While there was talk that the inspiration for Meryl Streep’s performance as mythic fashionista Miranda Priestly in “The Devil Wears Prada” was iconic Vogue editor Anna Wintour, according to “Prada” director David Frankel, Streep turned to something and someone else entirely.
“Men inspired the character mostly,” Frankel says. “It wasn’t the sort of powerful woman you sometimes see out there that was the starting point for Meryl, but really all the men who give up time with their families and put career before everything.”
The 13-time nominee (with two wins) even borrowed a signature quality of the character from a powerful man she’d worked with on a previous film.
“When Meryl was Miranda, she never raised her voice, and that came from her experiences with Clint Eastwood and the way he’s always in control and ready to go and ahead of everyone in his thinking,” recalls Frankel. “He’s a strong figure and doesn’t need to raise his voice to let anyone know that.”
Streep also wanted Miranda to be exactly as she was described in the Aline Brosh McKenna script — a “dragon lady” who didn’t apologize for any of the demands she made in the name of excellence.
“When we first talked about this script, Meryl felt we had pulled our punches in the first act,” Frankel says. “We’d originally thought Meryl might not want to play someone who was really not likable in some ways, but Meryl said we should make her meaner and, in fact, make her as mean as you can.”
Frankel recollects Streep responded to the film’s core idea as well.
“My starting point of the movie was sacrifice, and Meryl responded to that, I think,” Frankel says. “Meryl is someone who has taken time and made sacrifices in order to really be there in her marriage and with her kids, but in Hollywood and in fashion you’re surrounded by people who decide on career over family or personal life all the time. I think that connected with her, and that’s why this performance touched a core.”
Like many directors before him (Robert Altman, Mike Nichols, Jonathan Demme), Frankel found the experience working with Streep was as good as advertised.
“It was such a memorable experience for me to work with Meryl on this film, and her performance shows you why she’s widely regarded as the best at what she does.”
Next project: There’s plenty in the pipeline, including Focus Features release “Evening,” directed by Hungarian cinematographer Lajos Koltai, with Glenn Close and Toni Collette; in pre-production is the Robert Redford-helmed “Lions for Lambs,” co-starring Redford and Tom Cruise.