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Meryl Streep thought her career would be over at 40

The Mamma Mia star couldn't believe her career would flourish as she reflected on her first ever Cannes

Bryony Gooch
US Writer
May 18, 2024
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Meryl Streep is one of Hollywood's most beloved actresses. With three Oscars under her belt and nine Golden Globes, she is one of the most decorated veterans in the industry. But according to the 74-year-old, there was a point when she thought her career would be 'over'.

Taking to Cannes to accept an honorary Palme D'Or award, Meryl reflected on a moment in 1989 where she had doubts that her career would continue. 

US actress Meryl Streep waves as she arrives for a "Rendez-Vous With Meryl Streep" at the 77th edition of the Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, southern France, on May 15, 2024. (Photo by Valery HACHE / AFP) (Photo by VALERY HACHE/AFP via Getty Images)© VALERY HACHE
Meryl got candid at Cannes

"Thirty-five years ago when I was here for the first time, I was already a mother of three. I was about to turn 40 and I thought that my career was over", Meryl explained, setting the scene. At the time, the actress had won best actress for her Cannes debut, 1988's Evil Angels.

"And that was not an unrealistic expectation for actresses at that time", she continued. "I’m just so grateful that you haven't gotten sick of my face, that you haven't gotten off of the train."

Fortunately, Meryl received words of wisdom from her late mother, "who was usually right about everything".

Meryl Streep salue la foule lors de la présentation du film 'A Cry in the Dark' le 13 mai 1989 à Cannes, France. (Photo by Pool DARMIGNY/DUCLOS/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)© Pool DARMIGNY/DUCLOS
Meryl at Cannes in 1989

Her mom said: "Meryl, darling, you’ll see it all goes so fast. So fast." Meryl confirmed that "it does. Except for my speech, which is too long."

It turns out this wasn't all that she picked up from her first Cannes experience, as she was told she'd need "nine bodyguards" as back then, the festival didn't have the security barriers it now does.

Meryl Streep attends "Le Deuxième Acte" ("The Second Act") Screening & opening ceremony red carpet at the 77th annual Cannes Film Festival at Palais des Festivals on May 14, 2024 in Cannes, France.© Stephane Cardinale - Corbis
Meryl on the red carpet at Cannes

"I said, 'I don’t even need one bodyguard. Believe me, I don’t need one. I don’t have a bodyguard. … I never have a bodyguard,'" she said. "They said, 'You will need nine.' I needed maybe a dozen the first time I came here because in the olden days, I don't know, there wasn't the same security."

She added: "It was insane. I almost didn’t recover from that. I went to the hotel room and I couldn’t believe how wild it was. So that was 35 years ago. It’s changed a lot ... I was so afraid. I mean, you have to realize, I was afraid. Physically, because I don't know, I'm not a rock star."

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