Cinema’s grand dame cracks one of her warm, famous chortles during our recent interview, while entertaining the idea that her latest chameleonic role, as real-life opera diva Florence Foster Jenkins in the movie of the same name, could once again spur drag queens to emulate another one of her queer-loved characters. Then she laughs again as she fondly remembers locking lips with Allison Janney in 2002’s The Hours. Meanwhile, the mere mention of 1992’s Death Becomes Her Meryl unleashing a hearty roar. Another laugh, too, when she ponders how sexting and Snapchat are related.
Gay audiences know this laugh because they know Meryl Streep. They also know her compassion for LGBT issues, both as an extension of her queer-inclusive acting repertoire and more explicitly, when, during her Golden Globe acceptance speech in 2004, she slammed then-president George W. Bush by condemning his anti-gay marriage stance. They’ve learned the art of shade from her sharp, searing tongue in The Devil Wears Prada, and they live for all the campy one-liners in Death Becomes Her. And during Angels in America, HBO’s 2003 watershed miniseries about the AIDS crisis, they wept.
Now, Streep, 67, sheds her skin once again to portray Jenkins, one of the worst singers in the world. In the poignant dramedy Florence Foster Jenkins from Stephen Frears, director of The Queen, the esteemed once-in-a-lifetime luminary plays a wannabe opera singer with a voice so hysterically appalling her loyal husband (Hugh Grant) bribes critics into letting her think she can sing.
Here, during this rare and revealing one-on-one conversation with Streep, the three-time Academy Award winner and record holder for most Oscar nominations discusses why she regards Angels in America as one of the most important LGBT-themed films she’s done and how she feels about gay men performing Meryl monologues. And looking ahead, is the biopic queen ready to consider her own story becoming a feature-length film in the future? Streep laughs at the very thought, of course, but she’s not kidding when she says, “I hope I fade into oblivion.”
Dallas Voice: You’ve given the gay community a breadth of greatness over the last four decades. When you look back at your gay roles, which has been the most important to you? Streep: Oh, gosh. To me, I mean, Angels is such an important piece of history, and I felt really lucky to be part of that because I don’t think there was anything like it before. It really felt like being at the Democratic National Convention in the moment that Hillary shattered the glass ceiling — a big deal. The Hours was important, too. And of course I got to kiss Allison Janney, which was a perk!
Don’t tell Emma Thompson, who famously tongue-kissed you and gave you an orgasm in Angels. Yeah, right! The Hours was nothing like that!
I remember Emma talking about that kiss in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter. She’s very proud of it. She said she learned that “you have to use tongues even if you’re not a lesbian.” Oh yeah, you really do. [Laughs]
When you look back at that moment, how does your takeaway from that kissing scene compare to Emma’s? It’s just, you can’t take the baby from the bathwater. You can’t. It’s just the whole thing of it — that [orgasm scene] was just like the culmination of it. But what [screenwriter Tony Kushner] was doing was for a really mainstream HBO audience at that point — just groundbreaking. That hadn’t been on television. Movies, yes. But not television. So it was very cool.