Oscars frontrunner Meryl Streep described Margaret Thatcher, who she portrays in the Bafta-winning The Iron Lady, as a “feminist, whether she likes it or not” and labelled awards season “a sporting event … you haven’t signed up for”, as she picked up a lifetime achievement award at the Berlin film festival.
Streep, 62, said most people had more in common with Thatcher than they would care to admit, pointing out that the former premier was in favour of abortion and was well aware of the dangers of global warming before it was a fashionable topic.
“She would have been kicking and screaming the entire way to the feminist altar, but she was a feminist, whether she likes it or not,” added Streep, describing Thatcher as incredibly “brave” for her time. “A lot surprised me,” she said.
Streep, who is neck and neck with Screen Actors Guild (SAG) prize winner Viola Davis (The Help) in the race for the best actress Oscar following victories at the Golden Globes and Baftas, picked up an honorary Golden Bear at Berlin. Her portrayal of the former British prime minister brought her a record 17th Oscar nomination earlier this year – though she has actually won only twice, for 1979’s Kramer vs Kramer (best supporting actress) and 1982’s Sophie’s Choice (best actress). Both films are being screened in Berlin, along with The Iron Lady and four other Streep movies as part of the festival’s celebration of the New Jersey-born actor’s work.
“Suddenly you feel like you’re in a sporting event and you haven’t signed up for it,” Streep said of her current awards season buzz. “You did some work in a film that you’re proud of and you are hoping that people will go and see it, and suddenly you’re doing calisthenics to get ready for [the] Super Bowl.” She pointed out that many actors do not receive recognition for their strong work, singling out Margaret’s Anna Paquin and Tyrannosaur’s Olivia Colman as two who have been unlucky to miss out this year.
While Streep is lapping up most of the publicity in the runup to the Academy awards on 26 February at the Kodak Theatre in Los Angeles, she faces an uphill struggle to convert her Bafta and Golden Globe wins into Oscars glory. Davis’s SAG victory for leading female actor puts her in the driving seat because the winner of that award has gone on to take the Academy prize for best actress six times in the last eight years. The other nominees are Glenn Close for Albert Nobbs, Rooney Mara for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Michelle Williams for My Week with Marilyn.