Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 25 November 2014

Streep’s ahead

As they join forces for their new movie, It’s Complicated, Meryl Streep and Alec Baldwin talk to Kate Whiting about what drives their careers and the challenges of relationships

The ex-factor - Jane (Streep) and ex-husband Jake (Baldwin) reminisce and rekindle their romance
The ex-factor - Jane (Streep) and ex-husband Jake (Baldwin) reminisce and rekindle their romance

Most romantic comedies follow a basic plot of boy meets girl, but the title of Nancy Meyers' latest film suggests there's a lot more to relationships than that.

It's Complicated stars Meryl Streep and Alec Baldwin as a middle-aged couple who start an affair — ten years after they got divorced.

Streep plays mother-of-three Jane, who is on good terms with her ex-husband Jake (Baldwin).

The old flame begins to flicker again when they stay at the same hotel for their son Luke's graduation, and end up reminiscing about their 19-year marriage.

With attorney Jake now married to a younger woman, Agness (Lake Bell), Jane soon becomes the ‘other woman’. Things get even more complicated when it turns out that the architect helping to build Jane's dream kitchen, played by Steve Martin, is ever so slightly in love with her.

The film has garnered a whole slew of Golden Globe nominations, ahead of this year's awards season. Baldwin believes Meyers,has created something more mature than the standard romcom.

“Nancy's movies are adult romantic comedies — they're a little more honest,” he says.

“Romantic comedies for young people seem to be a little crazy to me — everybody is doing incredibly stupid things to try and get a laugh. But when you're appealing to an older audience, you need to be a little more dramatic, because the stakes are higher.

“But at the same time you have to keep it light, it is a weird balance to strike and Nancy is so good at that kind of movie.”

Meryl Streep has recently carved herself a comedy niche, with memorable roles in Mamma Mia! and last summer's Julie And Julia, for which she's also been nominated at the Golden Globes.

She was the actress Meyers had in mind to play Jane, and she instantly loved the script.

“(She has) tapped into something deep about families who've encountered divorce,” says Streep.

But it was the draw of her leading men that proved irresistible. “They're just so wildly and inventively funny, I love them both,” she says of Martin and Baldwin.

Off-screen, the lead actors have had very different experiences of love and relationships. While Baldwin (51) was locked in a seven-year custody battle with his ex-wife Kim Basinger, following their divorce in 2002, Streep, who turned 60 this summer, has been married to her husband for more than 30 years. But she was still able to empathise with Jane.

“Starting a new relationship as an older person, you are a little bit more cautious and sensitive and you pick up signals more easily,” she says.

While 15-times Oscar nominee and double winner Streep may well see a 16th nomination this year, if the Golden Globes are anything to go by, her co-stars Martin and Baldwin will be teaming up to host the glamorous awards show in March.

“I'm grateful I'm doing it with Steve, he's done it twice before,” says Baldwin.

He is keeping mum on who might win one of the prestigious gongs which are up for grabs, but he does speculate about the Best Director category.

“Many people think Kathryn Bigelow might get nominated (for The Hurt Locker). If she wins, she will be the first woman to ever win an Academy Award as a director. So there are lots of interesting possibilities this year. They have the 10 films as Best Picture, they have expanded that category, they have two hosts for the first time...

“We had our first meeting with the producers and we have to come up with about half an hour of funny stuff.”

As for his career post-Oscar night, the 30 Rock star is keen to slow down.

“I have another year of 30 Rock to do. So by the time we finish that, I'm 53 years old.

“Working in this business is very time-consuming and you have to want to do this at the exclusion of anything else you want to do and I'm not sure I feel that way anymore.”

Last year Baldwin published a book called A Promise To Ourselves, which charted his battle for joint custody of his daughter and critiqued the US family law system.

“Nothing is as satisfying as writing in terms of saying what you want to say. Acting in TV and films, you're saying other people's words — if you want to have real force behind your self-expression, you paint or write.

“And I think writing is definitely something I might want to do more of and just take |a break from (acting), indefinitely maybe. I have done it |so long.”

Streep, on the other hand, shows no signs of wanting to retire. There are rumours of several films afoot and, whether they are romantic comedies or dramas, whatever she chooses will no doubt be well received.

The key to her longevity? Not taking life too seriously. “If you get to a certain age and you aren't laughing at yourself, you haven't recognised all the things that are funny,” she says.

It's Complicated is out in cinemas now

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