Streep on 'blue carpet' for UK premiere of Thatcher film

4th January 2012, Comments 0 comments

Meryl Streep took to a specially-laid blue carpet on Wednesday for the European premiere of "The Iron Lady", the biopic of former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher which could win her an Oscar.

Streep braved the drizzle to walk up the carpet -- matching Thatcher's trademark blue outfits and her Conservative party's traditional colour -- at the BFI Southbank in central London.

Her performance as the grocer's daughter who changed the face of Britain has earned her a Golden Globe nomination, putting her in line to win the third Oscar of her career next month.

But she downplayed the talk of another Academy Award, focusing instead on the challenge of playing the former British premier from the start of her politial career to an old age troubled by dementia.

"She was someone with a big ambition and who made an enormous mark on her time, she was arguably the strongest and the only female leader in the Western world at her time so she broke ground," Streep told reporters as she arrived for the premiere.

"But beyond that it was an opportunity to play someone at the waning of her life... and that interested me too because there aren't very many films that pay attention to older ladies."

The film has already opened in Australia and the United States, but its premiere at a venue along the Thames from the Houses of Parliament, which Thatcher dominated from 1979 to 1990, has special resonance.

Few of Thatcher's cabinet colleagues or rivals have seen the film, which only opens in Britain on Friday, yet many who have say Streep has captured the essence of the woman whose legacy is still the subject of intense debate.

Charles Moore, who is writing Thatcher's authorised biography, said: "She captures the intense, uneasy, passionate woman rising to greatness, the Gloriana figure at the height of her power, and the rather touching old lady known to her intimates as 'Lady T'."

Film critics have pointed to Streep's bouffant hair and clothes in the role as near-perfect, and the distinctive voice which Thatcher worked so hard to perfect booms throughout the film.

Streep confessed she knew little about Thatcher's policies before accepting the role but defended the decision to make a film about a woman who remains a divisive figure in Britain.

"That was part of what made it interesting, because people tended to look at her either as the saviour or the destroyer of the UK. And at this point in time the feelings are still as vehement it seems to me," she said at the premiere.

Director Phyllida Lloyd -- the woman behind the Abba smash hit "Mamma Mia!" -- starts the action in the present day, with an elderly Thatcher clearing out her late husband Denis's clothes.

The ghost of Denis, played by Jim Broadbent, himself an Oscar winner in 2002, is ever present as his wife looks back on her career as she rises from modest beginnings to become Britain's first and still only woman premier.

Thatcher took over a country whose economy was sorely in need of modernisation, yet the often ruthless way she achieved her goals continues to divide opinion, as does the war over the Falklands.

Yet Streep also shows Thatcher's undoubted toughness as she brushes off the IRA's attempt to kill her in the bombing of a Brighton hotel in 1984.

Lloyd revealed on Wednesday that Thatcher's family had turned down an invitation to a public screening of the film.

"We did make contact with the family sometime ago to tell them what we were trying to do but they perhaps quite understandably have sort of stepped back from the whole thing.

"They were the first people we invited to see the finished film. They didn't take up our offer and I can quite understand them not wanting to see it in the public gaze so we are not actually sure whether they have seen it or not."

While Streep's acting has won acclaim, the film overall has not met with unanimous critical acclaim.

Some critics say it brushes over key issues such as her bitter dispute with the coal miners, which gripped Britain in the mid-1980s, and some have argued it is insensitive to portray her in such a way while she is still alive.

Bernard Ingham, Thatcher's loyal press secretary when she was in office, has taken issue with the film showing his old boss, who at the age of 86 is rarely seen in public, as "demented".

"She is not demented when I see her," Ingham wrote in the Yorkshire Post.

© 2012 AFP

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