Meryl Streep Brings High-Wattage Stardom to the Tokyo International Film Festival

Image: ©2016 TIFF

Meryl Streep is undoubtedly the star attraction at this year’s Tokyo International Film Festival.

The 67-year-old actress is here to promote the film “Florence Foster Jenkins,” which she stars in alongside Hugh Grant and Simon Helberg. The opening movie at the festival, it is an eponymous biographical comedy-drama about a New York heiress who becomes an opera singer despite being tone deaf.

On the eve of the screening, Streep, whose has been nominated for more Academy Awards than any other actor or actress in history, sat in front of a packed room of journalists in Roppongi to answer a few questions about the film, being back in Japan, and her thoughts on the possibility of playing Hillary Clinton.

Meryl Streep on…

Coming back to Japan So happy to be back in the country. It seems there are double the amount of people than the last time I was here. It’s very exciting and a real honor that our film has been chosen to open this Festival. I’m proud to be representing it. I know [director] Stephen Frears and Hugh Grant wished they could have come, but unfortunately they have work commitments. I’m unemployed at the moment so I could do it [laughs].

Florence Foster Jenkins She couldn’t sing well, but loved music and used her wealth to support the musical life of New York City. Like many art patrons today she secretly wanted to be a singer. Her idiosyncrasies were all real. She only ate sandwiches and potato salad. She never cooked and didn’t even have a kitchen.

Singing lessons For films like “Mamma Mia” and “Into the Woods” I tried to learn arias correctly. I had a very good opera coach who taught me properly for around two months. Then in the last couple of weeks we kind of screwed around with him [laughs]. I would still love to be a singer, but I’m not good enough. I’ll keep trying.

Ageism in Hollywood I think in the past there has been ageism and so-called market driven decisions; however, recently these rules are being broken and thank goodness for that! In this film you have a 70-year-old lead character, which has never been seen in American film before. Of course I am playing someone much older than myself [laughs]. In “Mamma Mia” I was 58 and it was the most popular movie I ever made. I think these opportunities are being driven by TV. The long-form narrative has been especially good. It has proved there is an audience out there.

Watching her own films What I am always surprised by when I first see a movie I made is how good everyone else is. When you’re filming you are always working within the context of your own character. You subsequently only see the world through subjective eyes. I always enjoy the first screening as it’s a chance to see the film through the director’s eyes.

Her own marriage to American sculptor Don Gummer It works because of him and his good nature. He’s an artist and that helps. He understands my work as he has the same things going on in his. It would be hard to be married to someone who lived a very different life, someone who couldn’t comprehend the serial obsessions I have. I think Florence and St. Clair Bayfield (played by Hugh Grant) share something similar in their relationship.

The possibility of playing Hillary Clinton I was very flattered to hear that [Clinton had said she wanted Streep to play her if they ever made a movie about the potential future President of America]. I have to wait, though, because all of her great achievements are ahead of her.

The presidential election It can’t come soon enough. Everyone is burdened by it.

Returning for the Tokyo Olympics Maybe. Honestly speaking I’m not so good with big crowds. I think that’s the reason I’ve never been to an Olympics, even when it’s been in the US. I’m sure I’ll be back in Japan well before 2020 anyway.

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