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5 Things We Learned About Young Meryl Streep In New Biography

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Evening Standard/Her Again

She almost left her Oscar in the bathroom! 

In an exciting new biography about Meryl Streep, we discover the star's fascinating pre-Hollywood life. New Yorker staff writer Michael Schulman's Her Again takes us through Streep's teen years, her time studying Shakespearean theater at college, and then onto her break into stardom.

Her Again offers compelling insights into the world of young Streep, chronicling a formative decade for one of the world's greatest stars.

1. Streep's college classmate was Sigourney Weaver.

During her time at Yale School of Drama, Streep studied alongside Sigourney Weaver. They appeared in multiple stage productions together during their MFA programs at the esteemed Ivy League school. However, Weaver was apparently told she had no talent for acting, while Streep won acclaim from her teachers, scoring many glamorous lead roles in student productions.

Strangely enough, both later appeared (separately) in Woody Allen films: Streep starred in Manhattan, while Weaver played a non-speaking role in Annie Hall.

2. Dustin Hoffman was apparently a nightmare to work with on Kramer vs. Kramer.

Now one of the iconic movies of the 1970s, Kramer vs. Kramer was actually living hell for the 30-year-old Streep. Huffman was allegedly domineering when he worked opposite the rising star, slapping Streep hard before one of the film's important scenes in an attempt to get a more emotional response to it.

At the time of filming, both stars were going through difficult personal times: Hoffman's marriage was coming to a screeching halt and Streep was still in mourning for her recently deceased lover John Cazale.

3. Streep only agreed to star in the TV mini-series Holocaust--which she later won an Emmy for--to help pay for her lover John Cazale's medical expenses.

Streep was madly in love with John Cazale, an actor best known for his role in The Godfather, but their romance was tragically short-lived when Cazale was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. Streep agreed to star in the Holocaust television series to help with Cazale's mounting medical expenses.

She later won the Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Mini-Series for her performance, but declined attending the ceremony. Apparently, her Emmy arrived at her apartment in a box a few days later.

4. Streep accidently left her Oscar on the ladies' bathroom room at the Academy Awards.

In the madness following her win for Best Supporting Actress for Kramer vs. Kramer at the Oscars ceremony, Streep snuck into the ladies' room to catch her breath and have a moment alone. After collecting herself a few minutes later, she headed out but only to forgot one important thing: her Oscar statuette. Another woman called out, "Hey! Someone left an Oscar in here!" as Streep flew back in to collect her prized golden figure.

5. Streep rewrote parts her own character's dialogue in Kramer vs. Kramer.

Before they filmed the famous courtroom scenes, director Robert Benton approached Streep and said, "There's a speech you give in the courtroom. But I think it's a woman speech. I think it's a man trying to write a woman's speech." Streep was likewise unpersuaded by the original speech, which made Joanna appear unlikeable and selfish. So Benton asked her to rewrite it.

Joanna's famous "I'm his mother" speech had Streep's sympathetic touch and repainted the character in a much more favorable light. Schulman writes, "No longer ... aloof ... Joanna now had a vivid inner life, full of yearning and tenderness and regret." All thanks to Meryl!

You can purchase Her Again here or at your local book store (well, probably, because everyone loves Meryl).

Nathan Smith is an arts and culture writer. His writing has appeared in The Washington Post, The Atlantic, and Forbes. Nathan tweets at @nathansmithr.

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