Since her first Oscar nomination for “The Deer Hunter” in 1979, Meryl Streep has been nominated more years than not. She has won three statuettes, but she has also been singled out for playing, among others: an intimidating magazine editor, a brazen whistleblower, an actress looking for a comeback, a nun with an ax to grind and Julia Child. Her dominance is irrefutable (regardless of what one vocal critic in the White House may have tweeted).

Top five actors with the most Oscar acting nominations

0

5

10

15

20

Meryl Streep

20

12

Katharine Hepburn

12

Jack Nicholson

10

Bette Davis

10

Laurence Olivier

Top five actors with the most Oscar acting nominations

0

5

10

15

20

Meryl Streep

20

12

Katharine Hepburn

12

Jack Nicholson

10

Bette Davis

Laurence Olivier

10

This year Streep is in contention again — for the 20th time — for playing a tone-deaf socialite hellbent on making it as a singer in “Florence Foster Jenkins.” So how do we account for so many successes over nearly four decades in showbiz? There are a few different factors.

Remember that there’s no single way to be strong

Show them who’s in charge

More

vulnerable

More stoic

Jane Adler

It’s Complicated (2009)

Self-made pastry chef with a to-die-for house gets her groove back while exacting revenge on the woman who stole her husband.

Gail Hartman

The River Wild (1994)

Sporty river guide shows homicidal baddies who’s boss when they make the mistake of threatening

her family.

Margaret Thatcher

The Iron Lady (2012)

 

Ambitious trailblazer punches her way through systemic chauvinism to become longest-serving prime minister in

Britain’s history.

 

 

Miranda Priestly

 

The Devil Wears Prada (2007)

 

Fearsome fashion magazine editor shows aspiring journalist how to intimidate her enemies — and friends! — using nothing but a stern whisper and slightly

pursed lips.

More vulnerable roles

Jane Adler

Gail Hartman

It’s Complicated (2009)

The River Wild (1994)

Self-made pastry chef with a to-die-for house gets her groove back while exacting revenge on the woman who stole her husband.

Sporty river guide shows homicidal baddies who’s boss when they make the mistake of threatening

her family.

More stoic roles

Miranda Priestly

 

Margaret Thatcher

The Devil Wears Prada (2007)

 

The Iron Lady (2012)

 

Fearsome fashion magazine editor shows aspiring journalist how to intimidate her enemies — and friends! — using nothing but a stern whisper and slightly

pursed lips.

Ambitious trailblazer punches her way through systemic chauvinism to become longest-serving prime minister in

Britain’s history.

 

 

The spectrum of emotional vulnerability

More vulnerable

More stoic

Jane Adler

Gail Hartman

Margaret Thatcher

Miranda Priestly

 

It’s Complicated (2009)

The River Wild (1994)

The Iron Lady (2012)

 

The Devil Wears Prada (2007)

 

Self-made pastry chef with a to-die-for house gets her groove back while exacting revenge on the woman who stole her husband.

Sporty river guide shows homicidal baddies who’s boss when they make the mistake of threatening

her family.

Ambitious trailblazer punches her way through systemic chauvinism to become longest-serving prime minister in

Britain’s history.

 

 

Fearsome fashion magazine editor shows aspiring journalist how to intimidate her enemies — and friends! — using nothing but a stern whisper and slightly

pursed lips.

Strike the right tone

Nail that accent

United States

1

2

3

??

Midwestern

1

A Prairie Home Companion (2006)

Yolanda Johnson

Texan

2

Silkwood (1983)

KAREN SILKWOOD

Julia Childish

3

Julie & Julia (2009)

JULIA CHILD

Europe

6

4

5

7

8

Irish

4

Dancing at Lughnasa (1998)

KATE MUNDY

English

5

The Iron Lady (2011)

MARGARET THATCHER

Danish

6

Out of Africa (1985)

KAREN DINESEN

Polish

7

Sophie’s Choice (1982)

SOPHIE ZAWISTOWSKA

Italian

8

The Bridges of Madison County

(1995)

FRANCESCA JOHNSON

Australia

9

Australian

9

A Cry in the Dark (1988)

LINDY CHAMBERLAIN

Polish

Midwestern

Danish

7

1

6

A Prairie Home

Companion (2006)

Out of Africa (1985)

Sophie’s Choice (1982)

Karen Dinesen

Sophie Zawistowska

Yolanda Johnson

Irish

4

Dancing at

Lughnasa (1998)

Kate Mundy

Texan

2

English

5

Silkwood (1983)

