14 things you probably didn't know about Meryl Streep

Vittorio Zunino Celotto/GettyMeryl Streep’s first name isn’t actually Meryl.
  • Meryl Streep’s first name is actually Mary. Meryl is a nickname her father gave her.
  • Streep was a cheerleader and high school, and she was born and raised in New Jersey.
  • Streep has won multiple Grammy awards and has been nominated for 21 Oscars.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

For decades, Meryl Streep has sung and acted in dozens of iconic films. Her dynamic career ranges from musicals like “Into the Woods” to emotional films like “Kramer vs. Kramer.”

But even if you’ve closely followed her acting work, you may not know much about her.

Here are some surprising things you might not have known about Meryl Streep.


Meryl Streep’s real first name isn’t Meryl.

John Phillips/Getty ImagesMeryl is just a nickname.

Streep was born Mary Louise Streep.

She explained during an interview on “The Graham Norton Show” that she was named after her mother and grandmother, as well as her mother’s best friend.

Meryl was the nickname her father gave her, and it clearly stuck.

“At birth, I had to be named Mary because my mother’s name was Mary and her mother’s name was Mary and [so on],” Streep said. “So I was born Mary and Louise was my mother’s best friend. . . Louise Buckman. So I was named after her. But I was always called Meryl. My father made that name up and he liked that name.”


Streep was born and raised in New Jersey.

REUTERS/Fred ProuserMeryl Streep grew up in Somerset County, New Jersey.

Streep, who has portrayed characters ranging from Danish author Isak Dinesen in “Out of Africa” to British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in “The Iron Lady,” grew up in Somerset County, New Jersey.

During a 2006 talk at Princeton University, she explained that the roles she steps into all feel like extensions of herself.

“And I say, ‘Well, why did God invent imagination? Should I have played women from central New Jersey all my life?'” she said. “The people I have played in movies and in the theatre have all felt like me to me.”


In high school, she was a cheerleader.

Julien Hekimian/WireImage/Getty ImagesMeryl Streep was in musicals in high school, too.

Michael Schulman – who wrote the Streep biography “Her Again,” which centres on her early life – wrote about how the actress treated popularity as a role in high school by reading fashion magazines, dying her hair, and becoming a cheerleader.

“She joined the cheerleading squad, she was the lead in every musical, she would do the French club and student council,”Schulman told NPR. “And eventually her senior year she was elected homecoming queen, which was kind of the pinnacle. It was kind of like winning best actress of her high school.”


She has applied to trademark her name.

Christopher Polk/Getty ImagesIt was filed in 2018.

In 2018, Streep filed an application with the US Trademark Office to trademark her name, according to TMZ. It reportedly cost her $US275 to file the application.

This isn’t uncommon for celebrities and, if accepted, the trademark would give her exclusive rights to her name in the entertainment industry.


She’s married to a sculptor.

Getty ImagesMeryl Streep and Don Gummer at the Kennedy Centre Honours in 2014.

Streep’s husband is sculptor Don Gummer. Streep and Gummer got married in 1978 after dating for six months.


Two of her daughters are also actresses.

Getty ImagesFrom left, Mamie Gummer, Grace Gummer, and Louisa Gummer.

Streep and her husband have four kids. Their oldest, Henry Wolfe (who uses only his first and middle names), is a musician, and their youngest, Louisa, is a model.

Their middle children, Mamie and Grace, are both actresses.

Mamie starred as the title character on the show “Emily Owens, MD,” and Grace has appeared in hit series such as “The Newsroom” and “Mr. Robot.”


Streep has an advanced degree from an Ivy League university.

Michael Buckner/Getty ImagesMeryl Streep earned an MFA from the Yale School of Drama.

After graduating from Vassar College, she earned a Master of Fine Arts from the prestigious Yale School of Drama in 1975.


Streep, who has appeared in musical movies like “Mamma Mia” and “Into the Woods,” trained in opera as a teen.

Universal PicturesMeryl Streep sang quite a bit in ‘Mamma Mia.’

When she was a teenager, she reluctantly learned to sing opera.

“I was 13. I didn’t like opera. Ew. I liked cheerleading and boys – that was what I was interested in, and Barbra Streisand, The Beatles and Bob Dylan,” she said in an NPR interview with “Fresh Air” host Terry Gross. “But I loved singing. I loved it. And I did have a very good coloratura.”


She has been nominated for five Grammy Awards.

Christopher Polk/GettyMeryl Streep has received Grammy nominations for her work narrating children’s books.

Her most recent nomination was a 2008 nod for her contribution to the “Mamma Mia” soundtrack.

Some of her nominations are related to her work narrating several children’s books.


Before she transitioned to film, Streep was in many plays and musicals.

Enveualtacultura/YouTubeMeryl Streep in ‘Mother Courage and Her Children.’

While at the Yale School of Drama, she starred in “Happy End.”

After graduating from Yale, she made her Broadway debut in the play “Trelawny of the ‘Wells.'”

She was last seen on the stage in 2006, starring in the Public Theatre’s production of Bertolt Brecht’s “Mother Courage and Her Children” in New York City’s Central Park.


Her first film role was in the 1977 movie “Julia.”

FoxIn ‘Julia,’ Meryl Streep acted alongside Jane Fonda and Vanessa Redgrave.

She appeared in “Julia,” a Holocaust drama based on a book by Lillian Hellman, opposite fellow screen legends Jane Fonda and Vanessa Redgrave.


The first major award she won was an Emmy for her performance in a 1978 miniseries.

Titus ProductionsMeryl Streep and James Woods in ‘Holocaust.’

Streep earned the award for “Holocaust,” in which she portrayed a Christian German woman married to a Jewish man.

She also won two subsequent Emmy Awards ― one in 2004, for her lead performance in HBO’s adaptation of the Tony Kushner play “Angels in America,” and another in 2017, for narrating the Netflix documentary “Five Came Back.”


She has been nominated for a record-breaking 21 Academy Awards.

Kevin Winter/Getty ImagesMeryl Streep at the Oscars in 2017.

Streep, who has three Oscars to her name (for “Kramer vs. Kramer,” “Sophie’s Choice,” and “The Iron Lady”), was nominated for an Oscar a record-breaking 21 times.

She was first nominated in 1979 for “The Deer Hunter” and most recently got a nod for her lead role in 2018’s “The Post.”


Streep has been known to go all-out when getting into character.

ColumbiaMeryl Streep wrote her own speech for ‘Kramer vs. Kramer.’

Streep, who earned her first Academy Award for the divorce drama “Kramer vs. Kramer,” goes all-out when getting into character.

For “Kramer,” for example, she wrote her own speech for the film’s courtroom custody scene.

“I don’t think it’s a woman’s speech. I think it’s a man trying to write a woman’s speech,” Streep told the movie’s director, Robert Benton, per Vanity Fair’s reports.

Read More:

All of Meryl Streep’s movies, ranked

12 things you probably didn’t know about the ‘Mamma Mia’ movies

10 celebrities who transformed themselves into famous figures for movies

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