Meryl Streep

On this date in 1949, Meryl Streep (née Mary Louise Streep) was born and raised in New Jersey. Her Presbyterian parents, a commercial artist mother and pharmaceutical executive father, allowed her to attend Mass because many of her friends were Catholic. Young Meryl dreamed of being an opera singer but gravitated toward acting when, in high school, she received a standing ovation for playing the librarian in "The Music Man" at her school, which, she says, encouraged her to feel confident, and shed the "dorkyness" of her youth. She even became homecoming queen. Streep studied Drama and English at Vassar, graduating in 1971. She was awarded entrance to the incredibly competitive Honours Exchange Program with Dartmouth College, where she studied playwrighting, and set and costume design. Upon graduation, she attended the Yale School of Drama, where she performed in over 30 Yale Repertory Theatre productions (along with Sigourney Weaver) and graduated with a Master's in Drama in 1975. She then had various versatile theatrical roles, on and off Broadway, several television performances (including the TV series "Holocaust," in 1978), and a small but attention-grabbing role in her first film, "Julia" (1977), which starred Jane Fonda and Vanessa Redgrave. Streep earned her first Oscar nomination for  "The Deer Hunter" in 1978. 

Streep holds the record for actress with the most Oscar nominations (15)—she has won twice (for "Kramer vs Kramer" in 1980 and "Sophie's Choice" in 1983). Streep won a third Oscar, playing Maggie Thatcher in "The Iron Lady" (2011). The actress has played roles in almost every genre—musical ("Mamma Mia," 2008), drama (such as "The Hours," 2002, "Adaptation," 2002, and "The Evening," 2007), comedy (such as "Death Becomes Her," 1992, and "The Devil Wears Prada," 2006), romance ("The Bridges of Madison County," 1995), suspense ("Still of the Night," 1982) , biopic ("Silkwood," 1983), and animated ("Fantastic Mr. Fox," 2009, and "Artificial Intelligence: AI," 2001). Streep has been married to sculptor Don Gummer since 1978 and they have four children. The actress has become very involved with several causes over the years including the Elton John AIDS Foundation, Americans for the Arts, Equality Now, and Stand Up to Cancer, among others. A private person, she has not often discussed her lack of religious views publicly. However, when her movie "Doubt" (2008) debuted, she faced numerous questions on the subject. "Doubt is our friend," she told the London Telegraph. "And once you tip the scales in one direction or another it's very, very dangerous" ("Meryl Streep: mother superior," by Mick Brown, Dec. 4, 2008).

"I follow no doctrine. I don't belong to a church or a temple or a synagogue or an ashram."

—Meryl Streep, when asked if religion plays a part in her life, "Movies, marriage, and turning sixty," The Independent (UK), Jan. 24, 2009. 

Compiled by Bonnie Gutsch

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