Sorry, Clint Eastwood, Meryl Streep says this election will be a 'reckoning'

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"What does it take to be the first female anything," Meryl Streep asked, clad in an American flag blouse on the stage of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia last month. "It takes grit and it takes grace."

She went on to pay homage to female "path breakers" like Deborah Sampson, the first woman to take a bullet for the country, disguised as a man in George Washington's Continental Army; Sally Ride, the first American woman in space; and of course Hillary Clinton, the first woman nominated president by a major American political party.

Streep tells Variety that just before walking out to address the delegates, she fretted about her speech, whether she had prepared the proper words, whether she was doing all of this "right." But backstage with stars like Alicia Keys and Elizabeth Banks, watching a video put together by Banks and Oscar-winning producer Bruce Cohen ("American Beauty") featuring celebrities singing Rachel Platten's rally cry "Fight Song," she finally got out of her own head.

"All of a sudden I wasn't thinking about me, me, me, my speech," Streep says. "The whole moment just overtook me. I thought about my grandmother, who wasn't allowed to vote — had three kids and wasn't deemed capable. I mean, the smartest person I know. The whole thing was overwhelming. And when I went out I just felt what I felt. I did my Howard Dean scream!"

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Meryl Streep, American actress born in Summit, New Jersey, who has starred and acted in many award-winning films. (Photo by Evening Standard/Getty Images)
The American actress Meryl Streep. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)
Meryl Streep and baby son Henry during Meryl Streep Sighting at JFK Airport - January 9, 1980 at JFK Airport in New York, United States. (Photo by Tom Wargacki/WireImage)
American actress Meryl Streep on the set of the film 'The French Lieutenant's Woman', 1980. (Photo by John Bulmer/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 08: Actress Meryl Streep attends the 'Into The Woods' world premiere at the Ziegfeld Theater on December 8, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Jim Spellman/WireImage)
The bridesmaid Linda, played by Meryl Streep in a scene of The Deer Hunter by Michael Cimino, glances at John Cazale, guest to a Russian Wedding into an American Orthodox church together with Chuck Aspegren and Robert De Niro. Cleveland (USA), 1978. (Photo by Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images)
Holocaust -- Aired 04/16/1978 - 04/19/1978 -- Pictured: Meryl Streep as Inga Helms Weiss (Photo by Jessica Burstein/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
Meryl Streep and Husband Don Gummer during Woody Allen's New Years Eve Party at Harkness House in New York City, New York, United States. (Photo by Ron Galella/WireImage)
NEW YORK CITY - DECEMBER 17: Actress Meryl Streep attends the 'Kramer vs. Kramer' New York City Premiere on December 17, 1979 at Loews Astor Plaza in New York City. (Photo by Ron Galella/WireImage)
Actress Meryl Streep is shown at the seventh annual Los Angeles Film Critics Awards dinner in Beverly Hills, Ca., on Jan. 13, 1982. Streep won the best actress award for her role in "The French Lieutenant's Woman." (AP Photo/Nick Ut)
Meryl Streep during Wrap-Up Party for 'She-Devil' - July 7, 1989 at Caroline's Comedy Club in New York City, New York, United States. (Photo by Ron Galella/WireImage)
American actress Meryl Streep puts her hair back as she poses on the terrace of the Festival Palace, during the Film Festival in Cannes, France, on May 13, 1989. Streep is promoting her recent picture "A Cry in the Dark." (AP Photo/Gilbert Tourte)
