Circle Cinema screened “The Devil Wears Prada” following a discussion of a novel about Meryl Streep’s life and persona.
On Saturday, Oct. 5, Magic City Books and Circle Cinema came together to host Erin Carlson, author of the new release “Queen Meryl: The Iconic Roles, Heroic Deeds, and Legendary Life of Meryl Streep.” Magic City Books founder Jeff Martin introduced Carlson and welcomed her back, explaining to the audience that two years ago Erin actually was the opening speaker at Tulsa Lit Fest when she wrote her book about Nora Ephron.
Carlson began by explaining how vastly different her experiences were in writing these two books. This discrepancy in experiences is because Nora Ephron is such a niche topic, whereas Meryl Streep is a global phenomenon. Carlson then segued into her fascination with Meryl Streep. By the show of visible head nods, I would say there were many audience members who shared this admiration and interest in Streep’s life and career. “Pallor, grace, beauty and viciousness” were just four of the words Carlson used to describe the attributes that Meryl Streep brings to her roles, but Streep’s prolific and infamous career was not all that was discussed, nor is it the only thing written about in Carlson’s new book.
Erin Carlson has a day job as an editor in the Bay Area, but enjoys writing and learning about elements and individuals of note in the sphere of popular culture. She admitted reluctantly that, before starting this project, she had not seen all 65 (and counting) of Streep’s films.
The first task she had, aside from catching up on Streep cinema, was to read and watch every single interview Meryl Streep had participated in since the 70s. Carlson intended to interview all of Streep’s costars, and was amused to discover that many of the female actresses who had worked alongside Streep were rather terrified of her. It was also revealed that behind the scenes, Streep was actually fact-checking stories that her costars were telling about her.
Streep’s innate ability to assume a personality or role was what Carlson found most magnetizing about her. Streep’s early years growing up New Jersey with her two younger brothers whom she played with and bossed around set the foundation for her strong and daring personality. She was often mistaken as being considerably older than she actually was, which she attributed to her glasses and objectively frizzy hair.
Carlson argued that perhaps Meryl Streep’s most drastic and challenging role was her transformation from frumpy girl to high school beauty queen. She dated the quarterback and was homecoming queen following a childhood of being made fun of and confused for a high schooler in primary school. Streep explained later that even in her adulthood, she was always jealous of Jessica Lange, the standard of Hollywood beauty with whom she felt she couldn’t compete.
What Streep wouldn’t realize until much later in her career was that her strength was in refusing to be defined by her beauty. She was never pigeonholed due to her looks, so she was able to continue working after the age of 40, when roles are far more scarce for women. Streep didn’t mind getting “ugly” for roles, and this elevated her acting and expanded her opportunities.
Carlson shifted into a conversation of Meryl’s films, starting with the infamous “Kramer vs. Kramer.” Director Robert Benton was terrified of Streep. This seemed to be a common theme throughout Streep’s life, which becoming an actress only magnified. Benton was particularly intimidated by Streep’s remarkable ability to nail take after take, even amidst the tortures that costar Dustin Hoffman put her through. She is a professional in the truest sense of the word.
This led into a really lovely discussion of “The Devil Wears Prada,” the film that Circle Cinema screened following Carlson’s talk. The movie is based on a book written by a 36-year-old woman who Carlson enviously explained earned six figures off the novel even before it was finished, which is unheard of in the literary world.
As for the film adaptation, the screenplay was really written for Streep, even before the production team knew if she would want to be a part of the film. Screenwriter Aileen Brosh McKenna told Carlson that they had two versions of the screenplay; one with specific lines added and omitted if Meryl did in fact accept the role, and another for any backup actresses who they may have to settle on for the part.
Much like Erin Carlson, I’ve always found Meryl Streep to be a very unifying individual. Despite her somewhat “cold-shoulder” approach on and off set during film shoots, she is an ever-present part of the collective entity that is pop culture. She definitely brought a very special person into my life just through this event, and I’ve watched many of her movies with my cousin in our “states-away romantic comedy marathons”.
After the event, I went home and dove into the book itself, and there’s even more incredible stories and wisdom from Streep and those who have been lucky enough to interact with her. I highly recommend it to anyone enthralled with the life of this outstanding pillar of excellence and badass woman power.