Meryl Streep On Playing Margaret Thatcher

Margaret Thatcher Campaign
Peter Marlow / Magnum Photos


We give our elected leaders iconic stature almost to have things to tear down, to work out all sorts of our own psychological problems and needs and venomous feelings. So I wondered about all the times that Margaret Thatcher was spoken about being unfeeling. And I thought, well, why was that? Was she really completely unfeeling? And as a public figure in a much smaller way myself, I understand that feeling of being stripped of your humanity. Was she a monster? While we were making the film, people had such strong and particular and specific venom for her. It was sort of stunning. It made me all the more interested in where her humanity lay.


There were many surprises, like how much she thrived on work. Every year the prime minister goes to Balmoral Castle for three or four days. She was profoundly uncomfortable when she went there. She couldn't work, which drove her insane. She didn't know what to do with herself, didn't like to relax, didn't like to have any part of the day not filled with a task. She was really happy working. And there, you're meant to relax.


I mean, I did suspect that there was a weird special rage about her because she was a woman. From all sides. The policies that she pursued were the same policies that Geoffrey Howe pursued, although he's not loathed and detested with the same intensity. And I think that it is a discomfort with, and a confusion about, women in leadership roles. For feminists it's a betrayal because she doesn't do the right thing, and so you hate her more than you'd hate a man who stood for the same things.


She was canny about the fact that in order to be taken seriously, she wasn't able to show certain emotions because she was a woman. Churchill could cry over everything, but if she cried it meant something else; it meant she wasn't fit to be leader.