Meryl Streep, frequently hailed as one of our Greatest Living Actresses — she claims there’s no such thing — commands a near-encyclopedic mastery of accents.
Others may prepare for their roles by working with a dialect coach or listening to tapes of native speakers, but Streep pushes to the limit, as indicated in the conversation with author Andre Dubus III, below.
She not only learned Polish in order to play a troubled Holocaust survivor in Sophie’s Choice, she thought deeply about the way gender roles and period inform vocal presentation.
Clearly a lot of effort goes into the performances that leave British critics cheering Streep as she sails above playing fields littered with American actors who dared attempt English accents.
Her commitment to her craft is inadvertently to blame for popularizing the phrase “dingo’s got my baby.”
How refreshing that this versatile and accomplished actor is not precious about her skills. She gamely trotted them out for the comedian Ellen DeGeneres’ parlor game, above. Looks like fun, provided one’s not an introvert. Each player draws a card labelled with an accent, sticks it to the brim of a silly hat, then tried to guess the accent, based on her partner’s impromptu performance.
“Brooklyn?” Streep giggles when the Louisiana-born DeGeneres has a go at Boston.
Her stab at the Bronx shows off her improv chops far better than the most recent stunt DeGeneres roped her into.
(For what it’s worth, Ben Affleck also excelled at this game. The late Robin Williams was less convincing, but characteristically irrepressible, even when called upon to impersonate speakers of other races.)