Janelle Monáe, Ruth Negga, Dev Patel and More: Eight Rising "Virtuosos" Dropped Serious Wisdom in Santa Barbara

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Simon Helberg (Florence Foster Jenkins)

On Getting to Work with Meryl Streep

It wasn’t as much groveling as I’m used to. I had been in a tiny, tiny movie called We’ll Never Have Paris, that I wrote and my wife directed, and the casting director was named Kathleen Chopin—appropriately so—and a year later I got an email from her that I thought was from a Nigerian Prince, because it had Meryl Streep’s name, and Stephen Frears’, and ‘Would you consider reading this?’ I went home and cried reading this. I told her, ‘Did you know I play piano?’ It was meant to be, because she didn’t even know.

I met with Stephen Frears, who’s an eccentric and doesn’t have a large attention span, and whom I think wanted this to work. He didn’t really know me, and wanted to know how well I could play the piano, and could I act while playing the piano? I said, ‘Yes, yes, yes, all those things—when can I meet Meryl?’ He asks me, ‘What are you doing December 3rd? Can you come to London to meet Meryl?’ I said, ‘Yes, I was going to head out that way anyway.’ He wanted to prove that I wasn’t just a psychopath, so I sent in a tape. I’d played jazz, and popular music, and rock bands, but I wasn’t un-cool enough to play opera or classical music, so I crammed, and I sent in the tape from my iPhone, and I got the part.”

On Laughing and Crying Interchangeably

I cried during all the funny lines, and I laughed at her death scene—spoiler alert. That’s kind of the brilliance of both Stephen and Meryl. They’re humanists, so they mine those moments. That death scene is almost as uplifting as anything else in the film. Meryl delivers these lines that could be very heavy with levity, because life is funny that way. Stephen is the master of stopping you in the gut when you’re laughing, and making you laugh when you think you might break down. Philomena, and all of his films, even Dangerous Liaisons, has all this humor to it. If you watch Meryl’s work, she’s as hilarious as she is heartbreaking. That’s the genius of those people.”

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  1. Sarah

    February 28, 2017 at 3:07 pm

    One of the most talented groups in hollywood. The diversity is incredible and the talent they all share is greater than anything measurable. Cant wait to see what future lies ahead for this talented group of individuals. Keep up the great work!!

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