The other night I finished reading Her Again: Becoming Meryl Streep, Michael Schulman's biography of Streep and her rise to stardom. Suffice it to say that I really enjoyed it. Not unlike Karina Longworth's recent Anatomy of an Actor, this was one of the few attempts at a Streep biography that succeeded at effectively delving into the individual behind the Hollywood persona. Unlike Longworth, however, I didn't notice any mistakes or inaccuracies in Shulman's book.
Her Again covers Meryl's childhood up to Kramer vs Kramer. I had initially thought that this would be far to brief to effectively engage me. Schulman made VERY thorough use of Streep's 2010 commencement speech at Barnard to touch on how Meryl developed a character of "soft" girl, who deferred to boys. I pretty much have that speech memorized so it was easy to notice the excerpts.
It's been well covered how Meryl lost her boyfriend John Cazale to cancer in 1978, but in telling how the relationship developed between him and Meryl, we learn about it against the backdrop of Meryl becoming a reputable stage actress. First at Yale, then in New York. Something that was striking to me in Streep's background was how she never really wasn't good. The only rejection she got was when Dino De Laurentis called her ugly at her audition for King Kong (thank the lord she didn't get that role). Other than that and a few other small reservations, her prowess was pretty much universally praised.
More interesting was how at one point it was seemingly unlikely that Meryl would ever be a film actress. After much of her part was cut in her screen debut in Julia, she thought it wouldn't be for her. But her undeniable talent caught up with her the more that people in high places were able to see her act.
There are so many things I could say about this book but mostly I hope this post encourages anyone who doesn't already have a copy to do so. It's a wonderful insight into how what we see today was developed, trained, nurtured and ultimately perfected in the intense educational system that is New York theater.