later changed to “Streep”).
Another line of her father’s family was from Giswil, Switzerland. Her mother had English, German, and Irish ancestry.
Some of Streep’s maternal ancestors lived in Pennsylvania and Rhode Island, and were descended from 17th-century immigrants from England.
Her eighth great-grandfather, Lawrence Wilkinson, was one of the first Europeans to settle in Rhode Island.
Streep is also the second cousin 7 times removed of William Penn, the founder of Pennsylvania; records show that her family is among the first purchasers of land in the state.
Streep’s maternal great-great-grandparents, Manus McFadden and Grace Strain, the latter the namesake of Streep’s second daughter, were natives of the Horn Head district of Dunfanaghy, Ireland.
Streep’s mother, whom she has compared in both appearance and manner to Dame Judi Dench, strongly encouraged her daughter, and instilled confidence in her from a very young age.
Streep has said: “She was a mentor because she said to me, ‘Meryl, you’re capable. You’re so great.’ She was saying, ‘You can do whatever you put your mind to.
If you’re lazy, you’re not going to get it done. But if you put your mind to it, you can do anything.’ And I believed her.”
Although Streep was naturally more introverted than her mother, at times, when she later needed an injection of confidence in adulthood, she would consult her mother, asking her for advice.
Streep was raised as a Presbyterian in Basking Ridge, New Jersey, and attended Cedar Hill Elementary School and the Oak Street School, which was a Junior High school back then. In her Junior High debut, she starred as Louise Heller in the play “The Family Upstairs”.
In 1963, the family moved to Bernardsville, New Jersey, where she attended Bernards High School.
Author Karina Longworth described her as a “gawky kid with glasses and frizzy hair”, yet noted that she liked to show off in front of the camera in family home movies from a young age.
At the age of 12, Streep was selected to sing at a school recital, leading to her having opera lessons from Estelle Liebling.
However, despite her talent, she has remarked that, “I was singing something I didn’t feel and understand. That was an important lesson—not to do that. To find the thing that I could feel through.”
She quit after four years. Streep had many Catholic school friends, and regularly attended mass. She was a high school cheerleader for the Bernards High School Mountaineers and was also chosen as the homecoming queen her senior year. Her family lived on Old Fort Road.
Although Streep appeared in numerous school plays during her high school years, she was uninterested in serious theatre until acting in the play Miss Julie at Vassar College in 1969, in which she gained attention across the campus.
Vassar drama professor Clinton J. Atkinson noted, “I don’t think anyone ever taught Meryl acting. She really taught herself.”
Streep demonstrated an early ability to mimic accents and to quickly memorize her lines. She received her B.A. cum laude from the college in 1971, before applying for an MFA from the Yale School of Drama.
At Yale, she supplemented her course fees by waitressing and typing, and appeared in over a dozen stage productions a year, to the point that she became overworked, developing ulcers. She contemplated quitting acting and switching to study law.
Streep played a variety of roles on stage, from Helena in A Midsummer Night’s Dream to an 80-year-old woman in a wheelchair in a comedy written by then-unknown playwrights Christopher Durang and Albert Innaurato.
She was a student of choreographer Carmen de Lavallade, whom she introduced at the 2017 Kennedy Center Honors.
Another one of her teachers was Robert Lewis, one of the co-founders of the Actors Studio. Streep disapproved of some of the acting exercises she was asked to do, remarking that the professors “delved into personal lives in a way I find obnoxious”.
She received her MFA from Yale in 1975. Streep also enrolled as a visiting student at Dartmouth College in the fall of 1970, and received an Honorary Doctor of Arts degree from the college in 1981.
Streep made her stage debut in Trelawny of the Wells in 1975. In 1976, she received a Tony Award nomination for Best Featured Actress in a Play for 27 Wagons Full of Cotton and A Memory of Two Mondays.
In 1977, she made her screen debut in the television film The Deadliest Season, and also made her film debut in Julia. In 1978, she won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress – Miniseries or a Movie for her role in the miniseries Holocaust, and received her first Oscar nomination for The Deer Hunter.
Streep went on to win the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for Kramer vs. Kramer (1979), and the Academy Award for Best Actress for Sophie’s Choice (1982) and The Iron Lady (2011).
Streep’s other Oscar-nominated roles were in The French Lieutenant’s Woman (1981), Silkwood (1983), Out of Africa (1985), Ironweed (1987), Evil Angels (1988), Postcards from the Edge (1990).
The Bridges of Madison County (1995), One True Thing (1998), Music of the Heart (1999), Adaptation (2002), The Devil Wears Prada (2006), Doubt (2008), Julie & Julia (2009).
August: Osage County (2013), Into the Woods (2014), Florence Foster Jenkins (2016), and The Post (2017).
Her stage roles include The Public Theater’s 2001 revival of The Seagull, and her television roles include two projects for HBO, the acclaimed miniseries Angels in America (2003), for which her performance won her another Emmy Award, and the drama series Big Little Lies (2019).
Streep’s other films that were critically and or commercially successful where she wasn’t nominated for an Academy Award include Julia (1977), Manhattan (1979), The Seduction of Joe Tynan (1979), Defending Your Life (1991), Death Becomes Her (1992), The River Wild (1994), Marvin’s Room (1996).
The Hours (2002), Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004), A Prairie Home Companion (2006), Mamma Mia! (2008) and its sequel Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (2018), Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009), It’s Complicated (2009), Suffragette (2015), Mary Poppins Returns (2018) and Little Women (2019).