IU President praises Meryl Streep

  • April 17, 2014

Editor's note: This story from The Bloomington Herald-Times is being published here as a courtesy for readers of IU in the News.

By MJ Slaby

Submit one question to ask Meryl Streep.

One of the most popular was about Oscar night: What type of pizza was it?

Streep smiled.

“That’s a question for Don Gummer. He ate my piece and his,” Streep said of her husband. “It was margarita -- boring.”

Even Indiana University President Michael McRobbie made sure to include Oscar night’s “most re-tweeted selfie” on a long list of Streep’s achievements.

And after Wednesday, an honorary doctorate of humane letters from IU is also on Streep’s award list. The actress visited campus for the degree ceremony as well as to be the speaker for the Jorgensen Guest Filmmaker Lecture series at the IU Auditorium. 

Streep had previously spoken at IU in 2010, and her husband, a sculptor, is an Indiana native and has art installations across the state, including on the Bloomington campus.

As the graduation procession marched on stage, the sound of trumpets was muffled by the cheers when Streep came on stage. Streep -- who has received 18 Academy Award nominations and 28 Golden Globe nominations, more than any other actor -- received two standing ovations before she even said a word to the audience.

And when she did, it was about her latest honor.

“It’s a big thrill for me,” she said.

Streep said she grew up watching “I Love Lucy” and other shows with female comedians, and mixed humor with advice as she answered questions from Barbara Klinger, a professor in communication and culture, followed by selected questions submitted on Twitter.

She said there was never one moment when she decided to act. As a girl, she thought she’d be an interpreter at the United Nations and later studied costume design.

“I thought it was vain to want to be an actress, and I thought I was too ugly to be an actress,” Streep said.

But Streep later realized acting was a way of translating people, and she’s always been interested in people.

“I like to mimic them,” she said “I’m nosy.”

Even now, she said she watches films every year and wonders how that actress did it. But there is no one way to prepare for a role, Streep said. Yet she said empathy is a way for people to feel what other people -- who are totally different from them -- feel. 

“It’s an underused quality that humans have,” Streep said.

Bloomington resident Lorraine Holmberg said she’s a longtime fan of Streep, who seems straightforward and has a great personality.

“She’s so down-to-earth,” Holmberg said. 

She said it’s amazing that Streep was able to balance the career she has with being a mother. And it’s Streep’s popularity that made all of the 3,200 tickets for the lecture disappear in about three hours, said Jon Vickers, director of the IU Cinema.

Near the end of the lecture, Klinger asked Streep for her advice to young performers.

“For young women, don’t worry so much about your weight, because girls spend too much time thinking about that,” Streep said. “And for young men -- and women -- what makes you strange is your strengths.”

Being different is good, she said.

“It’s what gets you noticed.”

See Meryl Streep’s films

Here are the remaining films in an ongoing IU Cinema partial retrospective of Meryl Streep’s work.

• 6:30 p.m. today, “Sophie’s Choice.”

• 6:30 p.m. April 27, “Music of the Heart.”

• 3 p.m. May 3, “Fantastic Mr. Fox.” 

Tickets are $3 each, except for “Fantastic Mr. Fox” where children 12 and younger get in free.

To buy tickets, go to the IU Auditorium Box Office from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday, the IU Cinema an hour before the screening or call 812-855-1103 ($10 service fee per order by phone).