American actress Meryl Streep flashes a smile as she walks down the red carpet prior to the premiere screening of her latest motion picture "The Bridges of Madison County," at Warner Bros. Studios in Burbank, Calif., May 30, 1995. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)
NEW YORK CITY - NOVEMBER 9: Actress Meryl Streep attends the 'Dancing at Lughnasa' New York City Premiere on November 9, 1998 at Sony Theatres Lincoln Square in New York City. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)
Meryl Streep during Meryl Streep Receives 2,119th Walk of Fame Star - September 16, 1998 at Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California, United States. (Photo by Ron Galella/WireImage)
397358 01: Actress Meryl Streep arrives at the 11th Annual 'A Magical Evening' Gala November 12, 2001 at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York, NY. The benefit raises funds for the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation. (Photo by Lawrence Lucier/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 10: Actress Meryl Streep enters the 'Late Show With David Letterman' taping at the Ed Sullivan Theater on December 10, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Ray Tamarra/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 21: Meryl Streep and Preston Whiteway attend the 14th annual Monte Cristo Award at The Edison Ballroom on April 21, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Walter McBride/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 21: Honoree actress Meryl Streep attends the 14th annual Monte Cristo Award at The Edison Ballroom on April 21, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Monica Schipper/Getty Images)
BLOOMINGTON, IN - APRIL 16: Academy Award winner, Meryl Streep, received a Conferral Honorary Degree from Indiana University President Michael A. McRobbie at Indiana University Auditorium on April 16, 2014 in Bloomington, Indiana. (Photo by Ron Hoskins/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 09: Rob Marshall and Meryl Streep attend the The Academy Of Motion Picture Arts And Sciences Hosts An Official Academy Members Screening Of INTO THE WOODS at The Academy Theatre at Lighthouse International on December 9, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Eugene Gologursky/Getty Images for Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences)
LOWELL, MA - APRIL 01: Meryl Streep attends 'A Conversation With Meryl Streep' presented by the University of Massachusetts Lowell Chancellor's Speaker Series at Tsongas Center on April 1, 2014 in Lowell, Massachusetts. (Photo by Paul Marotta/Getty Images)
LOWELL, MA - APRIL 01: Meryl Streep attends 'A Conversation With Meryl Streep' presented by the University of Massachusetts Lowell Chancellor's Speaker Series at Tsongas Center on April 1, 2014 in Lowell, Massachusetts. (Photo by Paul Marotta/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 05: (L-R) Don Gummer and actress Meryl Streep attend the 2014 The New York Philharmonic Spring Gala featuring 'Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street' at Josie Robertson Plaza at Lincoln Center on March 5, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Noam Galai/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 08: Actress Meryl Streep attends the world premiere of 'Into the Woods' at Ziegfeld Theater on December 8, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Taylor Hill/FilmMagic)
NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 08: Producer John DeLuca, producer Marc Platt, aniel Huttlestone, Meryl Streep and Ben Platt attend the world premiere of 'Into the Woods' at the Ziegfeld Theatre on December 8, 2014 in New York City. The stars came out for the world premiere of ÒInto the WoodsÓ on Monday, December 8, 2014 at the Ziegfeld Theater in New York. Director Rob Marshall, the all star cast including Meryl Streep, Emily Blunt, James Corden, Anna Kendrick, Christine Baranski, Tracey Ullman andÊlegendary composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim and writer James Lapine were all celebrating the cinematic event, bringing thehumorousÊand heartfelt musical to the screen. ÊÒInto the WoodsÓÊÊproduced by Rob Marshall, John DeLuca, Marc Platt and Callum McDougallÊopens in theaters nationwideÊon December 25, 2014. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 25: (EXCLUSIVE COVERAGE) Meryl Streep poses backstage at the hit musical 'The Last Ship' on Broadway at The Neil Simon Theater on November 25, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Bruce Glikas/FilmMagic)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 09: Meryl Streep attends 'My Old Lady' Premiere at Museum of Modern Art on September 9, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Mark Sagliocco/FilmMagic)
US President Barack Obama presents the Medal of Freedom to actress Meryl Streep during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House on November 24, 2014 in Washington, DC. The Medal of Freedom is the country highest civilian honor. AFP PHOTO/Mandel NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Actresses Meryl Streep (L) and Marlo Thomas arrive for the Medal of Freedom presentation ceremony in the East Room of the White House on November 24, 2014 in Washington, DC. The Medal of Freedom is the country highest civilian honor. AFP PHOTO/Mandel NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - JUNE 06: Actresses Diane Lane (L) and Meryl Streep attend the 2014 AFI Life Achievement Award: A Tribute to Jane Fonda at the Dolby Theatre on June 5, 2014 in Hollywood, California. Tribute show airing Saturday, June 14, 2014 at 9pm ET/PT on TNT. (Photo by Michael Buckner/WireImage)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - JUNE 06: Actress Meryl Streep speaks onstage at the 2014 AFI Life Achievement Award: A Tribute to Jane Fonda at the Dolby Theatre on June 5, 2014 in Hollywood, California. Tribute show airing Saturday, June 14, 2014 at 9pm ET/PT on TNT. (Photo by Michael Buckner/WireImage)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - JUNE 05: Actress Meryl Streep speaks onstage during the 2014 AFI Life Achievement Award: A Tribute to Jane Fonda at the Dolby Theatre on June 5, 2014 in Hollywood, California. Tribute show airing Saturday, June 14, 2014 at 9pm ET/PT on TNT. (Photo by Kevin Winter/WireImage)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - JUNE 05: Actors Cameron Diaz (L) and Meryl Streep attend the 2014 AFI Life Achievement Award: A Tribute to Jane Fonda at the Dolby Theatre on June 5, 2014 in Hollywood, California. Tribute show airing Saturday, June 14, 2014 at 9pm ET/PT on TNT. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage)
Actress Meryl Streep accepts the 2014 Monte Cristo Award at the Edison Ballroom, on Monday, April 21, 2014, in New York. (Photo by Luiz C. Ribeiro/Invision/AP)
Meryl Streep attends the premiere of "Into The Woods" at the Ziegfeld Theatre on Monday, Dec. 8, 2014, in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)
Meryl Streep, left, and Don Gummer arrive at the Oscars on Sunday, Feb. 22, 2015, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)
Actress Meryl Streep attends the Sixth Annual Women in the World Summit opening night at David H. Koch Theater, Lincoln Center on Wednesday, April 22, 2015, in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)
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So when she hears that Clint Eastwood, with whom she collaborated on the 1995 film "The Bridges of Madison County," recently said he would vote for Donald Trump over Clinton — even considering Eastwood's conservative politics, she's caught off guard.

