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Meryl Streep Was Once Called an ‘Ugly Thing’ at a Movie Audition

Photo Credits: Jack Mitchell/ Getty Images/cropped, and Tasos Katopodis/ WireImage/ Getty Images/ cropped
Photo Credits: Jack Mitchell/ Getty Images/cropped, and Tasos Katopodis/ WireImage/ Getty Images/ cropped

Meryl Streep is a well-known presence on the big screen, having starred in numerous films throughout her five-decade career. She is highly regarded for being so versatile in the roles that she takes on, tackling subjects ranging from the eccentric Julia Child to the demanding fashion editor Miranda Priestly. This has earned Streep the accolade “the best actress of her generation.” However, her work hasn’t always been easy. Once, she was even ridiculed for her looks at an audition.

Early career

Meryl Streep was born and raised in New Jersey. While she acted some in high school, it wasn’t something that she was particularly interested in until she started college. By 1975, she decided to peruse it as a career, and she quickly took on multiple roles in New York theater.

Young Meryl Streep smiling broadly at the camera with her long blonde hair framing her face.
Actress Meryl Streep when she was first beginning her career, August 1976. (Photo Credit: Jack Mitchell/ Getty Images)

She was quite happy working in theater until she saw Robert De Niro in Taxi Driver, and she was inspired to start auditioning for roles in films. In 1977 she landed her first role – in Julia, where she appeared in a short flashback with actress Jane Fonda. In 1978 she was invited by De Niro, who had seen her in one of her theater productions, to act in one of his films.

Moving up in the industry

Streep’s career only continued to get better from there. In the 1980s she starred in many films as the leading lady, including Sophie’s Choice, The French Lieutenant’s Woman, and Still of the Night. Since then, she has acted in numerous popular films of all genres including The Devil Wears Prada, Mamma Mia, Don’t Look Up, and The Post. 

Meryl Streep in a long blue coat with red heels.
Meryl Streep is seen walking out of The Today Show, December 7, 2021. (Photo Credit: Raymond Hall/ GC Images/ Getty Images)

She has earned herself an impressive number of awards throughout the course of her career, only solidifying her acting prominence. Streep has been nominated for 21 Academy Awards and won three, and has been nominated for 32 Golden Globe Awards, winning eight of those. She was also nominated for a Tony Award and six Grammy Awards, just to name a few of her many honors.

Audition for ‘King Kong’

However popular Streep is now, she has been no stranger to rejection in her career. She once recalled her experience going to a movie audition very early on in her career, trying for the role of Dwan in King Kong. At the time, she had only just begun pursuing film acting seriously, but was given the opportunity to audition after meeting Federico De Laurentiis, the son of the director, while she was performing in a play.

Meryl Streep in a blue dress, red heels, and sunglasses on a red carpet.
Meryl Streep walks the red carpet ahead of the The Laundromat screening during the 76th Venice Film Festival at Sala Grande, September 1, 2019. (Photo Credit: Daniele Venturelli/ WireImage/ Getty Images)

She was invited to try out, with Federico being excited that he was able to bring in new talent. His father didn’t feel the same way, however. When Streep walked into the audition, the two men began to speak in Italian, a language she happened to understand. Dino De Laurentiis said to his son, “Why do you bring me this ugly thing?”

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In response to his harsh words, Streep replied “I’m sorry I’m not beautiful enough to be in ‘King Kong,'” and left the audition. Evidently, Dino De Laurentiis was the odd director out, as Streep left that audition only to become one of the most celebrated actresses in film history.

Rosemary Giles

Rosemary Giles is a history content writer with Hive Media. She received both her bachelor of arts degree in history, and her master of arts degree in history from Western University. Her research focused on military, environmental, and Canadian history with a specific focus on the Second World War. As a student, she worked in a variety of research positions, including as an archivist. She also worked as a teaching assistant in the History Department.

Since completing her degrees, she has decided to take a step back from academia to focus her career on writing and sharing history in a more accessible way. With a passion for historical learning and historical education, her writing interests include social history, and war history, especially researching obscure facts about the Second World War. In her spare time, Rosemary enjoys spending time with her partner, her cats, and her horse, or sitting down to read a good book.