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Meryl Streep, “an international treasure”

At the Cannes Film Festival, American actress Meryl Streep received an Honorary Palme d’Or, the Festival’s highest honour.

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Meryl Streep, 75, is regarded as the greatest actress of her generation and one of the finest of all time. During a career spanning five decades, Streep has starred in dozens of films, with a relentless dedication to every role she has interpreted. From labour union activist (Silkwood) to British Prime Minister (The Iron Lady), from Holocaust survivor (Sophie’s Choice) to fashion magazine editor (The Devil Wears Prada), her transformations to embody the characters she has played have received universal acclaim. She has won countless prizes, including three Oscars, and the Honorary Palme d’Or was the confirmation and coronation of a remarkable career.

At Cannes, Streep was handed the prize by French actress Juliette Binoche. “You are an international treasure,” said Binoche. “You changed the way we look at women in the cinema world and also helping us to look at ourselves differently.” Indeed, Streep’s powerful performances have illuminated a wide variety of female protagonists. Her popularity has also broadened the range of options available to actresses: she has helped disprove the norm – widely believed in Hollywood – that films need a male lead or, at the very least, a young, attractive female one. In regard to this, Streep recalled her thoughts when she was first invited to Cannes in 1989. “I was about to turn 40 and I thought that my career was over. And that was not an unrealistic expectation for actresses at that time.” A lot of credit should go to Streep’s work if this is no longer the case.

Despite her fame, Streep, who has four children, has managed to live a relatively normal life, keeping away from Hollywood’s limelight. “Being famous gets in the way of a lot of things," she once said. “My family really does come first. It always did and always will.”

ACTIVITY: Write one of the following essays.

1) Meryll Streep finds that the most annoying question actresses get asked is why they choose to play strong female characters. “No man is ever asked: ‘You often play very strong men. Why?’ It would be an absurd question.” What are your thoughts on this subject?

2) Think of a film with a strong female protagonist. Choose, if you like, one of Meryll Streep’s films. What is the film about? What challenges does the protagonist have to overcome?

(Carlo Dellonte)
(Image: Meryl Streep walks the red carpet ahead of the "The Laundromat" screening during the 76th Venice Film Festival at Sala Grande on September 01, 2019 in Venice, Italy, Denis Makarenko, Shutterstock)

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