Devil Wears Prada: Meryl Streep's Dragon Lady

In the dizzying world of New York fashion, Runway Magazine is the Holy Grail, overseen by Miranda Priestly (Meryl Streep), the most powerful woman in fashion. To make Runway the fashion bible of New York and therefore the world, Miranda has let nothing stand in her way, including a long line of assistants that didnt make the cut. Its a job no self-respecting person can survive. Yet its an opportunity a million young women in New York would kill for.

A stint as Mirandas assistant could blast-open the doors for recent college graduate Andy Sachs (Anne Hathaway). More college drab than haute couture, she stands alone among the small army of Clackers on staff at Runway, superslim fashion divas clacking their stilettos down the halls of the magazines Manhattan headquarters. But when Andy comes in for the job, it dawns on her that making it in this industry will take more than drive and determination. Miranda can spin the fashion world like a basketball but has a devil of a time finding and keeping a good assistant. Andy is completely wrong for the job. But she has something the rest of them dont: she refuses to fail.

Power in the marketplace

Meryl Streep was born to play Miranda Priestly, the reigning queen of fashion whose whims can start and end careers. Miranda has made hard sacrifices to make it to the top and stay there. Love her or hate her (with most underlings falling into the hate category), no one can deny she is the primary architect of a formidable empire. Miranda has an incredible amount of power in the marketplace, says Meryl Streep. Shes a taste and trend-maker and therefore a market-setter. She functions with a lot of pressure, and she runs a very tight ship.

Blending comedy and drama

Streeps Miranda, Frankel points out, skates the edge between the comically mean and the genuinely sad. A key part of Meryls incredible talent is the ability to blend comedy and drama, he says. She can find whats funny in the real so that it never feels forced.

Streep plunged headlong into all the accoutrements that surround Miranda. When we first met her I gave her a huge three-ringed binder full of research regarding the movie and fashion, recalls producer Wendy Finerman. It included fashion industry facts, figures, and photos, and I thought, Oh God, shes going to laugh at me. But instead she said, Thats fantastic! Do you have any more She read everything she could get her hands on. It was just amazing.

Anne Hathaway as assistant

Andys first moments with Miranda are a soul-crushing disaster. Judged simply by her cotton blend sweater and shapeless skirt, Andy is dismissed with a wave of Mirandas hand. But Andy doesnt take no for an answer. She may not be the best-dressed girl in the room, but shes smart and shell work hard. This makes an impression on a woman to whom no one dares even ask a question, let alone contradict.

When Miranda first meets Andy, says Streep, its at the end of a series of disappointments shes had with other assistants. Andy comes in with an amazing resume, and Miranda takes a chance on her because she doesnt fit the mold of the typical Runway employee. For once, Miranda, known for her unpredictability, hires the smart, fat girl instead of the stylish, slender, disappointing type that usually trails after her.

But at the moment of Andys first big assignment, bringing Miranda home from hurricane-struck Miami so she can catch her twins recital, Andy blows it. Her failure is so great she questions her motives for taking the position.

Stanley Tucci

Stanley Tucci (recently seen in Spielberg's The Terminal) stars as Mirandas right-hand man Nigel, who like everyone at Runway, survives on Mirandas whim. Nigel is horrified when he meets Andy for the first time, because her hair, clothes and shoes well, theyre just all wrong. To say he is a snob would be quite the understatement, Tucci says, but Nigel and Andy become friends. This very bitchy fellow turns out to be a softy in the end.

Nigel is very funny, adds Streep, and just one of those people who can say anything to Miranda. So they are friends, but Miranda is always his boss, and that makes their relationship really tricky.

Emily Blunt

Andy makes a reluctant friend in Mirandas chief assistant Emily, played by British actress Emily Blunt (My Summer of Love). Emily is so far on the edge of fashion that shes practically falling off, Blunt says. She has no friends and thinks of nothing else but Miranda. Streep says, Emily doesnt want to be anything other than what she is and how she functions, but she wants to be the very best at her job that she can possibly be, and so shes very very disapproving of Andy. Emily is smacked around by Miranda, and she likes to punish Andy in kind.

Fabulous but treacherous orbit

Production designer Jess Gonchor created two contrasting worlds: Andy and Nates simple home, and the ever-fabulous but treacherous orbit of Miranda Priestly. Runways offices had to express Mirandas taste and insistence upon elegance and perfection. The offices had to be very feminine and homey, and have a light color palette, Gonchor explains. Streep and Gonchor together selected the artwork showcased in Mirandas offices. It was important to show photographs that Miranda had collected and great works of art because shes all about the pursuit of excellence, no matter the cost, Frankel says.

In these suites, there is no question that is in charge. There is not much separating Miranda from the rest of the office, Gonchor says. She can always see who is coming and going. The Runway interiors including Mirandas office, the conference room, and the bullpen were meticulously designed to express perfection, with lots of glass and exact angles. Gonchor, Frankel and Finerman pored over fashion and architectural magazines, as well as layouts and blueprints of comparable real-life offices, to hit the right authentic design notes. We put together a model and then took a look at it with a little lipstick camera to see what the angles were, Gonchor says. We decided on what the footprint should look like and started building. It took three months to build it, wallpaper it, paint it and dress it.

Fashion world

The movie comes at a time of heightened interest in the runway scene. People love fashion, Streep says. They love to look at it, in magazines, in runway shots. Everything. But its interesting to get a look inside this world, and see how much of a business it is, and where the fun is and where the fun stops.

Miranda's look

For the film to create a realistic portrait of todays fashion giants, the costumes had to be authentic. The way I made sure that we got the fashion right was to hire Patricia Field as our costume designer, Frankel says. Field, an Emmy-winner for her work on Sex and the City, created a style for Streeps Miranda Priestly, as well as for Anne Hathaways characters transformation into a fashionista, and the look of the omnipresent Clackers.

Mirandas look had to stand on its own; no one else could look like her. Meryl Streep herself influenced aspects of Mirandas wardrobe. Field set out to dress the leading fashion editor of the world to create Mirandas look with Meryl. My job was to make Meryl look as absolutely beautiful as I could. Not to dictate fashion, but to have people say, Wow, Meryl Streep!

Valentino on Streep

Legendary designer Valentino designed a dress Miranda wears at a ritzy charity ball. Valentino created this dress for Meryl and in the end, it was the dress that she looked sexiest in, Field states. Its very simple and shows her beautiful shoulders, her porcelain skin, and her curves. Valentino also makes his acting debut in the film. Im such a great admirer of Ms. Streep, he says. Just to have a little cameo with her, for me, is a great honor.