"I didn't know that," Streep says, visibly surprised, choosing her words carefully. "I'll have to speak to him. I'll have to correct that! I'm shocked. I really am. Because he's more — I would have thought he would be more sensitive than that."

Streep rode into the convention early on a wave of uplift that hadn't yet been tainted by on-the-floor protesting from Bernie Sanders supporters, but that sort of fervor hasn't been lost on her this election cycle, on either side of the equation.

"When you get a lot of people in a group, it can go good or it can go bad in a way that [overrides] each individual person," she says. "The aggregate of everybody's emotion, it's such a powerful thing. You can see it in the Trump rallies, where people I just know, in their living rooms, would be better people, are driven to the worst possibilities by the bloodlust in a crowd. It just gets ginned up and they're outside of themselves. They're behaving as a larger unit, not just themselves."

She was recently reminded of this concept of emotions in numbers at a recent screening of her latest film, "Florence Foster Jenkins," albeit on the positive side of the spectrum. A delightful look at the eponymous socialite and amateur soprano who was infamous in the early 20th Century for her poor singing ability, the film — directed by Stephen Frears — is effortlessly charming. And you can feel that charm ripple through the audience when you see it.

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NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 09: Clint Eastwood attends a special New York screening reception for 'Jersey Boys' hosted by Angelo Galasso at Angelo Galasso on June , 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Walter McBride/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 09: Christopher Walken and Clint Eastwood attends a special New York screening reception for 'Jersey Boys' hosted by Angelo Galasso at Angelo Galasso on June , 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Walter McBride/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 09: (EDITORS NOTE: Image has been converted to black and white) Clint Eastwood attends a special New York screening reception for 'Jersey Boys' hosted by Angelo Galasso at Angelo Galasso on June , 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Walter McBride/WireImage)
Actor Clint Eastwood is shown in character in this undated photo. (AP Photo)
FILE - This Sept. 19, 2012 file photo shows actor-director Clint Eastwood at the premiere of "Trouble With the Curve" at the Westwood Village Theater in Los Angeles. In a wide-ranging interview Saturday about film directing at the Tribeca Film Festival, Eastwood said he admires the 104-year-old Portuguese director Manoel de Oliveira. Said Eastwood: “It would be great to be 105 and still making films.” He laughed and called such a hope “the ultimate optimism.” The director joined fellow filmmaker Darren Aronofsky for a staged conversation at the New York film festival following a screening of Richard Schickel's documentary: “Eastwood Directs: The Untold Story.” (Photo by Matt Sayles/Invision/AP, file)
Actor Clint Eastwood talks to an empty chair during his address to the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., on Thursday, Aug. 30, 2012. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
FOR USE AS DESIRED, YEAR END PHOTOS - FILE - In this Aug. 30,, 2012 file photo, actor and director Clint Eastwood speaks to an empty chair while addressing delegates during the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky, File)
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It's a quality that owes plenty to Streep's performance as Jenkins, a passionate artist who just didn't have the capacity to excel, but who nevertheless inspired with her efforts. Streep is constantly asked whether singing badly was freeing or if it added to the degree of difficulty, but she insists it's the wrong question.

"The last thing a really good director says to you is, 'Be more lovely,' to ask for the result," she says. "So the result here is, 'Sing badly.' But I never thought about that. I thought about singing it as best as I could. I learned the arias. But it's sort of like tennis. When you really want to play well and play hard, you're really nervous, but you play worse, because you're trying too hard. Her desire is what made her run out of breath.

"And by the way," she continues, "she had an F above High C, which I don't have. I mean the highest I can get to is E-flat. Seriously, it is a stratospheric — [Maria] Callas had trouble with an F above High C at moments in her career."

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What makes Jenkins' aspiration so heartbreaking for Streep is how close the singer was to actually being great. But she feels Jenkins was able to transcend the gawking class because of her endearing effort.

"It's not how bad she was, it's how good she almost was that makes it delicious," Streep says. "If she was just bad, you couldn't listen to half a phrase. It's like when my kids would do shows. You're not judging them by how good they are. You're seeing their seriousness and their desire and their commitment to the moment. That's what's hilarious, but you cannot laugh. And that's the secret, I think, of how she drew these audiences. My friend Emma — maybe just because she's my friend — Thompson told me after, 'Call me crazy, but I wanted more singing!'"

Streep could be poised to break her own record with a 20th Oscar nomination for her performance in the film. Three of those nominations she won, for "The Deer Hunter," "Sophie's Choice" and "The Iron Lady" — second only to Katharine Hepburn for the most Academy Awards among actors. Over the course of a 40-year career, she's seemingly done it all. But is there anything she hasn't accomplished yet that she'd like to?

"I don't know," she says instantly. "Because it's like, how many women are there in the world? How many interesting stories are there? I don't have a production company and I don't go searching for material. I'm really interested in the collaborative thing. It's what makes it scary, because you never know what it's going to end up like. But you hope. You put yourself in the hands of the best people you can find and you're completely dependent on the kindness of strangers and their commitment. It's like this mutual delusion. It's like Florence Foster Jenkins! You're just holding this dream aloft."

For now, though, the bigger dream for Streep is seeing through the history-making moment of electing a woman to the country's highest office.

"We have a lot of work to do," she says, before admitting that — despite the Clint Eastwoods out there — she expects a deep pragmatist streak in the American populace to push Clinton to victory with room to spare.

"If you're an actor and all you do, all you're interested in, are people and their contradictions and their possibilities, good and bad, you can feel what they say about appealing to the angels of our better nature," she says. "I think there is a reckoning. People will go — or their wives will go — 'You know what? This is crazy. It's too tricky. We're not going to gamble with our children's future.'"


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