Oral History: Meryl Streep's First Steps,1977

by Jack Tewksbury November 14, 2019
Actress Meryl Streep, Golden Globe winner and Cecil B. deMille recipient

hfpa archives

For over 40 years the HFPA has recorded famous and celebrated actresses, actors and filmmakers. The world's largest collection of its kind - over 10,000  items - is now in the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences Margaret Herrick Library.

Originally interested in singing opera, 8-time Golden Globe winner and Cecil B. de Mille award recipient Meryl Streep ended up enrolling in the Yale Drama School. Her first roles on camera were in 1977, in the TV movie The Deadliest Season and as a supporting actress in the acclaimed director Fred Zinnemann's Julia, alongside Jane Fonda and Vanessa Redgrave. This is an excerpt from one of her first interviews, in 1977, looking back at her first foray into being a professional actress.

I was in a play, and my friend told me I was good in it, but I didn't think acting was the way you should go through life. It seemed frivolous, a silly way to make a living.  Then I went to drama school, became more involved and got very serious. I was soon hooked.

Acting has never been agony for me. I don't understand people for whom it is because I feel we are very privileged to be actors. When you start in the theatre, it doesn't really seem like you'll ever get famous.  I mean, I was so familiar with that unemployment line on Lower Manhattan, and then to be plucked from the theatre and cast in Julia with Jane Fonda and Vanessa  Redgrave, it was really like Never-Never Land.

It was a quantum leap, from making Broadway minimum, $235 dollars a week, to $2,000 dollars. I just couldn't believe it.”