The untold truth of Meryl Streep

The incredibly talented Meryl Streep is the first actress that pops to mind when most think of Hollywood's living legends. After all, Streep's acting resume is second to none. Starting in the late '70s, Streep's career is comprised of a never-ending string of critically acclaimed films and television show, all showcasing her ability to perfectly portray a vast array of characters. Truly Streep's abilities are second to none, and her talent both dazzles and intimidates her peers in the industry.

But when the cameras stop rolling, Streep is a regular human being just like the rest of us, as hard as that might be to believe. She's a wife, a mother four times over, and an activist, as well as an imperfect person with her own quirks and flaws. She also has hopes, dreams, and aspirations, even though she's already accomplished so much.

So what is there to know about the actress that's flown a bit under the radar? And what is she really like in person? Read on to discover the untold truth of Meryl Streep.

No one has more Oscar nominations than Meryl Streep

Have you ever noticed that during award season, Meryl Streep always seems to be a contender? That's for good reason, as Streep has been nominated for an Oscar more than any other actor, living or deceased, according to Variety. In fact, in 2018, she even broke her own record when she was nominated for the 21st time for best actress after portraying journalist Katherine Graham in The Post.

It's not just Academy Award nominations that Streep has in abundance. She's also been nominated for (and won) numerous Golden Globes, Emmy Awards, BAFTA Awards, SAG Awards, and more, according to IMDb. All told, as of November 2019, Streep has 356 nominations and 176 wins, which is nothing short of incredible by any measure.

As for Oscar wins, that's a record Streep can't claim as her own, as she has three trophies from the Academy for Kramer vs. Kramer in 1979, Sophie's Choice in 1982, and The Iron Lady in 2011. Only legendary actor Katharine Hepburn has won more, as she was awarded four Oscars in her lifetime. But who knows what the future may hold!

As a child, Meryl Streep loved to sing

When Meryl Streep was a child, it wasn't acting that first called to her. Rather, she took singing lessons in the hopes that one day she could be an opera singer. "My parents were very encouraging with whatever we wanted to be," she recalled in an interview with Good Housekeeping. She continued, "When I was a kid, [my mother] took me to every single show. I saw the greats — Ethel Merman, Carol Channing, Georgia Brown." That would certainly have an impact!

When Streep got older, she continued to pursue music, but that eventually changed. "In high school, I was in musicals, but at college, I got diverted into acting," she continued. "I never sang again for years and years." Fortunately, she did get back to it, eventually.

You can hear Streep show off her pipes in the 2008 film Mamma Mia! and the 2018 sequel Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again. And if you want to hear her imitate one of the most famously bad singers of all time, check her out in Florence Foster Jenkins – it's a trip!

Meryl Streep lost the love of her life when she was young

It's a well-known fact that Meryl Streep has been married to her husband, sculptor Don Gummer, since 1978, according to The Oprah Magazine. Ever since then, he's been by her side at all kinds of events, supporting his wife in her creative endeavors. Their marriage truly is #RelationshipGoals.

But before Streep was happily married to Gummer, she had another high-profile romance that ended in tragedy. In 1976, Streep met the well-respected actor John Cazale when they were both cast in Measure for Measure in Central Park, according to the New York Post. It didn't take long for the pair to fall in love, equally dazzled by one another.

Sadly, Cazale was diagnosed with cancer the next year, and he passed away in 1978, an experience that shaped Streep's young life. "It's a part of my body," she confessed in an interview with NPR. "It was very hard. But yes, it did align things for me in my head and in my heart about what's important and what doesn't matter a damn." Well said.

Meryl Streep considers herself a "tiger mom"

Together with her husband, Meryl Streep raised three daughters and one son: Mamie, Grace, Louisa, and Henry Wolfe. And while all of them are grown up now, Streep worked consistently throughout their upbringing. So how did she and Don Gummer manage to raise four healthy and successful children? "Teamwork is everything," Streep revealed in an interview with Lufthansa Magazine. "My husband Don Gummer was and still is very involved. He is a little more relaxed when it comes to raising kids. I'm more of a tiger mom."

