“Lindsay hung on Meryl almost like a mentor,” recalls Altman, a director known to love actors and barely tolerate the media. “And she was very respectful of all the people she worked with. It’s the press that makes news of all that other stuff. But I think she’s great and I’d work with her again. She’s a great talent with a really sexy voice.”
The day after the photo shoot, the two actresses plan to meet for lunch at Nobu, with Streep arriving first for a short solo interview. She enters dressed in an ample cardigan and wearing plastic glasses that obscure her nose’s Renaissance splendor, as if she intends to pass herself off as an artsy New York mom. (The 56-year-old actress has four children, ages 14 to 25, with sculptor Don Gummer.) Streep says she was convinced Lohan would be “perfect” for Altman’s film, even before meeting her. “I think I’d seen Freaky Friday maybe seven times,” she says. “I have three daughters, and it’s the Lindsay Lohan fan club at my house. I thoughtI thinkshe is a terrific actress. It’s something that you could see even when she was little-bitty.”
A Prairie Home Companion is a congenial film adaption of Garrison Keillor’s long-running radio show of the same name. The movie’s storyline, such as it is, ambles backstage at the Fitzgerald Theater as the show’s cast and crew, including Keillor himself, prepare for their final broadcast. (It’s a fictional conceit: After 30 years, the NPR radio show is still going strong.)
Among the film’s most vibrant characters are Streep and Lily Tomlin, who play the two surviving sisters of a famous singing family. Lohan, blond on film for the first time, is Streep’s daughter, a sulky teenager who writes poetry about suicide but who eventually shines through as the face of a new generationand a pretty reliable hope for the future, at that.
Streep, as if adopting her maternal screen role, is mildly defensive when asked if Lohan’s party exploits ever interfered with her work on the set.
“Lindsay knew her lines better than we did,” she says firmly, then continues in a slightly more indulgent tone. “She’s very young. It’s a great sort of coin to have, a wonderful time in somebody’s life. I’m aware of the tabloid stuff because my kids tell mebut I don’t read it, and frankly, I couldn’t care less. When they say ‘Action,’ Lindsay is completely, visibly living in front of the camera, and that’s all anybody really cares about.”
She compares Lohan with, of all people, Cher as a young performer. Both actresses have a brazenly confessional manner that leads them to fling away intimate secrets. And yet, Streep says, both are unexpectedly self-contained, and Lohan’s psyche, like Cher’s, has deeper contours than some would expectguarded places that serve as her storehouse of creativity.