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'The Iron Lady': Margaret Thatcher's Friends Say Meryl Streep Film Insulting, Inaccurate

Meryl Streep Iron Lady

First Posted: 11/16/11 07:36 AM ET Updated: 12/23/11 12:04 PM ET

Margaret Thatcher is by far one of Britain's most polarizing figures over the last half century, and so it is no surprise that the upcoming film about her life is already causing debate and anger.

Starring Meryl Streep as the former British Prime Minister and conservative icon, the film depicts both Thatcher's professional life, including her hold on power between 1979 and 1990, as well as her personal journey, which includes her rise to the top and the years following her exit from office. The film isn't out to the public yet, and only a limited number of people have seen it, but just the idea of it has some of her allies up in arms.

"She was never, in my experience, the half-hysterical, over-emotional, over-acting woman portrayed by Meryl Streep," Norman Tebbit, a member of her cabinet and former Conservative Party head, wrote in the Telegraph of London. She could be difficult and demanding, he acknowledged, but not at all like the woman he has seen in trailers for the film.

"I do not know whom the makers of the Meryl Streep film talked to. Perhaps Michael Heseltine or Geoffrey Howe, but certainly not me," he wrote; Heseltine was a member of Thatcher's cabinet who resigned and later stood against her in the Conservative Party election of 1990, while Howe was one of her top cabinet members before a demotion led to his resignation. "To judge the film from its trailer, they confined their inquiries to the Daily Mirror and perhaps Tim Bell's public relations firm."

Bell, however, is also upset with the movie.

"I can't see the point of this film. Its only value is to make some money for Meryl Streep and whoever wrote it," Lord Bell, one of Thatcher's key PR advisers, told the Telegraph. "I have no interest in seeing it. I don't need a film to remind me of my experiences of her. It is a non-event... It won't make any difference to her place in history of the fact of what she did."

Streep, for her part, recently told the Daily Mail how honored she was to play Thatcher.

"It was one of those rare, rare films where I was grateful to be an actor and grateful for the privilege of being able to look at a life deeply with empathy," she said in a glowing piece about the film's depiction of the former Prime Minister. "There's no greater joy."

Political differences, Streep said, played no part in her portrayal.

"I still don't agree with a lot of her policies," the Oscar winner said. "But I feel she believed in them and that they came from an honest conviction, and that she wasn't a cosmetic politician just changing make-up to suit the times. She stuck to what she believed in, and that's a hard thing to do."

Reviews for the film have, thus far, praised Streep while questioning the full integrity of the script and story, a sort of split decision for the admirers of the actress and those personally offended by the the picture's veracity.

"Streep, it transpires, is the one great weapon of this often silly and suspect picture," The Guardian's review offered. "Her performance is astonishing and all but flawless; a masterpiece of mimicry which re-imagines Thatcher in all her half-forgotten glory. Streep has the basilisk stare; the tilted, faintly predatory posture. Her delivery, too, is eerily good -- a show of demure solicitude, invariably overtaken by steely, wild-eyed stridency."

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Filed by Jordan Zakarin  |