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Will playing 'Iron Lady' Margaret Thatcher finally win Oscar gold once more for Meryl Streep?

July 1, 2010 |  9:08 am

Margaret Thatcher Falkland Wars As reported by Borys Kit in the Hollywood Reporter, "Meryl Streep is in talks to reteam with her 'Mamma Mia!' director Phyllida Lloyd for 'Thatcher,' a biopic of the controversial and long-governing former British prime minister. Jim Broadbent is in talks to play Margaret Thatcher's husband, Denis, for the pic, which is being developed by Pathe and BBC Films."

As per Borys, "The film is set in 1982 and tracks Thatcher as she tries to save her career in the 17 days preceding the 1982 Falklands War. The 2 1/2-month war was a turning point for the prime minister, who,after the victory, saw her approval ratings double and went on to win a second term. Damien Jones ('Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll') is producing and came up with the story with Brian Fillis, who wrote the screenplay."

All three of the previous scripts from Fillis have been about real-life people -- "Fear of Fanny" (2006) focused on notorious TV chef Fannie Craddock; "The Curse of Steptoe" (2008) looked at the story behind the Brit hit TV show "Steptoe and Son" which Norman Lear adapted into "Sanford and Son"; and "An Englishman in New York" (2009) followed bon vivant Quentin Crisp across the pond.

Playing a real-life lady was the key to claiming the best-actress Academy Award seven times in the last decade: Julia Roberts as advocate Erin Brockovich in the film of the same name (2000); Nicole Kidman as writer Virginia Woolf in "The Hours" (2002); Charlize Theron as serial killer Aileen Wournos in "Monster" (2003); Reese Witherspoon as country singer June Carter in "Walk the Line" (2005); Helen Mirren as Queen Elizabeth II in "The Queen" (2006); Marion Cotillard as French chanteuse Edith Piaf in "La Vie en Rose" (2007); and Sandra Bullock as do-gooder Leigh Anne Tuohy in "The Blind Side" (2009).

Among those Bullock bested last year was Streep who had earned a record 13th lead actress nomination for portraying celebrated chef Julia Child in "Julie & Julia." Four of Streep's previous best actress bids were also for playing real women: whistle blower Karen Silkwood in "Silkwood" (1983); authoress Karen Blixen in "Out of Africa" (1985); suspected killer Lindy Chamberlain in A Cry in the Dark" (1988), and noted teacher Roberta Guaspari in "Music From the Heart" (1999). And one of her three supporting actress nominations was also for a real-life role: writer Susan Orlean in "Adaptation" (2002).

Meryl Streep's nomination for "Julie & Julia" increased her Oscar record to 16, putting her even further ahead of Katharine Hepburn and Jack Nicholson (both at 12). Though Hepburn won a record four lead-actress Oscars and Nicholson a pair of lead-actor Academy Awards as well as a supporting one, Streep has just one lead Oscar and a supporting prize to show for all her nominations.

Streep was 30 when she won her first Oscar -- a supporting award for "Kramer vs. Kramer" -- in 1979. She lost her first supporting race for "The Deer Hunter" (1978) to Maggie Smith ("California Suite") and her most recent supporting bid, for "Adaptation" (2002), to Catherine Zeta-Jones ("Chicago"). She contended for lead actress for the first time in 1981 for "The French Lieutenant's Woman," losing to Hepburn, who won her fourth Oscar for "On Golden Pond." Streep took home the lead-actress Academy Award the following year for "Sophie's Choice."

Her next two lead bids were for those real-life roles in "Silkwood" (1983) -- Shirley MacLaine prevailed for "Terms of Endearment" -- and "Out of Africa" (1985) -- she was edged out by Geraldine Page ("The Trip to Bountiful"). Then came "Ironweed" (1987) and a loss to Cher ("Moonstruck"), followed by the biographical "A Cry in the Dark" (1988), when she was bested by Jodie Foster ("The Accused"). For "Postcards From the Edge" (1990), she was beaten by Kathy Bates ("Misery"). With "The Bridges of Madison County" (1995), it was Susan Sarandon ("Dead Man Walking") who won, and for "One True Thing" (1998), it was Gwyneth Paltrow ("Shakespeare in Love") who was victorious. Streep's work in the bipoic "Music of the Heart" (1999) lost to the work of Hilary Swank, who portrayed a real-life murder victim in "Boys Don't Cry," and her comic turn in "The Devil Wears Prada" (2006) was overruled by Helen Mirren ("The Queen"). Her dramatic demeanor in "Doubt" (2008) was defeated by Kate Winslet ("The Reader").

At the earliest, "Thatcher" would be a 2011 release. Were Streep to win, it would be 29 years since she last claimed an Academy Award. The longest time span between two victories at the Oscars is 38 years, a record set by Helen Hayes: lead actress for "The Sin of Madelon Claudet" (1932) and supporting actress for "Airport" (1970). If Streep gets that third Oscar, she'll be tied with three other stars for having the second-most wins for performance: Nicholson ("As Good as It Gets," 1997; "Terms of Endearment," 1983; "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," 1975), Ingrid Bergman ("Murder on the Orient Express," 1974; "Anastasia," 1956; "Gaslight," 1944) and Walter Brennan ("The Westerner," 1940; "Kentucky," 1938; "Come and Get It," 1936).

Streep -- who turned 61 last week -- should take inspiration from Hepburn's Oscar history. Although Hepburn won her first Oscar bid -- for "Morning Glory" in 1933 -- when she was just 26, she lost her next eight Oscar races. It was only after Hepburn turned 60 in 1967 that she prevailed again with nod No. 10 for "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner." Hepburn said that win was a way for the academy to honor her late love and frequent costar Spencer Tracy, who had died just days after finishing the film. The following year, Hepburn won again for "The Lion in Winter," becoming the first repeat champ since Tracy pulled off that feat in 1937 ("Captains Courageous") and 1938 ("Boys Town"). Hepburn shared the prize with Hollywood newcomer Barbra Streisand ("Funny Girl"). And just weeks before turning 75, Hepburn collected that fourth Academy Award for "On Golden Pond."

Photo: Margaret Thatcher on the cover of Time magazine. Credit: Time Inc.

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