The biggest question surrounding Paramount's remake of the 1962 classic The Manchurian Candidate — besides "Why remake a classic?" — is whether Meryl Streep is channeling Hillary Clinton in her performance as power-hungry Sen. Eleanor Shaw.
"A lot of journalists have asked me that question," sighs the two-time Oscar winner. "Even Katie Couric, who you'd think would have good fact-checkers." Disturbed by the comparison, Streep went online to track down the source of the rumors. "I discovered that it's from a really scary guy who runs a website in Los Angeles. And every single reporter has heard this story and fed it back to me as if it was true. But consider the source!"
Still, Streep does admit that the character is modeled after a real political figure, whom she declines to name. "I think I'm doing a dead-on impersonation of them," she teases, "but no one has identified who it is yet. And who says I haven't modeled it on a man?"
Streep certainly didn't expect this kind of controversy when she signed on to do the Jonathan Demme-directed Candidate (opening today). She cites the screenplay as her main reason for climbing aboard the long-stalled project. "Eleanor is a very interesting character. She has an agenda, and it's clear: She would go to any lengths to advance her son's well-being and political career. She's a very male character."
And if the actress ever felt nervous about stepping into this role — made iconic by Angela Lansbury in the 1962 version — she doesn't show it. "To me, this doesn't feel like a remake. It's a whole new thing. I didn't see the first movie before we shot ours, but I have seen it since, and they seem like two different movies that only share similar themes."
Next up for Streep is a role in the eagerly anticipated kiddie flick Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events. She plays Aunt Josephine opposite Jim Carrey's Count Olaf. "I did it because I wanted to work with Jim," she says, "and it was great fun to do." She's also still recovering from being the sixth woman to receive an AFI Life Achievement Award. "I feel like I butted in line in front of Lucille Ball, Audrey Hepburn and Katharine Hepburn. It's a great honor, but it was weird too. I think we make too much of these things."