What exactly does Streep mean when she said she was a tiger mom? Well, consider this one example, when her son wanted to learn piano, but lost interest due to a bad instructor. "I thought he should continue to take lessons, but my husband thought it was my dream that I was trying to impose on him," she continued. "Today, my son is 37 and he is a musician. Tiger-mom Meryl was right!" A point for mom!

Two of Meryl Streep's daughters are actors

In addition to having a son who's a musician, two of Meryl Streep's daughters have gone into the acting profession: Mamie and Grace. That's something that has pros and cons for Streep, as she knows the business well. "I am proud that my daughters want to do this," she shared in an interview with The Talks. "But I am also frightened for them, too. Because when criticism comes your way as an actor they are not criticizing your writing or your painting or your piece, they are criticizing you!" 

However, Streep knows she has to trust that her daughters will land on their feet. "It is hard to put that away in a place where you are not hurt by it and that is my fear for them," she continued. "But I would never say don't do it, because I think it is a glorious profession and I am so thankful for everything it has let me express."

Streep's youngest daughter, Louisa, is a model signed to IMG, according to The Hollywood Reporter, as well as a student at the Yale School of Drama, according to the university's website

Meryl Streep has cared about the climate for decades

In 2009, 18 different scientific associations came to a consensus that the earth was warming and that humans were responsible for the changes. And in 2019, climate activist Greta Thunberg led a climate strike in 150 countries around the world, according to Vox. But decades before either of those events occurred, Meryl Streep was concerned about the climate and doing something about it. "Now that I have these children, I'm just crazed about the world's making it to the next century," she revealed in a 1988 interview with Interview magazine. "So I read all these things about global warming, thermal inversions — you know, no nonsense." She was definitely ahead of the curve!

Streep knew she had to act in order to pass her activism onto the next generation sincerely. "I just don't know if I'll be able to impart the same enthusiasm to my daughter — to all my kids — unless I really feel that I've done something to make the world better for them," she continued. Way to set an example, Meryl!

College was a freeing experience for Meryl Streep

One of the things that makes Meryl Streep such a great actor is the authenticity she brings to each of her roles. But it was only when she got to college in her teens that she felt like she could truly open up. "I wasn't aware of designing myself in high school," she recalled in an interview with NPR. "But when I got to Vassar, all of that fell away, because it was just girls and it was the early '70s and it was the classic consciousness-raising time when people were earnestly talking about 'What's a woman? What's our role in the world? What is our capacity? What is holding us back?'"

That was a pivotal moment for Streep, who thought she had to be someone else in order to fit in up until that point. "I felt free," she continued. "A thing emerged, which was my actual personality and my actual voice, I guess, and I realized that I was funny, and allowed to be — and allowed to be loud, and obnoxious — and I took full advantage of it. ... It was an emergence."

Meryl Streep embraces the aging process

Given that Meryl Streep has been working in Hollywood for decades, she's aware of the pressure on actors to be as thin and sexy as possible. And while Streep has avoided plastic surgery and drastic measures to stay young looking, she has seen many of her peers cave to the pressures and expectations of Tinseltown. "It's not just women," she explained in an interview with Good Housekeeping. "You'd be amazed at how many men in this industry have gone down that road. I just don't get it. You have to embrace getting older. Life is precious, and when you've lost a lot of people, you realize each day is a gift." That's a really healthy perspective.

Additionally, Streep has found an advantage to aging naturally and embracing the inevitable changes that come with that. "The good thing about getting older is that when they actually do cast you it's often something interesting," she continued. 

The Devil Wears Prada marked a turning point for Meryl Streep

Meryl Streep has had many incredible and diverse roles over the course of her long and impressive career. But in 2006, Streep had an experience she'd never had before after portraying the icy and iconic Miranda Priestly. "When I made The Devil Wears Prada, it was the first time in my life that a man came up and said, 'I know how you felt. I have a job like that,'" she revealed in an interview with NPR

Given that Streep started acting in the '70s, you would think that at least some men would have identified with one of her characters before that point. But that literally wasn't the case, as it really did take that long to happen. "It took [me until] The Devil Wears Prada to play someone tough, who had to make hard decisions, who was running an organization, [where] a certain type of man [was able] to empathize and feel the story through her," she continued. "That's the first time anyone has ever said that they felt that way." That's pretty telling.

