The 29th Tokyo International Film Festival got on to an unofficial start a day before the actual event with a press conference held especially for Meryl Streep.
The Oscar winner is in the capital of Japan as her latest movie Florence Foster Jenkins is the curtain raiser for the film festival which begins tomorrow (Oct 25).
“It’s very exciting and it’s a great honour that Florence Foster Jenkins has been chosen as Opening Film,” she tells journalists at a press conference.
“I bring greetings from (director) Stephen Frears, (co-stars) Hugh Grant and Simon Helberg, all of whom are working.
“But I’m currently unemployed, so I was available to come,” she deadpans.
In the film, Streep plays a socialite who – despite her shortcomings as a singer – decides to pursue her passion for singing.
Although the film called for her character to sing off key, Streep – ever the consummate actress – hired a singing coach to prepare for the role.
“I did try to learn how to sing these arias properly, so I got a very good, true opera coach and he taught me the arias correctly. Then, the last two week of the two-month preparation, we just screwed around with them,” she shares.
Streep, 67, is one of the most celebrated actresses of our time. She has garnered 19 Oscar nominations – the most for any actor or actress – and won three; Best Supporting Actress for Kramer Vs Kramer, and Best Actress for Sophie’s Choice and The Iron Lady.
While older actresses are constantly lamenting the lack of good roles in Hollywood, Streep has been consistently working since she started in the industry in 1971.
She does acknowledge the existence of ageism in the film industry. However, the actress says good roles for older actresses can be found on TV these days.
“I think there has been ageism and a lot of so-called market-driven decisions. But I was 58 when I made Mamma Mia! And that was the most popular film I ever made. I think the rules are being broken and thank goodness.
“I think a lot of possibilities come from television, especially the long-form, serial television that we have now. It’s been very good for women and proven there’s an audience.”
Streep, who is usually guarded about her personal life, was candid when asked about the secret to her happy marriage. The actress is married to Don Gummer for 38 years and the couple has four children.
“I’m sure that it’s all because of him and his good nature,” Streep says. “And it’s also that he’s an artist, and that helps. It would be difficult to be married to someone who had a different life.”
It’s not all work for Streep on her trip to Japan. The actress, who portrayed celebrated chef Julia Child in the film Julie & Julia, took some time off to sample Japanese cuisine.
“Yesterday, we were in Kyoto and we went to a restaurant that has so many kinds of tofu. We have one kind of tofu (back) home. I’d never seen this kind of restaurant, and it was fantastic.”