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Meryl Streep

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Arguably the best actress working in American films today, this brilliant performer has mastered to an almost uncanny degree the skill of transforming herself into whatever character she portrays. She has accomplished this at the expense of establishing a clearly defined star persona, but her chameleonlike ability makes her the envy of her contemporaries. Setting her sights while just a schoolgirl, Streep studied theater arts at Vassar, Dartmouth, and Yale, appearing in an astounding number of productions (more than 40, according to some estimates) during her college and graduate school years. She descended upon the New York theatrical community like a whirlwind, first in off-Broadway shows (including those of legendary producer Joe Papp). She made her screen debut in Julia (1977), taking a showy supporting role in that Jane Fonda starrer, and made a strong impression the same year in the TV movie The Deadliest Season and the highly rated miniseries "Holocaust" (1978, for which she won an Emmy). She then took the nominal female lead in The Deer Hunter (also 1978), picking up the first of nine Academy Award nominations. In 1979 she appeared in three films-The Seduction of Joe Tynan (her first "light" part, as a smart Southern belle), Manhattan and Kramer vs. Kramer (winning her first Oscar, for Best Supporting Actress, as Dustin Hoffman's troubled spouse)-firmly establishing herself with moviegoers. Her rise to fame was nothing short of meteoric. One stunning performance followed another. Streep seldom appeared in heavy makeup, yet she looked different in each picture-and sounded different, too, going to great pains to master foreign accents and regional dialects. She won a second Oscar, now as Best Actress, for her portrayal of a Polish woman who survives Nazi persecution during World War 2 in Sophie's Choice (1982), and was nominated for her turns in The French Lieutenant's Woman (1981, appearing as both an actress and the Victorian character she plays), Silkwood (1983, her first workingclass character, a doomed factory employee), Out of Africa (1985, as Danish author Karen Blixen), Ironweed (1987, as Jack Nicholson's boozing partner and fellow vagrant), A Cry in the Dark (1988, as an Australian woman accused of murdering her own baby), and Postcards From the Edge (1990, as the weary actress overshadowed by her overbearing mother).
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