American Film


Meryl Streep spoke at the AFI Conservatory on May 16, 2004, a month before she received the 32nd AFI Life Achievement Award. Widely considered the greatest actress of her generation, Streep had, at that time, been nominated for 13 Academy Awards, winning twice – for KRAMER VS. KRAMER (1979) and SOPHIE’S CHOICE (1982). In the years following her visit to the AFI Campus, she has received four more Oscar nominations and won for last year’s THE IRON LADY (2011).  Streep’s unmatched record of accomplishment makes the candid admission below all the more remarkable.

“Like every actor, at the end of a shoot I always think I’m never going to work again. I have no reason to think that there would be anything for a 54-year-old woman. You just think, ‘Well, that’s it. That’s the end.’ I started saying that to my husband when I was 40. I said, ‘Well, POSTCARDS FROM THE EDGE, that’s it. That’s the end. I mean, I’ll be 41 – I’ll be the age Bette Davis was when she did ALL ABOUT EVE.  Washed up.’ Now, today, I’m two years older than she was when she made WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE? I think it’s a miracle. 

Actually, it’s not just a miracle, it’s because now women are running things at some studios, and that makes a big difference. There are a lot of women trying to break through into the managerial positions and make decisions about money. It’s important because many of these stories are not interesting to men. They’re not. Take my story, just on the face of it: The Dilemma of the 54-Year-Old Woman – already they don’t want to see it! But the dilemma of the 54-year-old man who’s lost his wife in a plane crash and finds a young student who is sympathetic to him: ‘That’s a very interesting movie, we’ll go with that. That’s a green light.’ 

So the world’s not fair, we know that. The thing is, the sisters gotta do it for themselves.”

SOPHIE’S CHOICE (1982), starring Meryl Streep, is ranked 91st on AFI's 100 Years…100 Movies – 10th Anniversary Edition list of the greatest American films.

For more on SOPHIE'S CHOICE visit the AFI Catalog of Feature Films.