Bon Appetit with Oscar-nominees Meryl Streep & Stanley Tucci
Meryl Streep and Stanley Tucci at the New York press day for “Julie and Julia.”
Bon Appetit with Oscar-nominees Meryl Streep & Stanley Tucci
by Brad Balfour
Originally posted on February 23, 2010.
Looking very Julia Child-like, actor Meryl Streep, the latter half of Julie and Julia, stepped up to the press conference table in a long grey dress cut to mid-calf, wearing a string of pearls. Her screen husband, Stanley Tucci, wore a sport coat and a white open-collar shirt. At this event, held close to the original release of the film, Streep was her usual effervescent self, while Tucci performed as the snarky comic counterpoint. They both seem to have enjoyed playing these characters so much that it’s no surprise that her starring role in Julie and Julia recently won Streep a Golden Globe Award and another Oscar nomination. Tucci is also nominated this year for an Oscar for his harrowing portrayal of a serial killer in Peter Jackson’s The Lovely Bones.
Streep went on to get hosannas for It’s Complicated — another film in which the 60-year-old actress plays a vibrant woman who transcends the implication of her age — and for her voice work in the animated Fantastic Mr. Fox. However, it was the twists and turns provided by writer/director Nora Ephron in Julie and Julia that makes the intertwined stories of seminal French chef Julia Child and her modern fan Julie Powell the best of the bunch of 2009 Streep performances.
The wife of a diplomat in 1949 Paris, Julia Child wonders how to spend her days. So she tries hat making, bridge and Cordon Bleu cooking lessons. There she discovers her passion and eventually creates the landmark book Mastering the Art of French Cooking, leading to a career that in the 1950s and ’60s made her the first star chef on television. In 2002, writer Julie Powell (played by the endearing Amy Adams), about to turn 30 with an unpublished novel and working aimless jobs, decides to cook her way through Child’s book in a year and blog about it. With their sympathetic, loving husbands in tow, the film undulates between these two stories of women both learning to cook and finding success through it.
Steep has approached her career with a similar passion that was unexpected at first. From her first film role in, ironically, a film titled Julia (1977), Streep transferred her ample skills as a Yale Drama School alumna and has gone on to be nominated for the Academy Award an astonishing sixteen times, with two wins so far.
Because Julia Child was such a character, is there a challenge of not doing an impersonation that might veer into parody. Nora Ephron said that you did Julia for her one night after Shakespeare in the Park…
Meryl Streep: Well, I bet everybody in this room could do their version of Julia Child. To everybody that voice was so familiar, and then how do we know whether we’re doing her or Dan Aykroyd’s version of her? Everyone can pull that “Bon appetit!” out there. When Nora gave me the script, sometime over a year ago, I just thought that it was so, so beautifully written. It was an opportunity to not impersonate Julia Child, but to do a couple of things. For me, embodying her, or Julie Powell’s idea of her, which is 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 joi de vivre — [is to show her] undeniable sense of how to enjoy her life. Every room she walked into she made brighter. I mean… she was really something. I have a good deal of my father in me, which is another kind of sensibility, but I really, all my life, wanted to be more like my mother. So this is my little homage to that spirit. That’s more what I was doing than actually Julia Child.
Stanley Tucci: Well, it’s pretend.
How did you create this organic-looking relationship? What research did you both do before stepping into their skins?
Meryl Streep: Stanley and I are often on opposite sides in a very famous charades game every Christmas. We’ve been at each other’s throats like married people for a really long time, many years [laughs]. We knew each other in that way and I just sort of am in love with him from afar anyway with the totality of the man, from Big Night (1996) to his acting and directing work and in every way. So does everyone who knows him. He’s just real treat to work with. It wasn’t a tough job to imagine being in love with him.
Stanley Tucci: We have to go now. We are in a hotel. Thanks for coming [laughs]. For me it was easy, too. Probably like most people in the world, I too have been in love with Meryl Streep for many, many years. We’d done The Devil Wears Prada together, which was really fun, and we knew each other a bit socially before that and so for me it was awesome. It was incredibly easy. [To Streep] You also make it easy because you’re so comfortable. I’m always a little nervous when I start shooting and I was very nervous to play around with that.
Meryl Streep: Were you nervous when we started?
Stanley Tucci: I was so nervous. I was. You made me feel so comfortable. It was nice.
Meryl Streep: You know what Nora did — she did what she called a costume test, but it was really sort of introducing us to our world. She took us up to the rooms they built in the Paris apartment that she built in Queens, or wherever they were, and let us walk around in our clothes. In isolation in your Winnebago, you kind of have a hard time convincing yourself that you are who you say you are. When you walk into this world and the light comes in a certain way and the landscape of Paris — a photograph but still — and here’s the man of your dreams, it all came together before we had to actually [do it]. That was a big day.
Stanley Tucci: Yes, I remember. Those actual physical elements really helped a great deal.
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