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Streep said the criticisms were misguided.

“If Margaret Thatcher suffered from a lung problem and I coughed, or if she had something wrong with her legs and I limped, no one would scream,” she said. “The particular stigma attached to mental frailty in our culture speaks more about the person who’s saying it’s shameful.

“Is it shameful? I don’t think it is. I don’t think things need to be hidden away.”

Streep is also fascinated by the venom Thatcher provoked _ she’s still either loved or loathed by most Britons _ and the film gently asks viewers to consider whether the fact that she is a woman played a part in the strong responses.

“She was called the most hated woman in Britain because of policies that lots of people who are still in the political world helped her construct, and they don’t endure the same hatred,” Streep said. “She was hated for her hair and her handbag and her clothes and her manner and the fact that she changed her voice.

“It was really outsized, the bloodlust, and that’s interesting.”

Streep said the film’s most provocative idea is that it asks audiences to regard this iconic political figure as human _ just like ourselves.

“I do think we have historically looked at our own lives through the bodies of kings and queens and important people,” she said. “Is ‘Hamlet’ really about the prince and his princeliness, or is it about his existence? Is ‘King Lear’ really about a grumpy old man who used to be a despot, or is it about existence?

“That’s certainly how I went into it, to find me in this story. And my friends, and my mother _ women of that generation who lived through a change in the way women were regarded and their place in society.”


Jill Lawless can be reached at: