Oscar Impact: Streep, Meryl

Stronger bargaining power for better films also comes hand in hand with the Oscar. This power, which translates into a forceful say over the choice of projects, directors, and costars, is just as important as bigger paychecks and increased international visibility. In Hollywood, power is the most crucial reward, even if it doesn't last long.

The Supporting Actress Oscar for Meryl Streep in Robert Benton's “Kramer vs. Kramer” (1979) and her growing prestige as an actress helped to finance a challengimh literary project like “The French Lieutenant's Woman,” based on John Fowles's novel and directed by Karel Reisz.

Other noted directors, such as Mike Nichols and Fred Zinnemann, had tried to bring the project to the screen but no studio would finance it. Streep's star power was a crucial factor in convincing a major studio, United Artists, to invest ten million dollars in the production.
Streep also had a say over the choice of her leading man, opting for an English actor, who was then unknown in America, Jeremy Irons.

After winning a third nomination for this film and a second Oscar for Pakula “Sophie's Choice” (1982), Streep became one of the few women in Hollywood with the ability to command any screen role. Streep's power has also allowed her to demand–and get–changes in screenplays submitted to her.

Robert Benton, who directed Streep for the second time in the unsuccessful thriller, “Still of the Night,” observed after the experience: “Giving Meryl a script is like giving it to a second author.”