Monday, May 25, 2020

New blog project: 'Recasting'

In 2014, I wrote a series of posts where I "reimagined" Meryl's film career.  I had been interested in what it would have been like had she actually been cast in certain roles we never got to see her play. The period of the early 90s had been a major question mark for me at the time, wondering how she ended up taking the roles she did, and why she wasn't in more popular or more acclaimed fare for an actress of her caliber. With very few exceptions, I kept it limited to those that she was rumored to have been attached to at one point, or had dropped out of.

But I haven't been satisfied with leaving it there. I've thought about what her sort of "perfect career" would've looked like occasionally since then, and at some point, I'll post about adjustments I'd make to my previous piece on her "reimagined history." An updated version would mostly consists of additional deletions. I wanted to fit so much in!

So why not just write separately about what would've been fun to see her in outside her normal or my reimagined filmography? Call it a sort of parallel career to the one she's had (or even that I wished she could have had). There are so many roles over the past forty years from movies I've either never seen or absolutely adore for which I'd give my eyeteeth to see a version of Meryl in.

So I'm going to do it. I'll go one year at a time, starting with the beginning of her career. I'm going to try to not just randomly choose a bunch or roles, but to consider how it would've been if she truly did do them all the order I have planned (meaning she would mix things up and not do anything that was too similar too close together, for example). I'll of course take several liberties and apply certain ground rules to keep myself on task. A few guidelines I'm going to follow:

1. I will chose one role for each calendar year, with at least one exception.
2. The roles have to have been reasonable for her to play at the time (age, career stage, whether she was pregnant).
3. The roles will all be lead, with one exception...sort of?
4. Every role will be for a project that was officially released (no unproduced films that I just wish would've come to fruition and didn't).
5. I will start her film career with a film being released in 1976--the year prior to her current filmography (the audacity!)

These are subject to change, but I'm pretty good at sticking to my rules. At some point I might do the same thing with supporting roles, but we'll see how this all goes first. I've pretty much already solidified every choice. Some of my picks will probably make people scratch their heads, but this is after all a personal list. It's fun to choose things that are a bit more risky than I expect Meryl would have ever gone for, regardless of where she happened to be in her career. But those are the ones we probably want to see her play the most anyway!

What I'm possibly looking forward to most about this is all the film history I'm diving into starting in the mid 70s--seeing which roles and films were prominent at the time that I may not have remembered or thought of, or haven't even seen! And then getting to imagine her in the ones I do remember fondly, or happen to consider exciting and well-made, but she either was never offered, or may not have had interest in accepting.

I'm going to try to do one post per week, which means the first entry (probably next week) will be for 1976. Keep in mind my choices may not necessarily be films that were exactly released in that year, but generally they will be. If not, it'll be within one or two. Any guesses?

Looking forward to undertaking this compulsion project!

Monday, May 18, 2020

Thoughts on "Babylon"

Last week, there was an article that rumored Meryl was being courted for a supporting role in Damien Chazelle's upcoming drama Babylon. We need to make sure to take this with a grain of salt, as seven days later, I've seen no additional sources confirming that Meryl has even been approached, much less accepted the offer to play Elinor Glyn.

I managed to score a copy of the scrip. At 184 pages, the version I read is long! From what I understand, however, Chazelle had been asked to cut up to thirty pages to make it more palatable to distributors. I'm guessing the script I read is pre-trim.

Obviously I cared most about getting a sense of Meryl's potential role. I'll say form the outset that it's not a huge part in terms of scenes. But she's present regularly throughout the story, not like it's only one big scene or she's only around in one half of the picture. Her character would be a little quirky, would have an accent, a racist edge, and sort of be the one who knows more than most people in the movie about what's really going on with everybody. She would have one pretty dramatic exchange with Brad Pitt's character toward the end, where she basically shuts him down and offers a sort of philosophical insight on filmmaking after he gets angry for an unflattering column she runs on him. If Meryl does indeed accept this role (again, assuming she's offered it), it's certainly not going to be because it's a huge acting vehicle for her. But she's taken some smaller roles for projects she wanted to be a part of in recent years: Suffragette, Little Women, Mary Poppins Returns, The Giver. And among these mentioned, I'd say Elinor Glyn is comparable in size to her role in The Giver (maybe a little bigger), but is MUCH more interesting. Plus I'd expect Babylon to be a far superior film.

