Magazine article Screen International

Meryl Streep and Hugh Grant Talk 'Florence Foster Jenkins'

Magazine article Screen International

Meryl Streep and Hugh Grant Talk 'Florence Foster Jenkins'

Article excerpt

Hugh Grant's St Clair Bayfield, an underwhelming stage actor turned impresario, and Meryl Streep's Florence Foster Jenkins, the New York socialite and tone-deaf soprano with the hide of a rhino, is a pairing made in theatre heaven.

And, in the hands of director Stephen Frears, the relationship behind real-life Jenkins' trajectory from wartime wannabe warbler to Carnegie Hall performer is honest about its inadequacies and mutual dependency but all the more powerful for it.

Streep, a three-time Oscar winner and 19-time nominee, will inevitably be in lead actress contention again this season. Grant, a Golden Globe winner 21 years ago for Four Weddings And A Funeral, has earned some of the strongest notices of his considerable career for his supporting role.

Florence Foster Jenkins marks the first time he has worked with Streep and Frears. "It was largely as I expected," says Grant of starring alongside the decorated actress. "She was intense emotionally and brought a method actor approach to the work I've found with other New York actors."

"The first night I met Hugh was at a dinner," Streep says by phone from New York. "I'd never met him before and [executive producer] Cameron McCracken had piles of [the couple's] love letters, which he gave us to read."

Grant consumed the Bayfield correspondence. "All his diaries and letters were preserved in Lincoln Center in New York and I went to read them. I found him incredibly touching, really," recalls the actor. "In fact, really, inside - this is what the letters show you - he was a rather desperate, bit-part actor who'd never had any success, didn't have enormous talent.

"And as soon as [Jenkins] died, there are his letters - writing to the top actors and theatre directors of the time, begging for a part, saying, 'I don't know if you remember me but I was the third spear carrier in Chichester in 1924 and I just wondered if you had any work now," Grant continues. …

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