June 18, 2024

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You are Your Only Limit

Meryl Streep Thought Her Career Was ‘Over’ at 1989 Cannes Film Festival

3 min read

When Meryl Streep was 39 years old, she felt her career was “over.”

Now 74, the three-time Oscar winner is reflecting on those thoughts about aging in the movie industry that she had at the 1989 Cannes Film Festival.

“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,” Streep said while accepting an honorary Palme d’Or award at the 2024 Cannes Film Festival’s opening night ceremony on May 14.

“And that was not an unrealistic expectation for actresses at that time,” continued Streep, who won the 1989 festival’s best actress award for her Cannes debut (1988’s Evil Angels). “I’m just so grateful that you haven’t gotten sick of my face, that you haven’t gotten off of the train.”

Meryl Streep at the 1989 Cannes Film Festival.

AFP via Getty


Streep ended her acceptance speech with a quote from her late mother. 

“My mother, who was usually right about everything, said to me, ‘Meryl, darling, you’ll see it all goes so fast. So fast.’ And it does. Except for my speech, which is too long,” the Sophie’s Choice star said.

The next day, on May 15 during a panel at Le Palais des Festivals, Streep further elaborated on her very first Cannes experience. 

“They said, ‘You will need nine bodyguards.’ 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 recalled. “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.”

Meryl Streep at the 1989 Cannes Film Festival.

AFP via Getty


Streep said the festival didn’t have all of the security barriers back then.

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“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,” she added. “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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Before attending Cannes in 1989, Streep had already earned eight Oscar nominations, winning Best Supporting Actress for 1979’s Kramer vs. Kramer and Best Actress for 1982’s Sophie’s Choice. She went on to become the most-nominated performer in Academy Awards history with 21 acting nominations and three wins (the third for 2011’s The Iron Lady).

At the panel, Streep reminisced about winning her first Oscar in 1980 and accidentally leaving the statuette in the restroom at the ceremony’s venue.

“Yes, I did. I did leave it in the restroom,” she recalled. “It’s a very big dress and I had to lift it up and put the thing down and then forgot that it was underneath there, but someone found it. The next person in.”

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