Berlin: Meryl Streep on Director Gender Gap: "We Need 40- to 50-Year-Old White Males to Be Interested"

Peter Himsel
Meryl Streep

"You cannot have a long career and play as many characters as I have and maintain your magazine cover vanity," the actress said to applause. "You can't ... It's unartistic. And who cares?"

Meryl Streep said Hollywood is giving female directors more opportunities to tell their own stories — and the green light is coming from younger decision-makers, not gray-haired studio execs.

The Oscar-winning actress, taking time away from being jury president at the Berlin International Film Festival to give an acting master class on Sunday, was asked whether women were getting more directing gigs in Hollywood. "Yes, it's moving in a very positive direction," she responded.

Streep added that closing Hollywood's gender gap behind the camera called for getting minds to open up in executive suites. "We need 40- to 50 year-old white males to be interested in the stories of their wives and their mothers," she told the Hebbel Am Ufer Theater audience.

So far that's not happening nearly enough in clubby boardrooms, except with younger execs. "They [older men] don't feel invested in that journey. Younger men do, and that's good," said Streep.

She added "you have to make noise" to get more women into decision-making leadership, echoing the current debate around more racial and gender diversity in Hollywood boardrooms. Streep earlier in the Berlin festival faced criticism for suggesting "we are all Africans really" when asked about concerns over the all-white Oscar nominations this year.

But on Sunday, she insisted some in Hollywood boardrooms have to make way for new voices. "Our industry will always depend on diversity in the boardroom, where the money is," said Streep. "All the talk about equality and diversity among the lower levels of the endeavor won't change things if the money and decisions are still made by one people whose taste will necessarily decide what kind of films will be made."

She also talked about her long and legendary Hollywood career during the master class, and revealed her favorite director was Mike Nichols. Each time they worked together on such projects as Silkwood, Angels in America and Postcards From the Edge, Nichols would quiz the actress on how she felt about other directors she had worked with.

"It's like being asked about the other boyfriends you've had. 'Does he do it better than me?' is what I heard from him," recounted Streep. She also insisted her varied career as an actress was down to not worrying about her physical and sexual appeal as she got older.

"You cannot have a long career and play as many characters as I have, at all different ages, and maintain your magazine cover vanity," Streep said to applause. "You can't. And It's useless. And it's stupid. It's unartistic. And who cares?"

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