Over the past week, two separate interviews with playwright Terrence McNally have suggested that Meryl is still attached to portray Maria Callas in the screen version of Master Class. As everyone knows, the late Mike Nichols was to be the director for the HBO project, but his unfortunate passing in November has left a big question mark about whether this will ultimately move forward. As early news of this story broke last summer, it was suggested that production was to begin in "early 2015." Obviously that could be any time now.
The first interview was posted on Crain's New York Business website last week. In it, there is a section where they list McNally's "dream actors" and he states "I thought I'd made my peace about not working with Meryl Streep. But she's doing the movie of Master Class." The writer of this article was kind enough to respond to an email I sent and assured me the interview took place about three weeks ago. I refuse to believe that McNally is somehow unaware of the passing of Mike Nichols. I also find it hard to believe that he would say something like this if he didn't believe or perhaps even "know" that the project was still going forward.
The second article is even better. McNally was evidently in Mexico around January 16th to commemorate a 100-show run of Master Class, and he appeared on a radio program to discuss it. In the interview (which is in Spanish of course) he again states that Meryl will be filming a screen version of the play. In case your browser does not automatically prompt you to translate the interview, McNally commented on his excitement about Streep's participation:
The writer Terrence McNally said he is pleased that the play "Master Class" will be filmed and even more that will star Oscar winner Meryl Streep, whom he admires, it was reported in the area of "Javier Poza in Formula ". "I think Meryl Streep is a goddess, what I can say, I always wanted to work with her, I'm very excited, no disrespect to any of the other great actresses who have played the role, I think she will be able to achieve to a wider audience. "Simply because it will be in cinema format, because if people want to see Diana Bracho theater has to travel to Mexico City or you prefer to see Patti LuPone would have to go to Broadway, so this is a great opportunity, I think Meryl is magnificent, I have no doubt, but in the end will be another interpretation of the role, "he said.
I mean, come on! Again, why would he say this if, like the rest of us, he doesn't really know the fate of this project? If he were unsure about whether filming will actually take place, wouldn't it be more likely that he'd say something (if anything at all about it) like "Streep was set to star in the screen version, but with the passing of Mike Nichols, it's been put on hold."?
A publicist at HBO (whose email I acquired with the help of my beloved, Joe) responded to my request about production dates by simply saying "there is no additional info." Perhaps I've already uncovered the info they're waiting to officially reveal...that the project is going forward with a new director at the helm.
Even if filming didn't start until mid to late February, it's absolutely reasonable that it could wrap in about six weeks, which would give Meryl plenty of time before principle photography is set to begin on Stephen Frears' Florence Foster Jenkins sometime in May. Incidentally, I came across a podcast interview Streep did with Empire Magazine where she discusses, among other things, the upcoming Frears film. The interview begins around 7:22.
My optimism for the life of Master Class has increased by a speck.