Meryl Streep to Play Maria Callas in HBO Biopic

Wednesday, June 18, 2014 - 06:00 PM

The actress Meryl Streep will star as the late, iconic soprano Maria Callas in a forthcoming biopic for HBO, to be directed by Mike Nichols.

The film is an adaptation of the play Master Class, by Terrence McNally, which portrays the period when Callas taught at Juilliard, between 1971 and 1972.

Having depicted Margaret Thatcher, Julia Child and a magazine editor based on Anna Wintour, Streep (with 17 Oscar nominations and three wins) now faces the challenge of getting into the skin of another artistic legend, and one who sings opera no less.

Yet the learning curve may not be so steep: As a teenager Streep studied with Estelle Liebling, a highly respected voice teacher whose students included Beverly Sills.

The New York Post first reported on the project Wednesday.

In Master Class, which premiered on Broadway in 1995, Callas looks back on her operatic career and her personal life, especially the episode when Greek tycoon Aristotle Onassis, then the world's richest man, dumped her for Jacqueline Kennedy.

Streep and Nichols have worked together on films including "Silkwood" and "Postcards from the Edge" and on the television drama "Angels in America." The Callas film is expected to begin shooting in January after Streep, who turns 65 this month, completes another project, Ricky and the Flash. That film, directed by Jonathan Demme and written by Diablo Cody, is about a fading rock star who tries to reconnect with her family.

Tell us: Who do you think would be best suited to play Maria Callas? Please leave your comments below:


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Comments [17]


Meryl Streep has an excellent voice, can do any accent, and can be made up to look like anyone. I saw MASTER CLASS on Broadway many years ago with Patti Lupone and there's not much singing in it any. If the biopic is broadened and there's more singing in flashbacks, Streep can lip sync. Who sounds like Callas anyway?

Apr. 16 2015 06:15 PM
Charles Henry from Philadelphia Pa

Somewhere "La Divina" is smiling.

Jul. 24 2014 10:18 PM
george from NH

If they were younger, Melina Mercouri or Irene Pappas could portray Callas very well, I think. Meryl Streep will manage the roll quite well, though.

Jun. 28 2014 12:45 PM
Ralph Hirsbrunner from Madison, Indiana

I am sure that Meryl Streep will give a wonderful performance as Maria Callas.

However, if the director would like to have a singer, why not try Angela Gheorghiu. She looks good on stage, or in front of the camera; is imperious in person; can be quite difficult to work with; often cancels; often walks out on productions after a series performances has begun; and has an often turbulent private life. And if Miss Gheorghiu were allowed to sing "into an empty coke bottle", her voice might sound like Maria Callas' voice in the lower middle register.

Jun. 24 2014 08:07 PM
Jeff D. from Upper Montclair, NJ

Does this mean the previously announced Faye Dunaway-produced-and-starring (with her adopted son) feature version won't be made? That one was supposed to include Danielle deNiese. Or will it be like those 2 competing Truman Capote biopics a few years ago? Might be interesting to compare performances!

Jun. 23 2014 03:04 PM
Barry Owen Furrer

I was fascinated to learn Ms. Streep while a teenager, took voice lessons from Estelle Liebling. These "life" lessons would have taken place in the late 60's when Ms. Liebling was well into her 80's as she passed at age 90 in 1970. Besides her appearances at The Met, Ms. Liebling sang numerous concerts with the John Philip Sousa Band from 1902-1908 including two European tours and I would be interested to know if she shared any stories from the "old days" at these lessons? As a graduate of Bernards HS in Bernardsville, NJ, I'm sure Ms. Streep will once again rise to the challenge and deliver an Oscar-worthy performance!

Jun. 20 2014 09:42 PM
gloria from Maspeth, NY

Meryl Streep once played in Kurt Weill's "Happy End" on Broadway with Christopher Lloyd (Back to the Future) and Grayson Hall (Dark Shadows), probably in the early 70's. i remember the comment in Playbill about her "natural soprano" voice. so, who knows?

Jun. 20 2014 08:32 PM
Stefanie Lauer from New Paltz, NY

I trust Merryl Streep.

Jun. 19 2014 11:13 PM
Tony Panzarino from NYC

Never bet against Meryl Streep's ability to inhabit any role. She has also experienced great pain to draw from in her life- remember John Cazale?

However I would like to see Catherine Keener have a go. She is a great actress and a little more naturally interesting (quirky). Another choice might be Catherine Zeta-Jones or Naomi Watts or Toni Colette, also great actresses.

Jun. 19 2014 09:00 PM
Robert Seth Vorisek from Seattle, WA

Ann Hathaway. She has the bone structure. These days, whether she can sing or not is a moot point. Someone else could re-imagine the Callas style - a soprano singing with a mouthful of marbles. Don't get me wrong, I adore MC, but she did have a certain tone...

Jun. 19 2014 06:39 PM
eoselan7 from manhattan ny

Beneath the actress Streep's admittedly enormous acting technique, there lives a woman with a rather bland personality. (I fully understand that by making this observation I will incur hysterical attacks from her minions.) Maria Callas of course had a huge, inherently dramatic personality. As a director, I have found that this is a quality that cannot be acted. Streep could not for example, credibly play Anna Magnani, nor Tallula Bankhead, no matter how much Acting she did. To fans of Callas who long for an authentic experience, the thought of Streep as Calla is a dismal one indeed. That said, Mick Nichols is perhaps the greatest director of actors working today, so...

Jun. 19 2014 06:31 PM
James from New York

As someone who went to both Vassar and Yale with Meryl, I am convinced that she will do a splendid job as Callas. After all, Tyne Daly played the role and she does not resemble Callas....and, by the way, Meryl studied voice for years and has sung in several of her roles. She is a very gifted actor and a warm, wonderful person.

Jun. 19 2014 06:02 PM
Denise Morency Gannon from New Bedford, MA

Streep could play a phone book and create a credible character. She's a professional and will use her tremendous gifts, combined with hard work for a fine result.

Jun. 19 2014 03:51 PM
Richelle from New York

BRAVA, Meryl Streep as Maria Callas...Maria would have been HONORED! As to the "little critics": AND WE HAVE SEEN YOU OR YOUR WORK WHERE? YEAH...I thought so...NO WHERE! Sit back if you CAN and ENJOY Meryl BE Meryl as ONLY she CAN DO BEST!!! Perhaps you ALL can learn something about EXCELLENCE!!!

BE BLESSED... Richelle

Jun. 19 2014 12:46 PM
susanna from nyc

That's why they call it acting. Streep can do it just fine...

Jun. 19 2014 11:14 AM
Hendrik Sadi from Yonker, NY

I can't think of a worse actress to portray Ms. Callas. Why didn't they chose someone who looked more Mediterranean with a musical background?

Jun. 19 2014 09:47 AM
Sanford Rothenberg from Brooklyn

This sounds like a good choice,but Streep turns 65 Sunday,while Callas was 48 at the time of her Master Classes,meaning that Streep would have been more age-appropriate when the play was first written.It is intriguing to wonder whether McNally,an opera fan and panelist on the MET "Opera Quiz" would like an opera singer to portray Callas.

Jun. 18 2014 07:06 PM

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