Is there anything Meryl Streep can’t do? The world’s preeminent actress has astonished us with her chameleon-like transformations, assuming various nationalities and mastering accents from Polish, Irish, German, British, Italian, Danish, Australian to yes, even Bronx. Streep has been acknowledged as having mastered more accents than perhaps any other actor in the history of cinema.
She even learned to play the guitar – and how – to play a rock musician in Ricki and the Flash. Why, she has even played Donald Trump. She proved she could go from an icy Prada-wearing editor to a warm, funny Julia Child, from a ruthless “Iron Lady” to an Italian-born woman falling giddily in love somewhere in Madison County. Starting with Postcards from the Edge and in several other films, Streep showed us that she can sing as well as she can act. Now, with Florence Foster Jenkins, the actress demonstrates that she can also croon so badly. And still be very good at it.
Streep’s portrayal of the eponymous character, a real life New York heiress in the 1930s and 1940s who aspired to be an opera diva despite having an atrocious singing voice, earned the actress her 30th Golden Globe nomination. It solidified the actress’ record for being the most nominated performer in the history of the Golden Globes. Oh and she also has the most Golden Globe wins. On January 8, Streep will add another accolade to her existing collection of eight Golden Globes. She will receive the Cecil B. deMille Award, joining an illustrious group of past recipients which include deMille himself, Walt Disney, Judy Garland, Alfred Hitchcock, Bette Davis, Sydney Poitier, Laurence Olivier and many more.
To play the socialite who was ranked by historian Stephen Pile as “the world’s worst opera singer” and whose terrible singing is documented in an album, Streep trained with a reputable voice teacher, Arthur Levy. Audra McDonald, who was working with Streep in Ricki and the Flash at the time, recommended him. “Basically what he did was teach me the arias, to sing them as well as I could,” Streep explained. “Then it was up to me in the moment of filming, to move it off the way I wanted to. Then I could just aim a quarter tone under, over or around.”
Streep acknowledged that it was actually a challenge to sing horribly. “It is hard to go off the note that you know it’s supposed to be,” she said. “But it became so much a part of who she is. It’s like when people ask me, oh, that accent was so good and I have to go, ‘Wait. The accent is like part of the whole baby. You don’t look at a baby and you go, ‘Oh my God, the left eyebrow is so wonderful!’”
While still obviously at the top of her game, Streep claimed that it’s getting harder to memorize lines. “I used to get the lines really easily, in the makeup chair, but that doesn’t happen anymore,” she admitted. “Now I have to learn them the night before.”
She identified with Jenkins’ declaration, “People may say I can’t sing, but no one can ever say I didn’t sing.” “What she is saying is, they can say what they like about me but I did what I loved,” Streep commented. “For me, I am lucky that I found what I love and I found it early enough to make it a life work.”
Filmgoers all over the world are lucky as well that Streep continues to share her acting gifts, to be any character she takes on. Seemingly, there isn’t anything Streep can’t do – or is there one?
The actress has been quoted as saying that there is one thing she can’t do – she can’t play golf. Ah, but give her a golfer role and she’ll have us believing she’s scoring holes in one like she was born on the putting green.