Meryl Streep Image Credit: Supplied

With her most recent Oscar nod for The Post, Meryl Streep has broken her own record for earning the most acting nominations, and in one simple stroke, the Hollywood powerhouse also reaffirmed she’s no reluctant activist. Not that there was ever any doubt.

“I am honoured beyond measure by this nomination for a film I love, a film that stands in defence of press freedom, and inclusion of women’s voices in the movement of history…,” came Streep’s subtle, yet fierce response to her Best Actress nomination for playing the audacious Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham who had the gumption to challenge a US presidency.

With this one statement, the 68-year-old not only voiced her criticism for US President Donald Trump’s tumultuous relationship with the fourth estate, but the ardent advocate of Hollywood’s Time’s Up movement also used the momentum to push the envelope further in the fight against gender discrimination.

 I am honoured beyond measure by this nomination for a film I love, a film that stands in defence of press freedom, and inclusion of women’s voices in the movement of history… Proud of the film, and all her filmmakers. Thank you from a full heart.”

 - Meryl Streep | On her Academy Award nomination for best actress for ‘The Post’ 

Streep’s defiant stance is one that will oft be repeated in a career spanning four decades. Stories about her tenacity to challenge the Hollywood norm are the stuff of legends. It is reported that the actress once famously lost out on playing Evita in director Oliver Stone’s 1989 adaptation over a salary dispute. Another such tale alludes to her Oscar-nominated film The Deer Hunter (1978), where the actress, who was only a year into her Hollywood career, threatened to quit when the filmmakers decided to drop her partner John Cazale from the project after he was diagnosed with cancer.

Her unbridled triumph on-screen with notable films such as Kramer vs Kramer, Sophie’s Choice, The Iron Lady and The Devil Wears Prada that saw her slip into varying characters with finesse, garnering enough trophies on her mantle to earn her the accolade of being called the “best actor of her generation.”

Awards Streep has won in her lifetime   
Awards she has been nominated for
Is Streep’s estimated net worth

Winning three out of 21 Oscar nods and eight out of 31 Golden Globe nominations (plus a Cecil B. DeMille Award), Streep has often used her strong standing in the industry to champion the underdog.

As the #MeToo movement took hold in Hollywood last October in wake of producer Harvey Weinstein’s fall from grace, Streep stepped up to lend her voice to the growing tales of harassment, baring details of her own abuse at the Committee to Protect Journalists 27th Annual International Press Freedom Awards in New York City last November.

“I was lucky because my instincts served me well. In one instance, I played dead and waited until the blows stopped, watching. People say you do, from about 50 feet above, as I was beaten,” she stated at the time, choosing not to name her attacker.

Her fiery speech at last year’s Golden Globes saw Hollywood’s elite come out in support of her leftist political stance.

In a note penned by Robert DeNiro, the actor wrote to Streep saying: “You, with your elegance and intelligence, have a powerful voice — one that inspires others to speak up as they should so their voices will be heard too. It is so important that we ALL speak up.”

Director Judd Apatow added: “We need a lot of people as clear and brave as Meryl Streep if we are to fight the corruption, bad ideas and lies…”

Whether or not Streep wins her fourth Oscar at the Academy Awards ceremony in Los Angeles on March 4, it is clear that the actress is far from shutting the door on politicking. Case in point was a recent interview with The New York Times that saw her cheekily deviate from promoting The Post to slip in: “I do think if the world is going to go on, we have to find out a way to work together, and know that it’s better for men if they respect us deeply as equals.”

Career highlights

With close to 70 films, three Oscar wins and 21 nominations, here’s a look at Meryl Streep’s most notable roles spanning four decades:

Kramer vs. Kramer (1979)
The film that won Streep her first Oscar saw the actress play Joanna Kramer, a wife who walks out on her husband and child in a bid to find herself, only to return a year later to reclaim her son. It is said the makers rewrote Streep’s character after she stressed Joanna comes across as “too evil”.

Sophie’s Choice (1982)
Streep took home her second Oscar as Best Actress for her sensitive portrayal of Sophie Zawistowski, a Polish immigrant who is forced to make an unthinkable choice during the Second World War in Nazi Germany.

