Meryl Streep rarely minces words, but when asked last week about the issue of diversity, and the lack of it on the Berlinale jury of which she’s currently serving as president, the legendary performer hedged — and blundered into a rare controversy. To hear her remarks in context is to know that it wasn’t nearly as bad as the flippant "We’re all Africans, really" that circulated in the press and on social media. (Watch highlights from the jury’s press conference above, and catch the full version here.) But for Streep, usually so charming and eloquent that her awards-season acceptance speeches are a form of entertainment in their own right, her apparent unwillingness to confront the question head on still struck a sour note.
If you could even say that she was "down" in the first place, however, she bounced back quickly at her Berlinale master class, moderated by Peter Cowie, with yet another impassioned plea for Hollywood to support and include women in film and television, from the cast and crew to the highest executive echelons. (She slammed the lack of female directors when her most recent film, "Suffragette," world premiered at Telluride.)
Indeed, when it comes to carving out more space at the table for women, Streep is a woman of action as well as of words. Just as the "We’re all Africans" comment began to circulate, TOH! broke the news of her decision to fund The Writers Lab, a four-day retreat and development intensive for women screenwriters over the age of 40, for a second consecutive year.
Below, read a few highlights from Thelma Adams’ Vanity Fair report on Streep’s master class.
READ MORE: "Meryl Streep to Fund The Writers Lab, Supporting Women Screenwriters Over 40 (EXCLUSIVE)"
On women’s role in the film industry
"You have to make noise to have the room at the table. People
have to move aside and let you move your chair up to have our say. Our industry
will always depend on diversity in the boardroom, where the money is."
On (not) directing films
“I make a joke that some of my directors would say I already
have. But I’ve never, it’s two different muscles. The people that can do it,
it’s an extraordinary ability to dissociate some part of themselves."
On her longevity
"I always thought my career was over starting at 38. I’m 66 now. Every year after I reached 38, I would say ‘I
better take this role,’ but my husband was there to remind me there were more
roles to come. Still, I had no reason to imagine I would work past 40 — and then
you start playing hags and witches."
On how opportunities for older women have changed
"Bette Davis was I think 40 or 38 when she made ‘All About Eve.’ She made ‘What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?’ when she was 48, which is Sandra Bullock’s
age. We’ve entered a new time of possibility for women. There’s a vital,
interesting place for them on screen into middle and older age."