Hollywood’s Camera-Shy Star Captured in Brigitte Lacombe’s Intimate On Set Portraits
Leading Tinseltown photographer Brigitte Lacombe shares these unseen behind-the-scenes photos of Meryl Streep to celebrate the actress’s Oscar-worthy performance as British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in her latest film, The Iron Lady. Taken over the course of their 31-year friendship, the shots reveal Streep’s grounded personality and the varied repertoire of characters she has played—from torn parent in 1982's Sophie's Choice, for which Streep won her second Oscar, to writer Susan Orlean in Adaptation alongside Nicholas Cage. Lacombe’s break came when Dustin Hoffman offered her the role of on-set photographer for All The President’s Men during a chance encounter at the Cannes Film Festival. The French native’s portfolio now reads like a Who’s Who of Hollywood royalty, including Jack Nicholson, Julianne Moore alongside fashion icons like Miuccia Prada and political figures like Barack Obama and the Dalai Lama. Here Lacombe, whose recent book Anima/Persona documents her celebrated photographic career, tells NOWNESS about shooting the demure Streep.
How did you and Meryl Streep first meet?
Dustin [Hoffman] had invited me on the set for Kramer vs. Kramer. I also did the poster, my first, a defining moment for me. Being on set with Meryl started a working but also a personal relationship which we didn't realize would go on for so long. I can't tell you precisely what happened but it evolved into a profound friendship that has endured to this day.
Streep is famously shy of photographs yet with you she seems very at ease. How did you get her to relax?
I still have to persuade Meryl every time to let me photograph her! Out of all the actors I know she is the most reluctant to be photographed. I think because it's me and she trusts me, she sees the photography now as an extension of our friendship. Meryl's never interested in being seen as herself—even on the set for The Iron Lady she was so concentrated and focused that she stayed in character. She's the only actress I know who really has no genuine interest or pleasure in looking at herself. She's interested in the work she's doing, and after that she just wants to live her life, unobserved.
What is the greatest thing you have learned about Streep by working with her?
Meryl is very joyful and playful. She has a great sense of comraderie with her fellow actors as you can see from the photograph with Amy Adams [in Doubt]. She's able to be very in the moment and to laugh. I think that she wants to make everyone at ease around her and downplays that she is really one of the most admired actresses by all.