Meryl Streep On Playing 'The Giver's Chief Elder: "I Like to Be Boss"
At this point in her career, it seems impossible that there's a character type out there that Meryl Streep hasn't played. Heartbroken mother, strict Catholic school principal, music-loving Greek hotel owner; you name it, she's done it, and probably won an Oscar for it. Yet in The Giver , Streep plays a person her fans have never quite seen before, a villainous leader whose misguided attempts to keep her community safe cause the citizens nearly irreparable harm. At the film's New York press conference on Tuesday, Streep was asked why she chose to take on this new type of role — and her answer is just as perfect as you'd expect.
"Well, I like to be boss," she said, with a fantastic "sorry, not sorry"-esque shrug of her shoulders. "So that was a good thing."
And boss she is; in The Giver, the Chief Elder is the ruler of the entire community, the enforcer of "Sameness" and one of the only people willing and able to stand up to the Giver (Jeff Bridges). Streep's played powerful characters before, of course (Miranda Priestly, anyone?) but rarely ones as clearly villainous as the Chief Elder, or as complicated.
"It's an interesting thing to play people who have suppressed emotion," she said at the conference, laughing as she added, "I felt that the Chief Elder didn't take her medication as well on certain days... I think that's the point of the book — you can't keep things in, you can't suppress the things that make us human, and it's pointless to try."
Mostly, though, Streep said, choosing to take on the role came down to two factors: who her co-star would be, and how much fun she could have. As for the first, once she learned that she would be acting alongside Jeff Bridges, she immediately came on-board.
"I'd always wanted to work with this gentleman my entire career," she said, pointing to Bridges, "but I never got the chance. Somehow he eluded me. So that was a big, big part of the draw."
And as for the fun?
"What, as opposed to punishing myself and the rest of my career?" Streep asked, laughing. "I certainly am having fun with the things that I've been offered. I'm so fortunate, and I haven't quite figured that out. I'm really happy to have been included in this amazing group."
The next projects she's taking on, the equally-exciting Into the Woods and Ricki and the Flash among them, appear to have been just as fun to make — how the audience responds, though, is a different matter.
"For the next things, God knows how they'll turn out," Streep said. "But I have hope."
Image: The Weinstein Company