Out of Africa (1985)
Produced by Sydney Pollack, Streep plays Danish author Karen Blixen who chronicles her life in Nairobi, in British East Africa. It is said Streep changed her accent for the film to sound Danish.

Postcards from the Edge (1990)
Streep plays Suzanne Vale, a Hollywood actress who trying her second innings in the industry after a stint in rehab for her drug addiction. Streep’s sass was evident all through the film’s final moments where she dances to a country western track.

The Bridges of Madison County (1995)
Her role as Francesca Johnson to Clint Eastwood’s Robert Kincaid, continues to be one of Hollywood’s eternal love story.

The Devil Wears Prada (2006)
Her versatility as an actress shone through her subtle, almost understated moments as the vicious fashion magazine editor, Miranda Priestly.

The Iron Lady (2011)
The film won Streep her 17th Oscar nomination and her third win as Best Actress, playing the Iron Lady, former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Streep’s poignant portrayal of the prodigal woman is one of her finest moments in cinema.

Who is Meryl Streep?

Mary Louise Streep was born on June 22, 1949 in Summit, New Jersey. Her father was of German and Swiss ancestry, with a lineage tracing back to Loffenau in Germany, from where her second greatgrandfather immigrated to the United States. Her mother had English, German, and Irish ancestry.

Meryl is a combination of her first and middle name.

At the age of 12, Streep was selected to sing at a school recital, which led to her having opera lessons from Estelle Liebling. She also demonstrated an early ability to mimic accents and to quickly memorize her lines.

She received her BA cum laude in 1971, before applying for an MFA from the Yale School of Drama. At Yale, she supplemented her course fees by waitressing and typing. She was a waitress at the Hotel Somerset in Somerville, New Jersey.

She also appeared in over a dozen stage productions a year, which led to her getting overworked and developing ulcers.

Streep made her professional stage debut in The Playboy of Seville in 1971, and went on to receive a 1976 Tony Award nomination for Best Featured Actress in a Play for A Memory of Two Mondays/27 Wagons Full of Cotton. She made her screen debut in the 1977 television film The Deadliest Season, and made her film debut later that same year in Julia.

In 1979, her portrayal of a woman who abandons her family only to fight for custody of her son later in Kramer vs. Kramer brought Streep her first Academy Award for best supporting actress.

At the Governor’s Ball held after the 1980 Academy Awards ceremony, Streep accidentally left behind her just-claimed Oscar for Kramer vs Kramer in the ladies’ room.

Early in her career, Streep received a letter from Bette Davis, one of the greatest American movie actresses of all time, who told her that she was her successor as the premier American actress.

By the late 1980s, Streep’s reputation as a brilliant technical actress almost backfired – she was typically associated with serious films and critics complained that her performances lacked compassion.

A deliberate attempt to change her popular image led to Streep appearing in a handful of comedies. Her most successful film of the 1990s was the romance The Bridges of Madison County.

In 2003, the French government made Streep a Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters. US President Barack Obama awarded her the 2010 National Medal of Arts and in 2014 the Presidential Medal of Freedom. In November 2016, Streep was selected as the recipient of the Golden Globe Cecil B. DeMille Award at the 74th Golden Globe Awards.

One of her most famous challenges was when she learnt to play the violin by practicing for 6 hours a day for 8 weeks for the movie “The Music of the Heart”.

Streep is married to sculptor Don Gummer and has four children.

- Compiled from agencies

Streep’s Oscar nominations: The full list

The Deer Hunter (1978)

Kramer vs. Kramer (1979) - pictured with her first Oscar

The French Lieutenant’s Woman (1981)

Sophie’s Choice (1982)

Silkwood (1983)

Out of Africa (1985)

Ironweed (1987)

Evil Angels (1988)

Postcards from the Edge (1990)

The Bridges of Madison County (1995)

One True Thing (1998)

Music of the Heart (1999)

Adaptation (2002)

The Devil Wears Prada (2006)

Doubt (2008)

Julie & Julia (2009)

The Iron Lady (2011)

August: Osage County (2013)

Into the Woods (2014)

Florence Foster Jenkins (2016)

The Post (2017)

Streep went on to win theAcademy Award in these films