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Meryl Streep's 'The Iron Lady' Sparks Internet Frenzy Following Early Screenings

Meryl Streep
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The actress' big-screen turn receives good notices, but Margaret Thatcher fans are unhappy.

LONDON – Meryl Streep’s portrayal of former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady is already attracting as much controversy as the life and work of Thatcher herself.

The media and internet alike are abuzz with early reaction and initial taster reviews despite the fact screenings of the Pathe backed movie are only just beginning here in the U.K.

The movie is being widely touted – largely because of Streep’s involvement – as an awards season favorite on both sides of the Atlantic, largely sight unseen.

Streep stars as the former British PM and Conservative with a large C-party member and depicts both Thatcher’s life in power from 1979 through 1990 and her personal journey to her political office and subsequent ousting from power.

Former cabinet member and Tory stalwart Norman Tebbit wrote in the Daily Telegraph newspaper that Thatcher was “never, in my experience, the half-hysterical, over-emotional, over-acting woman portrayed by Meryl Streep."

That just from the trailer currently showing here.

The media screenings begin in earnest next week here but the Tory stalwarts poo-pooing the movie in the pages of the right-wing leaning national The Daily Telegraph are queuing up.

Tim Bell, one of Thatcher’s key PR advisers, described the film as a “non-event” and said he had no interest in seeing it.

The charm offensive by Streep and co has already begun in the British media.

The Oscar-winning actress has told The Daily Mail here that while she didn’t agree with a lot of her policies, it had been a privilege to delve deeply into Thatcher’s life and play her on screen,

The typically left-leaning national broadsheet The Guardian said in its early notice for the film that Streep’s turn is “astonishing and all but flawless; a masterpice of mimicry which re-imagines Thatcher in all her half-forgotten glory.”

The biopic -- directed by Phyllida Lloyd, who also put Streep through her paces in Mamma Mia! -- has been penciled in for its U.S. release Dec. 30 by the Weinstein Co.

The film will bow in exclusive runs in New York and Los Angeles on that date and then expand wider Jan. 13.

The rollout keeps the film in Oscar contention since under Academy rules, a movie has until midnight Dec. 31 to begin its one-week qualifying run in Los Angeles County.

It is scheduled to hit U.K. screens January 6 next year via Pathe’s distribution pact with 20th Century Fox.