Meryl Streep

by Jack Tewksbury For forty years the HFPA has recorded interviews with famous and celebrated actors, actresses and filmmakers. The world’s largest collection of its kind — over 10,000 interviews — is now in the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences Library. The audios are fascinating. Below is an excerpt, with eight-time Golden Globe winner Meryl Streep recalling how the acting craft called on to her.

“I  spent  a  long  time  thinking  acting  wasn’t  worthwhile, that  it  was  frivolous  and  not  worth  anything  to  the  world at  large.  When  I  went  to  drama  school  I  thought  it  was silly — speaking  someone  else’s  words,  imitating  behavior, feeling  other’s  emotions.  I’m an  intelligent  parrot,  that’s what  I am. It was very easy to  dismiss  this  great  art  form. I don’t  feel  this  way  anymore.  We  are  defined  and  remembered,  as  a  civilization,  by  the  arts.  I was  once  invited  to a dinner  on  the  arts  in Washington  D.C., and Nixon’s  chief  of  staff, Alexander Haig–an  unlikely  choice for  a  speaker–got  up  and  said, “Nobody  remembers  the armies  that  anybody  had  raised  or  the  bridges  or  railways they built. Times are remembered for  their  artists.” I believe that,  too. I have been  accused  of  being  a  technical  actress. I  won’t denigrate  my  training  but,  truthfully, I  am  not  ever  aware of  any  method.  I  do  a  lot  of  research  if  the  part  calls for  it.  If  the  part  doesn’t, I  don’t  do  a  thing,  just  show up. So  much  of  acting  has  to  do  with  listening.  I am  a  reactive  actress.  I  don’t  know  what  I’m  going  to  do  until I  see  who’s  coming  in  the  door. When I was  a  young  actress, I worked  with  Irene  Worth,  and I asked  her, “How  do  you  get  that  emotion  to  come out  so  freely?”   And  she  answered, “How  do  you  stop it?”  It was  a   complete  revelation.  What  she  did  was  lay herself  open  to  the  complete  events  of  her  imagination. It’s just  a  matter  of  thinking,  of  really  believing  you  are that  character.  And  in  a  way,  you  can’t  stop  that  thing from  happening.”