Meryl Streep has mixed feelings about Julia Child

By the time Meryl Streep played the legendary Julia Child in the 2009 film Julie & Julia, the groundbreaking chef had passed away several years prior. However, Streep had personally encountered Child decades before when she was participating in organic food activism and had reached out to solicit Child's help — and she got the cold shoulder. "She was very resistant and she brushed us off quite brusquely," Streep recalled in an interview with The Telegraph. "She sent word back that she didn't have anything to say on the subject, and she really resisted making a connection between the high fat diet of a heavily laden cordon bleu-influenced cuisine and cholesterol levels." Streep also lamented Child's connection to the American Council for Science and Health, something she described as an agro-business front.

However, Streep also had a profound respect for Child, who she grew up watching on television and admired for her pioneering spirit and lust for life. "What was compelling about her was her joie de vivre and her unwillingness to be bogged down in negativity," she continued. "She loved being alive and that's inspirational in itself."

Meryl Streep has some beef with a famous actor

Although Meryl Streep had a significant role in the 1978 film The Deer Hunter, it was her outstanding work in Kramer vs. Kramer the following year that truly skyrocketed her into superstardom. She won an Academy Award for portraying Joanna Kramer — her very first — and a Golden Globe award, as did her co-star Dustin Hoffman.

However, as Streep tells it, Hoffman's conduct on the film was allegedly disrespectful and at times downright abusive. "This was my first [major] movie, and it was my first take in my first movie, and he just slapped me," she shared in an interview with The New York Times. "And you see it in the movie. It was overstepping."

Fortunately, Streep is optimistic that behavior like that is on the way out the door. "I think those things are being corrected in this moment. And they're not politically corrected; they're fixed," she continued. "They will be fixed, because people won't accept it anymore. So that's a good thing."

Meryl Streep's thoughts on the Me Too movement

It's not just actions like Dustin Hoffman's alleged behavior on the set of Kramer vs. Kramer that Meryl Streep believes are finally being addressed and halted. She also believes that the entirety of the #MeToo movement is here to stay, and very much needed. "The arc of history may be long, but women's memories are longer, and the justice coming is long overdue," she explained in an interview with Tribeca. "I don't think we will go backwards on this one." Fingers crossed, Meryl!

Streep also feels that it's not just within Hollywood and her industry that real changes will be made, too. "The inequity in the power dynamic will be felt right through society, and the corrections will be made inevitably," she continued. "I am extremely optimistic and usually, but not always, right." Given that Streep has been in the movie business for a long time, let's hope that this is one of those right times.

Liane Moriarty used a sneaky trick to get Meryl Streep onto Big Little Lies

The already star-studded cast of Big Little Lies was delighted when Meryl Streep agreed to sign on for Season 2 of the HBO drama. She joined the show in the role of Mary Louise Wright, mother-in-law to Nicole Kidman's character, Celeste. But what you might not know is that Big Little Lies author Liane Moriarty wrote that character with Streep in mind, as Mary Louise is actually Streep's legal name.

But as it turns out, Moriarty didn't need to deploy the clever tactic, as Streep was on board from the get-go. "[My agent] said, 'Don't you want to read it [the script]?' I said no," she revealed in a panel organized by Vanity Fair. "It was the greatest thing on television, it really was. There isn't a woman in this room who wouldn't sign up." That's a high compliment coming from a true Hollywood rockstar.

Meryl Streep donated her salary from The Iron Lady to a special organization

In 2011, Meryl Streep starred as the late Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in the historical biopic The Iron Lady, for which she won an Academy Award for best actress. But rather than take the salary for the film home with her, she decided to do something special with it. "I made a million dollars but I gave it away," she shared in an interview on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. "I gave it to the National Women's History Museum that we're trying to raise money for to build on the mall in Washington because we think that women's history needs to be told." 

Streep's primary motivation for becoming so involved with the project was to give the often overlooked stories of American women in history the attention that they deserve. "There are a million stories in history that we don't know about," she continued. "We know the name of our first traitor, Benedict Arnold ... but we don't know the first woman who took a bullet for her country." And Streep wants to change that. What a noble cause!