In 2008 Meryl Streep co-starred with Amy Adams in the drama Doubt. Both were nominated for Oscars. They’re both in Julie & Julia, but never share a scene, because a of time span of 50 years.
Streep portrays the famous chef Julia Child, who became the first American woman to study at the famous Cordon Bleu cooking school in Paris, and popularized French cuisine in America by co-writing the cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking.
A half-century later, in 2002, New Yorker Julia Powell (Adams), a dissatisfied writer, decides to cook her way through Child’s culinary masterpiece – 524 recipes in 365 days – and chronicle her efforts in a blog.
In a role that will undoubtedly bring her another Oscar nomination, Meryl Streep talked about playing the icon of the culinary world at the press conference for the movie in New York.
We see Dan Aykroyd from Saturday Night Live do his famous Julie Child impersonation in this movie, for you was there a challenge between doing an impersonation that might veer off because she’s such a character?
I bet everybody could their version of Julie Child, her voice was so familiar and how do we know whether we’re doing her or we’re doing Dan Aykroyd’s version of her?
When Nora [Ephron, the screenwriter/director] gave me the script about a year ago, I thought it was so beautifully written and I thought it was an opportunity not to impersonate Julia Child.
For me, embodying her, or Julie Powell’s vision of her, which is really 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, undeniable sense of how to enjoy her life, every room that she walked into she made brighter, and I have a good deal of my father in me, which is another kind of sensibility.
And so this is my homage to that spirit; that’s more what I was doing than Julia Child.
I don’t know whether you met Julia Child, but if you could have met her and Paul what would you have liked to have asked them?
Julia was so vivid and she left behind such an articulate trail of her journey in the book that she wrote, and in her cookbooks, her voice comes through, but I would have loved to have heard Paul’s voice, because he was a great storyteller and his interests ranged across a wide variety of topics and I’m sure he was a really interesting person to hear.
Also, there are so many mysteries in Julia and Paul Child’s story, now that we know their involvement in some kind of espionage for the early precursor to the CIA, I’d like to know what they did and how did she write this 700-page cookbook in between collecting secrets from the Soviets, or whatever she did.
Can you talk about Nora Ephron’s ability to weave humor into her movies?
Her deftness as a writer is a great gift, how secretly she sneaks in what she’s talking about. There’s subtlety in the humor, so that the film is very, very funny but it doesn’t set out to have any jokes. You laugh with these people, but you feel for them as well, and it’s a great thing she was able to do.
Julia Child went through many different challenges started out from not being accepted by the French cooks and it took her awhile to get her book published – starting out as an actor what were some of the challenges you went through?
My challenge was committing to acting and thinking it was a serious enough thing to do with my life. I thought it was silly and vain, even though it was the most fun thing that I’ve ever done, and it remains that. I remember thinking, when somebody said, ‘What do you do?’ I said, ‘I’m an actor,’ and I had committed.
You’re a box-office favorite now; does that change your choices?
I seem to have more choices in the last five years than I had in the previous five years, and I really don’t know why that is.
Part of it I think 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.
And so I’m sure that they have had more to do with that than I have.
I just take it that every day is a miracle and I’m really glad that I’m still working, and that people are not sick of me, when even I’m sick of me a little bit.