The Academy Awards are a mere few months away and all anyone can talk about is Meryl Streep. It's a familiar scenario. Critics buzzing about an incredible Meryl Streep performance seems to mark the beginning of Oscar season these days. After all, she does hold the record for the most best actress nominations - 15 in total. Although she's been nominated five times in the last decade, Streep hasn't won an Oscar since her second gong in 1983 for Sophie's Choice. It's an oversight that's been blasted in the trade journals and one that's unlikely to continue after her jaw-dropping turn as Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady.
Streep's portrayal of Britain's only female Prime Minister in the period biopic is eerily accurate and has punters already tipping her as the sure thing come the Academy Awards in February. From the effluent speech to the physicality, director Phyllida Lloyd says the performance all comes down to Streep's ``extraordinary command and charisma''.
``During a scene where she is being blisteringly cruel to her cabinet minister one of the younger actors told me he was sitting there shaking because he was scared she was going to turn on him,'' she says.
``He knew she was in character and it wasn't even our first take, but Meryl was that powerful.'' The Iron Lady is a reunion for Lloyd and the veteran actress, with Streep starring in Lloyd's ABBA musical Mamma Mia which went on to become the highest grossing film directed by a woman. Coming from a background as an acclaimed theatre director, the 52-year-old directed Mamma Mia for the stage before making her directorial debut with the big screen version. Making the step from fluffy musical to genuine awards contender wasn't as much of a leap for Lloyd as expected. She says she always considered Thatcher's story to be ``like King Lear for girls''.
``We show very selected incidents of her political life and they're all triggered by what was happening to her in the present,'' she says.
``It wasn't about the controversy of it or whether she was right or wrong. People in the UK have been arguing about that for 30 years and we're never going to agree on it.
``I was more interested in things like when she initiated the Falklands War and how it felt to stand in a room making the decisions when she was the only woman, firstly, and the only one not wearing a war medal.''
Besides the ``feminist'' aspects, Lloyd was also interested in the story from a ``classist'' point of view which she says is something that ``still runs very deep in Britain.'' As for Oscar-fever, the usually London-based Lloyd is currently travelling from New York to San Francisco on the awards circuit ``rollercoaster'' with The Iron Lady proving itself a critical darling. She hopes that all eyes will turn to Streep once again in the coming months and she will receive the industry's top honour.
``Meryl took me on a life changing adventure with this and she's beyond deserving,'' says Lloyd.
``She seems to pack more into a day than most do in a month and her vision for a project is just so huge, it sets the bar very high for everyone.
``She's very tough on herself.''
The Iron Lady is out now.