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February 23, 2010.
Looking very Julia
Child-like, actor Meryl Streep, the latter half of Julie and Julia,
stepped up to the press conference table in a long grey dress cut to
mid-calf, wearing a string of pearls. Her screen husband, Stanley Tucci,
wore a sport coat and a white open-collar shirt. At this event, held
close to the original release of the film, Streep was her usual
effervescent self, while Tucci performed as the snarky comic
counterpoint. They both seem to have enjoyed playing these characters so
much that it's no surprise that her starring role in Julie and Julia
recently won Streep a Golden Globe Award and another Oscar nomination.
Tucci is also nominated this year for an Oscar for his harrowing
portrayal of a serial killer in Peter Jackson’s The Lovely Bones.
Streep went on to
get hosannas for It's Complicated — another film in which the
60-year-old actress plays a vibrant woman who transcends the implication
of her age — and for her voice work in the animated Fantastic Mr.
Fox. However, it was the twists and turns provided by
writer/director Nora Ephron in Julie and Julia that makes
the intertwined stories of seminal French chef Julia Child and her
modern fan Julie Powell the best of the bunch of 2009 Streep
The wife of a
diplomat in 1949 Paris, Julia Child wonders how to spend her days. So
she tries hat making, bridge and Cordon Bleu cooking lessons.
There she discovers her passion and eventually creates the landmark book
Mastering the Art of French Cooking, leading to a career that in
the 1950s and '60s made her the first star chef on television. In 2002,
writer Julie Powell (played by the endearing Amy Adams), about to
turn 30 with an unpublished novel and working aimless jobs, decides to
cook her way through Child's book in a year and blog about it. With
their sympathetic, loving husbands in tow, the film undulates between
these two stories of women both learning to cook and finding success
approached her career with a similar passion that was unexpected at
first. From her first film role in, ironically, a film titled Julia
(1977), Streep transferred her ample skills as a Yale Drama School
alumna and has gone on to be nominated for the Academy Award an
astonishing sixteen times, with two wins so far.
Child was such a character, is there a challenge of not doing an
impersonation that might veer into parody. Nora Ephron said that you did
Julia for her one night after Shakespeare in the Park...
Meryl Streep: Well, I bet everybody in this room could do their
version of Julia Child. To everybody that voice was so familiar, and
then how do we know whether we're doing her or Dan Aykroyd's version of
her? Everyone can pull that “Bon appetit!” out there. When Nora
gave me the script, sometime over a year ago, I just thought that it was
so, so beautifully written. It was an opportunity to not impersonate
Julia Child, but to do a couple of things. For me, embodying her, or
Julie Powell's idea of her, which is what I'm doing — I'm doing an
idealized version, but I was also doing an idealized version of my
mother who had a similar joi de vivre — [is to show her]
undeniable sense of how to enjoy her life. Every room she walked into
she made brighter. I mean… she was really something. I have a good deal
of my father in me, which is another kind of sensibility, but I really,
all my life, wanted to be more like my mother. So this is my little
homage to that spirit. That's more what I was doing than actually Julia
romance between Julia and Paul is so dynamic; it's touching to see what
Well, it's pretend.
How did you create this organic-looking relationship? What research
did you both do before stepping into their skins?
Meryl Streep: Stanley and I are often on opposite sides in a very
famous charades game every Christmas. We've been at each other's throats
like married people for a really long time, many years [laughs].
We knew each other in that way and I just sort of am in love with him
from afar anyway with the totality of the man, from Big Night
(1996) to his acting and directing work and in every way. So does
everyone who knows him. He's just real treat to work with. It wasn't a
tough job to imagine being in love with him.
Stanley Tucci: We have to go now. We are in a hotel. Thanks for
coming [laughs]. For me it was easy, too. Probably like most
people in the world, I too have been in love with Meryl Streep for many,
many years. We'd done The Devil Wears Prada together, which was
really fun, and we knew each other a bit socially before that and so for
me it was awesome. It was incredibly easy. [To Streep] You also
make it easy because you're so comfortable. I'm always a little nervous
when I start shooting and I was very nervous to play around with that.