The Iron Lady

(2011)

Italian

8

Karen Silkwood

The Bridges of Madison

County (1995)

Margaret Thatcher

Julia Childish

3

Francesca Johnson

Julie & Julia (2009)

Julia Child

Australian

9

A Cry in the Dark (1988)

Lindy Chamberlain

Midwestern

Danish

1

6

A Prairie Home Companion (2006)

 

Out of Africa (1985)

Yolanda Johnson

Karen Dinesen

Polish

7

Sophie’s Choice (1982)

Sophie Zawistowska

Irish

4

Dancing at Lughnasa

(1998)

Kate Mundy

English

5

The Iron Lady (2011)

Texan

2

Margaret

Thatcher

Silkwood (1983)

Italian

8

Karen Silkwood

The Bridges of Madison

County (1995)

Francesca Johnson

Julia Childish

3

Julie & Julia (2009)

Julia Child

Australian

9

A Cry in the Dark (1988)

Lindy Chamberlain

One of Streep’s pro tips? If you want to nail an accent, master the language. “I thought, if I learned to speak Polish, then the diphthongs and the sounds of that language would be in my mouth,” Streep said about her role in “Sophie’s Choice” during a roundtable hosted by “Entertainment Tonight.” She didn’t realize until later that she would be expected to speak German — yet another language she didn’t know — but her Polish ability helped her speak German with a Polish accent.

Other accent highlights include Streep channeling not just Julia Child’s irrepressible joie de vivre but also the chef’s distinctive high pitch and breathy cadence. In short, she put “Saturday Night Live” Child impersonator Dan Aykroyd to shame. And while it wasn’t just the Aussie accent that made “The dingo took my baby!” an unforgettable line in “A Cry in the Dark,” it certainly didn’t hurt.

Now that you’ve got the voice down

Sing like no one is watching

Suzanne Vale

Postcards from the Edge (1990)

The movie version of Carrie Fisher’s semi-autobiographical novel had a few musical scenes, including the big, cathartic finale when Streep sings the country ballad “I’m Checkin’ Out.” The song, written by Shel Silverstein, was nominated for an Oscar.

Yolanda Johnson

A Prairie Home Companion (2006)

“It’s just really fun to sing, and I don’t get to much,” Streep said while promoting Robert Altman’s film, which was based on Garrison Keillor’s radio show. “And at my house I’m not allowed to because, you know, your children can’t stand it when you sing at home.” Streep got to make up for lost time playing one half of a sisterly stage act specializing in folksy ditties.

Donna

Mamma Mia! (2008)

The voice of a certain former James Bond notwithstanding, the movie adaptation of the Abba musical is utterly winning, thanks in large part to Streep. The actress looked like she was having a blast belting out tunes and shimmying to the beat in denim overalls while playing a free-spirited earth mother.

The Witch

Into the Woods (2014)

Streep had done pop and country singing onscreen, but the pure musical theater work she had to do for the film adaptation of Stephen Sondheim’s Tony-winning Broadway musical required a higher level of vocal ability. She played a witch, but — Meryl being Meryl — a subtly sympathetic one.

Ricki Rendazzo

Ricki and the Flash (2015)

To play a woman who traded her family for the rock-star life, Streep had to not only sing but learn to play guitar. Incidentally, Streep’s real-life daughter Mamie Gummer plays her daughter in the movie, so Streep apparently got back at her kids for not letting her sing around the house.

Florence Foster Jenkins

Florence Foster Jenkins (2017)

Streep’s so good at being great that she had to flex some different muscles for this role, portraying a talentless heiress who’s determined to be an opera star even though her singing sounds a little like a crow’s cawing.

Everyone loves Meryl

Achieve universal adoration

“Meryl Streep could play Batman and be the right choice. She’s perfection.”

Cameron (Eric Stonestreet)

Modern Family

(While picking up an Oscar) “You know what it says? It says, ‘I beat Meryl.’”

Brenda (Bette Midler)

The First Wives Club

(After Michael has watched “The Devil Wears Prada”) “He’s a big Meryl Streep fan, so I shouldn’t be surprised that he’s identified with her character.”

Pam (Jenna Fischer)

The Office

Woman: “You don’t like anybody.”
Billy (yelling): “I do! I like Meryl Streep!”

Billy Eichner and a random stranger

Billy on the Street

Sources: The Academy Awards Database, Post research. Photos: Getty Images.

Illustration photo references: Michael Buckner/Getty Images, Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images.

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