I was lucky enough to get to interview Mia March, who wrote The Meryl Streep Movie Club (out Tuesday!). Obviously I am a huge fan of books about movies and books that explore the relationships (friendships and familial ones) between women. So one that combines both AND Meryl Streep? Yes, please!
It was interesting picking the movies that the movie club would watch.
“I thought of my absolute favorites first—Out of Africa, Heartburn, Postcards from the Edge, Julie & Julia, Defending Your Life, etc. (I have a lot of favorites when it comes to Meryl Streep movies.) As I wrote the novel, I kept jotting down the films that came to mind for the particular character’s issues. For Isabel, The Bridges of Madison County was a natural—and the first film the `movie club’ watches together because it raises a big question: should she or shouldn’t she? Not everyone feels the same way about Meryl Stree’s character’s choice in Bridges, which makes it a great movie for discussion. The more I wrote, the more movies seemed to work double-duty for what was going on in their characters’ lives. Mamma Mia!, for example, dealt with many of the issues Kat was going through with her mother, as well as June’s search for her child’s father. Meryl Streep has 50+ novels to her credit—a lot of films to work with. Before I started writing the novel, I’d seen just about all Meryl Streep’s films, but when I was writing, I re-watched the ones that felt right to me for certain scenes. It was hard to leave some out. I wanted to bring in Sophie’s Choice, for example, and One True Thing, but both would have taken the discussion away from the characters and what they were going through. By the time I finished writing the book, I’d watched the few Meryl Streep films I hadn’t seen, too. She is such a gift as an actress!” March said.
It’s not easy to pick a best (or a favorite) Meryl Streep movie. (I haven’t seen them all, so in case you’re curious, I think the best of what I’ve seen is Kramer vs. Kramer and my favorite is The Devil Wears Prada. But I’m willing to defer to Mia’s opinion!)
“Usually best and favorite aren’t necessarily one and the same. My favorite is Out of Africa—I LOVE this film. `I had a farm in Africa at the foot of the Ngong Hills.’ It’s based on the memoirs of Karen Blixen, played by Meryl Streep, an independent woman who gives her all to her coffee farm (not what she expected), the people around her, her workers, and never surrenders her dignity, even when she’s on her knees. Robert Redford, at his most beautiful, plays the man she falls in love with. I’ve seen Out of Africa at least ten times. The best, though, in my opinion, is Sophie’s Choice, also the first Meryl Streep film I ever saw, when I was sixteen or seventeen, in the theater. Sophie’s Choice made me a lifelong Meryl Streep fan,” she said.
The general theory behind authors is that in a novel, one character represents them. While that may not be true, she definitely identified with one of the characters.
“At first I thought it was going to be June [who I most identified with]—we’re both single mothers. Not that our stories are remotely similar, but while I was writing the novel I realized it was Kat who I most identified with, who I was hoping to find answers through. I had a similar experience with ambivalence many moons ago and it’s a big regret in my life, and without even realizing it, I found myself exploring the whys through Kat. Interesting how fiction lets you do that,” she said.
It’s not surprising, then, that if forced to be a character in The Meryl Streep Movie Club, she’d pick Kat.
“All the characters have such emotional angst, but I think it would be great fun to be Kat, ambivalence and all. To be twenty-five again with all those choices to consider. I think I had Kat choose the right one for her—I’d initially planned a different ending for her, but the more I wrote, the more I realized there was only one way for Kat to go. (I also think it would be fun to be blonde for a little while—I have very dark hair!)” she said.
But if she could be a Meryl Streep character?
“Without question: Julia Child in Julie & Julia. Wouldn’t it have been wonderful to be her!”
Yes. SO MUCH FUN. :)
Her mandatory reading novel is To Kill a Mockingbird, which is one of her
five six favorite books. The other five: Sophie’s Choice (William Styron), Wuthering Heights (Emily Bronte), A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Betty Smith), Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen) and Bridget Jones’ Diary (Helen Fielding).
Best of all, there will be a companion novel out next summer! Finding Colin Firth will be set at The Three Captains! There will be some crossover characters, too.
“It won’t be a `movie club’ book, though the characters will watch the BBC’s Pride and Prejudice and Bridget Jones’ Diary—Colin Firth’s two Mr. Darcy roles.”
As excited as I am for that book, I still hope for a definite sequel.
“If I were to do another movie club novel, I think it would be fun to choose someone like Katharine Hepburn or Elizabeth Taylor.”
Especially now! I would love to hear the women discuss A Place in the Sun! :)
Thanks, Mia! :)