She is, without question, the preeminent actress of our time. Meryl Streep has tackled a vast gamut of roles since she made her movie debut in Julia, in 1977—everything from a Manhattan divorcee in Kramer vs. Kramer to a Holocaust survivor in Sophie’s Choice to Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady (to name only the parts for which she’s won Oscars.) This year, she expanded her range yet again, playing a witch in the film adaptation of the Stephen Sondheim musical Into the Woods. (Meryl sings!) That part nabbed Streep her 29th Golden Globe nomination.
In real life, meanwhile, one of the roles played by the defiantly down-to-earth Streep is that of dear friend to Mr. Valentino. As he revealed to the crowd at his recent talk with Fern Mallis at 92Y in New York, Streep often comes to his house for lunch. “She’s very simple,” Mr. Valentino said. “She loves to see the cook and ask for the recipe.” Mr. Valentino went on to tell Mallis, “you are so lucky that you are American to have Meryl Streep…she is such a beauty. A great actress, a great beauty, a great human being.”
The admiration is mutual. In 2009, she taped a heartfelt homage to Mr. Valentino, aired in Italy on a TV on a TV special dedicated to his life and work. “I’m very pleased to talk about Valentino,” she said, “because there is no one like him. There are a lot of trends in fashion…trends that become about other things than dressing a woman. And Valentino,” Streep went on to note, “has devoted himself to that simple, difficult task all his life. He has made women more beautiful. And feel more beautiful.”
Of course, no history of Mr. Valentino’s relationship with Meryl Streep can fail to touch on the moment when their professional lives intersected in the most visible of ways. One of Streep’s most indelible roles was that of Miranda Priestly, the frosty fashion editor in this film The Devil Wears Prada. Mr. Valentino had a cameo in the movie—also starring another great friend of his, Anne Hathaway—and briefly performed opposite Streep. They were both acting, but the respect and affection onscreen was anything but feigned.