Streep relights the fire
Meryl Streep in Hope Springs. Picture: Roadshow.

Meryl Streep has a distinct sparkle in her eye, knowing that she has accomplished something that few 60-plus actresses have done - bringing sexy back to the senior citizen boudoir.

At 63, the three-time Oscar-winner has scaled many career highs but her new romantic film may be one of her proudest moments.

"For me it was an opportunity to talk intimately about things that matter to couples, and in a way that we don't get to see from people our age in the movies," she says. "If it helps any couple, I'd be very happy."

Co-starring Tommy Lee Jones, Hope Springs is a valuable lesson for any couple stuck in a rut.

Catching up with Streep in Beverly Hills, she says she has yet to read Fifty Shades of Grey.

"I'm not sure if we can compare the two. I think this couple in Hope Springs might have more in common with Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams in Blue Valentine," laughs the actress whose latest screen persona is willing to try anything in the bedroom - and in public places, to boot - to reawaken the spark in her long marriage.

And while the couple's fumbling attempts at reviving the passion might be amusing, it's also serious stuff.

"Love is uncomfortable . . . really loving somebody and feeling stuck and inarticulate as to how to get out of the rut that you're in and how to bring it out of your partner," Streep said.

"I don't think it's age or generational. I think we can all imagine being in a situation where we're locked into a particular role or a particular expectation. I think every human being is filled with longing and we all handle it in a private way. You could imagine that it's a spiritual longing; yearning for love even if you have it sitting right next to you."

Wed to artist Don Gummer for almost 34 years, the couple have four children, although Streep insists there are no parallels between her marriage and her latest screen persona.

"But everybody can go to sleep in a relationship," she cautions. "You can always take the other person for granted. It's all about staying alive in your life and that's something I think the movie plays around the edges of.

"I can't speak for all humanity, even though I often try." She smiles. "But, for me, it's very easy to imagine and to be caught being complacent - in friendships, in relationships with your children, and in any intimate relationship - to catch yourself thinking you know what the other person thinks and thinking you know how they're going to react. You make assumptions and it's not always the best idea.

"We know this intuitively. I'm sure that's why I'm not completely alone in this thing because I don't live alone and I have a wide circle of girlfriends all of whom talk about the exact same things. We know this story is relatable by many people.

"I thought 'God, nobody makes a movie about this, about people my age wanting to be seen, heard, intimately known'. That's a really unknown landscape for the movies and that was something that appealed to me."

Directed by David Frankel, who last worked with Streep on The Devil Wears Prada, Hope Springs serves as the first screen pairing of Streep with Jones.

"I've wanted to work with Tommy for 30 years and never got the chance. He's a gorgeous actor and has perfect instincts, great taste and passion. I'm sure part of it is because he's a director. He's economical."

She went on to tell the Los Angeles Times: "He's very private. I don't think I ever had a coffee with him, or a lunch."

As candid as Streep is during our interview, Jones, 65, is in equal parts surly and buttoned down.

When he's asked to compare his neglectful husband in Hope Springs to his own experience, the thrice-wed Harvard-educated actor says: "Our job is to make those comparisons between yourselves and what you see on the screen available to you.

"And if there's some kind of laughter or enlightenment, then that's good. But we're not social engineers, we're entertainers. But I don't think our private lives and how we deal with these crises or even if we're subject to them, is relevant to the movie at all."

Ask Streep if she believes audiences will be put off at the prospect of older people talking about sex, she says: "Not for older characters. I think it's uncomfortable maybe for younger characters or maybe it's nice for them to think 'Oh, I'm not like that'.

"And yet young people can be calcified in their relationships and ignorant of each other's needs and could take a page from the book.

"There's lots of people who talk about sex all the time that don't talk about intimacy and their own needs.

"Sex is easy to talk about. What your longings are; what your loneliness is, what your sadness is - that's very hard to talk about. I think it's less to do with sex than with longing for love and to be felt and heard and seen and important and that reflection in the person you're closest to."

'Young people can be calcified in their relationships and ignorant of each other's needs and could take a page from the book.' MERYL STREEP <div class="endnote">

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The West Australian

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