Meryl Streep: Were you nervous when we started?
Stanley Tucci: I was so nervous. I was. You made me feel so
comfortable. It was nice.
Meryl Streep: You know what Nora did — she did what she called a
costume test, but it was really sort of introducing us to our world. She
took us up to the rooms they built in the Paris apartment that she built
in Queens, or wherever they were, and let us walk around in our clothes.
In isolation in your Winnebago, you kind of have a hard time convincing
yourself that you are who you say you are. When you walk into this world
and the light comes in a certain way and the landscape of Paris — a
photograph but still — and here's the man of your dreams, it all came
together before we had to actually [do it]. That was a big day.
Stanley Tucci: Yes, I remember. Those actual physical elements
really helped a great deal.
would you have asked the people you played in this film if you had the
Stanley Tucci: I'd like to ask them how they lived so long eating
what they ate. I'm convinced that they both had two livers. I'd just be
curious. I can't say that I know what I would've asked them, but what I
would've liked to have done is watch the interaction between the two of
them in that little kitchen — either in Paris or in Boston — because to
me that was the most interesting thing. When you see that kitchen — we
recreated it in the film — it was so casual and really very intimate. I
would've just liked to have watched that, watch them put together a
meal. That would've been a great thing.
Meryl Streep: I would agree. I would've loved to have heard
Paul's voice. Julia's is so vivid and she left behind such an articulate
trail of her journey in the book that she wrote with Alex [Prud'Homme]
and in My Life In France and in her cookbooks. Her voice really
comes through. I would've loved to have heard him because he was a great
storyteller and his interests ranged across a wide variety of topics,
and I'm sure that he was sort of a really interesting person to hear.
went through so many challenges in the beginning of her career. What
were some of the challenges that you both went through as you started
out as actors?
Meryl Streep: Well, my challenge was committing to acting,
thinking that it was a serious enough thing to do with my life. What are
you going to do with your one wild life? I just didn't think it was… I
don't know. I thought it was sort of silly and vain, acting even though
it was the most fun [thing] that I had ever done. It remains that, ergo
it can't be good for me. It was just deciding. I remember thinking the
first time that someone said, “Well, what do you?” and I said, “I'm a…
I'm an, uh, actor.” Then I had committed, I realized, but it took a long
Stanley Tucci: I took it too seriously at first and it took me a
long time to understand that you have to be serious about what you do
but you mustn't take yourself seriously. That way you'll be happier and
ultimately you'll be more successful. You'll be better at what you do. I
think the challenges for me at the beginning… Well, it was much easier
after I lost my hair, to tell you the truth. I started to work
constantly once I started to lose it. So I'm thinking about losing the
hair on my whole body. [jokes] That's disgusting.
Meryl Streep: That's going to be repeated everywhere now and come
back to haunt you.
were some of the best bonding experiences you had over food either on
this movie or elsewhere, and if you could hang out with any character
you've ever played who it would be and why?
Meryl Streep: Well, we bonded. I mean, I knew Stanley, but I
thought, “Well, I might as well invite him over for dinner.” So he came
and I decided I'd make blanquette de veau, and it was not quite
done when he arrived, and so he came in and completely took over in the
Stanley Tucci: It's untrue.
Meryl Streep: It's totally true.
Stanley Tucci: We tried to do it together, but we'd had too much
wine. “Why are you doing that way?”
“Is that what you're going to do?” Seriously, I'm just asking.
“Why do you hold it that way?”
“Can I just… it's okay. I can show you an easier way.” Boom. It was out
of my hands. He's just a great chef and I'm a cook.
Stanley Tucci: You're very kind. It was a fun night, but we
didn't eat until about 11 or so. My wife Kate came and said, “What time
are we eating?” I said, “I think we'll be done cooking about eight.” She
[Streep] goes, “We're not going to make that.”
were your favorite food memories, chefs and restaurants?
