Meryl Streep denies Thatcher biopic 'disrespectful'

6th January 2012, Comments 0 comments

US actress Meryl Streep denied Friday her depiction of a dementia-stricken Margaret Thatcher was disrespectful to the former leader, after the British premier suggested "The Iron Lady" should have been made after her death.

Prime Minister David Cameron, in his first comment on the film as it opened in Britain, said he was impressed by Streep's portrayal of Britain's first woman prime minister, who like him was leader of the centre-right Conservative party.

But he questioned on BBC radio whether it was right to produce the film while Thatcher is still alive -- saying he wished it had been made "another day".

The biopic depicts Thatcher as a frail, often confused old lady -- she is now 86 and is rarely seen in public -- looking back at her career in flashback form, with the ghost of her late husband Denis looking on.

In Paris with director Phyllida Lloyd to promote the film, Streep defended the decision to show Thatcher in her present frail condition.

"We portray her with dementia, she suffers from one of the 41 types of dementia," the actress, who is tipped to win the third Oscar of her career for her performance, told a press conference.

"There's nothing in our imaginary depiction of dementia that is disrespectful of the condition, or of her."

"I must say to the prime minister," Streep added, "if he (Cameron) is worried about her seeing the film, what about his saying on the radio that people should wait until she is dead! How must that make her feel?"

Streep suggested Cameron's criticism of the film was due to "a special stigma attached to dementia that makes us feel as if it was distasteful, and should be hidden away."

"I defend it because it's life and it's the truth, and there is something very poignant about it in the context of the story we are trying to tell," added the actress.

Director Lloyd for her part defended the decision to make the film now, saying "30 years after she became prime minister is not too soon to put her big life on the screen."

Critics in Britain have praised Streep's acting, but have generally given the film a cooler reception, complaining that it skims over the tumultuous politics of the time and focuses too much on Thatcher's personality.

© 2012 AFP

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