I am always amazed at the enormous talent that Meryl Streep displays in every role that she undertakes. She is an actress who can do nothing wrong as is evident by the countless awards that have been bestowed upon her. She can be dramatic, she can be funny and she can dance and sing and also sing off key if the role requires it of her. Her latest turn as Florence Foster Jenkins, based upon the true life story of a woman who’s every wish was to be an opera singer and who had the money to indulge in it even though she did not have the voice. She lived in a world that was disillusional and she was surrounded by people who fed her fantasy and she had the money to buy venues in which to display her voice. Meryl who has an amazing voice had sing off key and does it without obvious effort. And turns in another award winning performance.
How does one prepare to sing off key, especially since you have perfect pitch?
Meryl Streep: Well, I did take it very seriously as did she. I was making Ricki and the Flash (another movie of a woman who wanted to fulfill her dream of being a rock star) and I said to Audra McDonald (also in the film) Audra I have to sing all these arias, and she said, you have to go to my teacher, Arthur Levy, he will lead you this material, and so studied with him, he probably doesn’t want anyone to know that now. But he was great; he was very compassionate, and he’s a funny man, he has a big sort of understanding of the line that we were trying to achieve. Basically what he did was to teach me the arias, to sing them as well as I could. Then it was up to me at the moment of filming to move it off the way I wanted or whatever I felt the audience was feeling so that I knew what it was supposed to be. Then I could just aim sort of quarter tone under or over or around.
Florence Foster Jenkins was loved despite of her off-key singing, why do you think that was?
Meryl Streep: In my mind, she was so popular in her day and caused such a sensation, not because she just sang badly. We all have people in our families who sing badly. But she sang badly with so much hope and with so much joy and with approximation at the thing she was aspiring to be and you can see shreds of it in her work. So, I think that is why the people loved her. They loved the aspiration and they loved the hope in her voice’ And then when it went inevitably off track, they loved the mistakes too. It was these qualities that attracted me to the role. There was the humanity of the woman, wanting to do the thing that she desired to do so much and just did it whether she was good at it or not. We all have things like that that we pursue and that we pursue in spite of everyone saying you are no good at golf, but you still go after it.
You have received so many accolades and awards for your work, but are you always satisfied with your performance, or are you your own worst critic?
Meryl Streep: I am always impatient with myself when I work. I want to keep going, let’s go, and I like people who are fast on their feet and I don’t like long set ups and I don’t like green screen, putting dots on your face all that stuff is boring. But, obviously when I see the film I wish I had more time to feel that out or I wish that they hadn’t cut that off right there. Sometimes things are truncated after the talking stops and sometimes they’ll cut just when the talking stops, so what can you do?
Growing up what music did you listen to?
When I was a teenager the singers that I loved and still do. I think everyone is like that, you don’t lose your musical crushes, they are kind of deep inside you whatever that music was when you were young and that music moved you. For me it was Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, The Beatles and Bob Dylan had a big effect on me as did Annie Lennox and Bruce Springsteen. They were all very big in my younger days.
Noel de Souza is a gold card member of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. Earlier this year, he was nominated for The Excellence In Media award by the publicists guild of America. His love for writing blossomed at an early age. Moving to America he began writing about Hollywood. Besides his journalistic activities, de Souza has worked on both sides od the camera in Hollywood prompting him to be listed as one of the top twenty influential Indians in Hollywood. The Hollywood Foreign Press Association is the organizations that celebrates the best in cinema and television in Hollywood and abroad by honoring them with the Golden Globes, he has been an active part in the production of the show. He is a member of The Television Academy and a blue ribbon panel member. He has written for around the globe, Amica in Germany, Haaretz in Israel and Magyar in Hungary among many others.