Now to the script itself. It is absolutely a story I'd like to see get made. It depicts Hollywood's often seedy underbelly during the transition from silent films to talkies. One thing that does give me pause about Meryl's participation in it is how explicit it is. I do wonder though if some of the cutting Chazelle does or did would be to tone down some of the overt sexual depictions (we're talking orgies, dildos, pissing, anal). Unless they want an NC-17 rating (which would likely strongly hinder box office chances) some of those scenes will have to be cut or at least softened somehow. There is also a LOT of drug use, some gory violence, and every other word is pretty much "fuck." Reading it, it sort of felt like a whirlwind cross between something I'd see from Quentin Tarantino and Martin Scorsese. Regardless, I enjoyed it.

On the plus side, the cast would be rather diverse, and Hollywood tends to love movies about itself. With its "proposed" release date of Christmas 2021, you know they're shooting for that prime Oscar slot.

I, for one, would love to see Meryl in something like this.

Monday, May 11, 2020

Streep rumored for supporting role in Damien Chazelle's "Babylon"

Full Circle (who?) has reported that Meryl is under consideration for a supporting role in director Damien Chazelle's upcoming film, Babylon, set in 1920s Hollywood. A quick blurb on her character form the site:

"Streep is being eyed to play Elinor Glyn in a supporting role. Described as “Hollywood’s dowager duchess,” Glyn is a famous screenwriter, author, and gossip columnist who popularized the concept of “It -girl” and launched Stone’s character Clara Bow into superstardom along with many others."

The "Stone" mentioned would be none other than Emma Stone. Brad Pitt is also in negotiations to star. Here's a detailed summary from IMDb:

"The story is set in Pre-Code Hollywood in the late 1920s and early 1930s, during the film industry's transition from silent films to talkies. This era of Hollywood was renowned not only for its legendary parties and riotous behavior but also for its transgressive film content. Prior to 1934, Hollywood films could depict or imply nudity, obscene gestures, homosexual relations, adultery, rape, abortion, and drug use. When the Motion Picture Production Code was enforced 1934, the content of films was severely restricted, and Pre-Code films were not permitted by censors to be re-released without permanent cuts to the master prints. The Code would remain in effect until 1968 by which time the transgressive era of Pre-Code cinema had been forgotten in the national memory."

I'm of course taking this with a grain of salt, at least until we get a few more sources citing Meryl's involvement. Chazelle is a well-respected director, following his Oscar win for directing La La Land in 2016. And Glyn seems like an interesting character.

The biggest question may be when Miss Covid will let them begin filming...

portrait of Elinor Glyn (1942)

Saturday, May 9, 2020

When will "Let Them All Talk" be released?

HBO Max will launch at the end of the month (27th). For a while now I've been assuming that Meryl's second movie with director Steven Soderbergh, Let Them All Talk, might be a perfect product to help attract early subscriptions. But as we near the date, there is no indication that the film is even finished with post-production, much less that it will be part of the new platform's launch strategy.

My assumption continues to be that if the film is indeed shown on HBO Max (which owns the rights), that it will then technically be a TV movie, and eligible for Emmys, not Oscars. Knowing that the Emmy year ends on May 31, I was hoping they'd release it by then. That would mean that Meryl would possibly be up for two Emmys when the nominations are announced in July. I think she's a pretty strong contender for Supporting Actress in a Drama Series for HBO's Big Little Lies. 

Who knows, maybe they'll end up giving the film a theatrical release? But I doubt it. One small piece of info about the film I happened to notice today is that the name of Streep's character in the film, a famous author, will be Alice Hughes. Very writer-y.

Saturday, May 2, 2020

Ryan Murphy confirms plan for "The Prom" to be released as scheduled

Last month, I had read an interview where director Ryan Murphy had suggested The Prom might make it to the screen by year's end after all. Late this week, several sources quoted Murphy in a more formal update on the standing of the Netflix film's production:

All of the leads had wrapped. The last scene that I shot was Nicole Kidman’s last scene. Meryl had finished and James Corden had finished, and Andrew Rannells and Nicole had all finished. The only thing that I had is I had two days of second unit pickup… I hope this summer I can go back and quickly pick them up… The movie was supposed to come out right around Christmas, was the plan. November, Thanksgiving, Christmas in that window. Hopefully, I’ll be able to still do that.

This info insn't drastically new, but it's good to hear specifics about the leads having finished their shooting. I have to imainge that the type of shots they still need to get could be completed in time for a finished product by December. We also learn that every song from the original Broadway production has made it into the film, including one original song (no word on who it's for, but apparently it's a powerful ballad about acceptance--my guess is the protaganist, Emma). 

And if you haven't already seen this gem from last weekend's 90th birthday tribute to Stephen Sondheim, you're missing out.

