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Meryl Streep's Supporting Roles: 5 Times Star Shined Without Being Lead Actress

By    |   Tuesday, 05 May 2015 06:39 PM

Although she’s known as a powerhouse actress, Meryl Streep is not always among the lead roles in every movie in which she appears. However, just because Streep is in a supporting role does not mean her performances are any less memorable.

When she was just starting out, Streep gave several supporting performances that paved the way for her to becoming the star she is today. With her performance in 2014's "Into the Woods," Streep proves she can still perform admirably in a role farther down the cast list.

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Here are five examples where she shined as a supporting player.

1. Linda, "The Deer Hunter" (1978)
In 1978, the open wound that was the Vietnam War was still fresh in the minds of moviegoers. "The Deer Hunter," which starred Robert DeNiro, Christopher Walken, John Savage, and John Cazale, dealt with the physical and emotional trauma that was in place following the war. Streep played the girlfriend of Walken's character caught in a love triangle with DeNiro's character. Streep earned her first Academy Award nomination for the role.

2. Karen Traynor, "The Seduction of Joe Tynan" (1979)
Streep gives a taut performance as a labor lawyer who has an affair with a powerful United States senator who has huge political ambitions. The movie stars Alan Alda, Barbara Harris, Rip Torn, and Melvyn Douglas. The New York Times film critic Janet Maslin marveled at Streep's ability in the film, stating that she is "more stunning with each new appearance on the screen."

3. Joanna Kramer, "Kramer vs. Kramer” (1979)
Although considered the first female lead, Streep's role as a mother fighting for custody of her young son during a messy divorce is a supporting role. Much of the film focuses on the relationship of the father (Dustin Hoffman) and his young son (Justin Henry). The role earned the actress her first Academy Award. Her performance reaches its zenith during her impassioned plea for her rights during the film's critical final courtroom scene.

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4. Susan Orlean, "Adaptation" (2002)
"Adaptation" might be Streep's oddest role. She plays an author whose book is being adapted into a screenplay, and her character ends up wanting to kill the writer doing the adaptation. The film stars Nicholas Cage, Chris Cooper, and Tilda Swinton, and led to Streep's third Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress.

5. The Witch, "Into the Woods (2014)
Part of an ensemble cast that included Emily Blunt, Anna Kendrick, Chris Pine, Johnny Depp, and Tracey Ullman, Streep shines as the Witch in this fairy tale-themed fantasy movie. The role earned Streep her fourth Best Supporting Actress nomination. The New York Times' Stephen Holden stated that Streep's "warm performance gives the witch, even at her most fearsome, a twinkle of good humor that draws you to her."

Tell Us: Which of These Actresses Stands the Test of Time?

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Although she's known as a powerhouse actress, Meryl Streep is not always among the lead roles in every movie in which she appears. However, just because Streep is in a supporting role does not mean her performances are any less memorable.
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