Great, great tomatoes, but my mother [had] The I Hate to Cook Book
cookbook [by] Peg Bracken. Do you remember that? No. Not in your family.
I remember when I was ten going up to a little girl's house up the
street and she and her mother were sitting at the table and they were
doing something to tennis balls and I said, “What are you doing?” They
said, “Making mashed potatoes.” I said, “What do you mean? Mashed
potatoes come in a box.” They were potatoes. They were peeling potatoes
and I had never seen a real potato. So my mother's motto was, “If it's
not done in 20 minutes, it's not dinner.” She had a lot that she wanted
to do and cooking wasn't one of those things. My food memories, I mean I
think Julia Child really did change the whole [thing]. I recently found
a knitting book at the bottom of a knitting bag from 1967. It wasn't a
knitting book. It was a magazine that had some knitting patterns in it
and it was called Women's Day, from 1967. It's filled with
recipes and food ads and it is all Del Monte [brand] canned peas, Del
Monte canned corn, Del Monte peas and corn, green beans. All the recipes
are, like, “Take ground meat and put in artificial mashed potatoes,
layer it, top it off with tomato sauce out of a jar, put it in the oven
and presto it's dinner.” This is how we ate. People forget. Julia
changed the way that people thought about cooking. It was great.
If you had the opportunity, what chefs would you like to have over,
and what would you like them to cook for you?
Meryl Streep: Dan Barber [from the Manhattan restaurant
And what would you have him make for you?
Meryl Streep: Anything that was fresh up there.
Stanley Tucci: My grandmother. She was an extraordinary cook. But
Mario Batali, I think in a lot of ways… yeah, Mario.
Did you do your own Julia imitation?
Stanley Tucci: No. I never did. I would've been fired.
Meryl, you said
that you had a hard time committing to acting. What were some of the
other things you were taking seriously at that time?
Well, when I was in drama school I was obsessed with Jonathan Schell's
book The Fate of the Earth. I've always been interested in
environmental issues and I still am. That seems to me be worthwhile
work. But over time I understood — just what I think from other people's
work — we need art as much as we need good works. You need it like food.
You need it for inspiration to keep going on the days that you're low.
We need each other in that way. So, yeah, I've reconciled myself to the
fact that you can make a contribution. I've even reconciled myself to
the fact that even my children might choose this profession. They seem
to be, and now that's okay. Really, I was pushing the sciences but it's
just not going to happen.
how hard or easy has it been to stay focused with all the success you've
had in recent years?
You know what, I didn't think about it. I really didn't think about
either sustaining my career or my voice. I haven't really thought about
it. I'm like every other actor — I've been unemployed more than I've
been working because of the nature of what we do. We just have a lot of
downtime, even though it seems like you're working, working, working. So
I've never gotten used to either being working or being out of work.
It's a very uncertain life and there are only a few people that would
sign up to be married to someone else doing that. My husband is an
artist and he understands that, the vagaries of the job. I just take it
as every day is a miracle and I'm really glad that I'm still working and
that people are not sick of me. Even I'm sick of me a little bit.
You're now a
box office star — has that changed anything about the choices that you
I seem to have more choices in the last five years, [than] in the
previous five years, maybe. I really don't know why that is, but part of
me thinks it has to do with the fact that there are more women
executives making decisions because everything starts with what gets
made and where the money comes from. I'm sure that they've had more to
do with that really than I have.
How do you deal
with all the accolades?
Meryl Streep: Well, fortunately, the blogosphere supplies you
with the other side of all the accolades [laughs]. Just sign on
and get humble.
CLICK ON THIS LINK TO SEE WHAT MERYL STREEP HAD TO
SAY TO US IN 2007!
HERE TO SEE WHAT STANLEY TUCCI HAD TO SAY TO US IN 2013!
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