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Tune in to watch Meryl salute Stephen Sondheim

Need a little pick-me-up during quarantine? Tomorrow night, Meryl, along with a star-studded slew of other performers, will salute composer Stephen Sondheim for his 90th birthday. will be streaming the concert live at 7 pm Central:

This once-in-a-lifetime event, benefiting ASTEP (Artists Striving to End Poverty), will include songs of inspiration from the Sondheim catalog performed by many of the artists who delivered iconic turns in his musicals, including Meryl Streep, Bernadette Peters, Patti LuPone, Mandy Patinkin, Audra McDonald, Christine Baranski, Donna Murphy, Kristin Chenoweth, Sutton Foster, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Kelli O’Hara, Aaron Tveit, Maria Friedman, Katrina Lenk, Michael Cerveris, Brandon Uranowitz, Elizabeth Stanley, Chip Zien, Alexander Gemignani, Iain Armitage, Stephen Schwartz and, from the cast of Pacific Overtures at Classic Stage Company, Ann Harada, Austin Ku, Kelvin Moon Loh and Thom Sesma.

Streep of course starred as the Witch in the 2014 film version of Sondheim's musical, Into the Woods. But who knows if she'll be singing a song from that production. My husband Joe is a HUGE Sondheim fan, so the two of us will definitely be tuning in to find out!

Saturday, April 18, 2020

A quintet of new voices awaits

Things are very much on hold these days. Our jobs, our activities, the world. That certainly includes the work that takes place among filmmakers. Most, if not all, production has been shut down for film and television due to the Covid-19 pandemic, which certainly affects Meryl too. We already know that The Prom still has a good chance of reaching Netflix by the end of the year. I'm actually surprised that we don't have more news on Steven Soderbergh's HBO Max film, Let Them All Talk. I wouldn't be surprised if we get news this week that it's coming out before May, or that it's not being released until fall. Who knows.

With all this in mind, my mind wanders into the realm of possibility again. Meryl has no future projects "solidified" for production coming up over the next year. Five film roles stand out to me that would potentially be great biopic vehicles. Each of them include a lead character with a very distinct voice, which is Meryl's specialty (and something I personally love witnessing). The fun thing is, all five of the below roles actually have completed scripts, just waiting for that elusive green light. Some food for thought amidst these quiet days.

1. Maria Callas in Master Class

I start with this one because it might be the least likely to happen, knowing that it was probably only a "go" if Mike Nichols were still with us. It might be a stretch age-wise for even Meryl at this point as well. But you never know! She'd get to do a Greek-American accent.

2. Diana Nyad in Nyad

Nyad doesn't necessarily have an accent, per se, but she has a distinct speaking style, and often quotes her adoptive father, who was Greek-Egyptian. I've actually read this script, and Nyad speaks some Spanish in it as well. Knowing the Tokyo Olympics are now pushed to 2021, if this were to film at the end of this year, it would be a great film to release during all the competitive hype of The Games next summer.

3. Lilly Ledbetter in Lilly

I've posted about this in recent weeks. Meryl has backed director Rachel Feldman's script about the fair pay activist, and the film is currently listed as "in production" on IMDb. I continue to maintain that it would be super weird to me that if the role is for someone in Meryl's age demographic, that she wouldn't be the first choice to play her. She'd get to do an Alabaman accent.

4. Susan Boyle (no known title, possibly The Woman I Was Born to Be)

It's been almost seven years since rumors first swirled that Meryl was being courted to play the Scottish star made famous after her 2009 appearance on Britain's Got Talent. Those rumors were bolstered a bit more this past fall when it was revealed that the film, based on Boyle's 2010 memoir, was likely moving ahead within the next year. Boyle was quoted as saying that the woman selected to portray her was a "bit of a surprise," and that she had some say in the casting.

5. Anna Anderson in Duchess

This is likely going to be a new one for people. Anderson was an eccentric Prussian woman who fooled many people into believing she was actually the slain Romanov princes, the Grand Duchess Anastasia of Russia. This film has been in development hell since 2014, when it was announced that Glenn Close would be portraying the title character. It's to a be a dark comedy, during the time Anderson's husband sort of kidnaps her out of her court-ordered retirement home to take her on a honeymoon road trip through Virginia.

I doubt at this point it'll ever happen with Close, and I'm sure people will flip out if Meryl ever "stole" the role. Regardless, it'd be an interesting person to see on screen. I've read that Anderson (born
Franziska Schanzkowska) spoke with what was described by some hospital orderlies as "German with a Russian accent."