Meryl Streep, Lily Tomlin Among Veterans of This Year's Awards Race

8:30 AM 11/27/2015

by Mia Galuppo

Directors and producers celebrate eight seasoned actresses who bring decades of experience to their films — and to the awards hunt.

Courtesy of Focus Features
  • Lily Tomlin


    Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

    “It wasn’t the case of whether or not she was the best person for the role. There was nobody else who could do it,” says director Paul Weitz of Tomlin’s portrayal of an ornery and opinionated grandmother. “There is nobody with her skill set; that range of comedy and drama does not exist outside of her.” Along with her years of onscreen experience, Tomlin (also a SAG contender for Netflix’s Grace and Frankie) brought to the Grandma set her 1955 Dodge Lancer, a focal point in the indie feature.

  • Helen Mirren


    Courtesy of Hilary Bronwyn Gayle/ Bleeker Street

    When looking for an actress to play the role of famous McCarthy-era gossip columnist Hedda Hopper, director Jay Roach immediately thought of Mirren. “She has shown character after character after character that she can connect and reinterpret the intellect and emotional aspects of a complicated character.” The director, who has watched The Queen so many times he has worn out his DVD, adds of his film’s supporting star: “Plus, everybody knows she is excellent at wearing hats!”

  • Isabella Rossellini


    Courtesy of Merie Weismiller Wallace/ 20th Century Fox

    David O. Russell wrote the part of the wealthy Italian widow who initially funds Joy’s (Jennifer Lawrence) mop empire specifically for Rossellini. “There was really no one else in the discussion,” says producer Jon Gordon, adding that Rossellini’s performance in David Lynch’s 1986 film Blue Velvet has had a significant creative impact on Russell. In a film populated with big talent like Lawrence and Robert De Niro, Rossellini’s performance commands attention. Adds Gordon: “Everything that comes out of her is done with so much — no pun intended — joy.”

  • Jane Fonda


    Courtesy of Fox Searchlight

    Italian director Paolo Sorrentino found it came naturally to collaborate with the two-time Oscar winner, who, coincidentally, plays a fictional screen legend in his film. “It is very easy to work with her because she is a very direct, straightforward person who says exactly what she thinks,” he told THR. He particularly admired her approach to a high-tension scene with co-star Harvey Keitel, saying, “Jane looked like she didn’t care at all, but that was her own way to focus.” Like her Grace and Frankie co-star, Fonda also is a SAG contender for the Netflix comedy.

  • Meryl Streep


    Courtesy of Focus Features

    “She is such a great advocate for women in the film industry and women beyond,” says director Sarah Gavron of the legendary actress, who takes on the role of feminist political activist Emmeline Pankhurst for the film. “Just the fact that she agreed to do this film gave me a boost of confidence.” The director adds that Streep was scheduled for only two nights of filming but stayed an extra night on set to help the other actresses with the filming of their scenes.

  • Charlotte Rampling

    45 Years

    Courtesy of Sundance Selects

    “I must admit I was slightly terrified,” says director Andrew Haigh of his first meeting with Rampling. After spending a few days in Paris talking over the film, the actress and director’s relationship grew into more of a partnership. “She was so determined to do the best we could both do,” says Haigh, who also notes that Rampling needed little to no rehearsal time for her scenes in the romantic drama. “Just switching on the camera was enough,” he says.

  • Blythe Danner

    I’ll See You in My Dreams

    Courtesy of Bleeker Street Media

    There were no trailers or other on-set frills during the manic 18-day shoot of the microbudget movie, so director Brett Haley knew that Danner was in it for the script. “She just wanted to be there and do great work, and that is exactly what she did,” Haley tells THR, adding that Danner became his most trusted confidant and collaborator on the film. “She is in every scene of this film, so the movie lives or dies on her performance.”

  • Maggie Smith

    The Lady in the Van

    Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

    Nicholas Hytner had worked with the Oscar-, Emmy- and BAFTA-winning English actress three times before directing her in the role of an eccentric homeless woman. “She has already worked extraordinarily hard in picking apart the scene she is in and knows what she wants to do with it,” says the director of his uber-prepared and experienced star. “So any direction you have for her, you have to work hard to get on to her level.”