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How a Devastating Loss Led Meryl Streep to Find the Love of Her Life

The Oscar-winning actress seems to have it all: a brilliant career, adoring fans, and a loving marriage that has stood the test of time. Her relationship with her husband of 44 years has often been shown as an example of a healthy, long-lasting marriage, which can be hard to find, especially in the world of show business. But things haven’t always been so easy for this Hollywood legend. Within only 6 months, Meryl Streep lost one great love of her life and met her future husband.

We at Bright Side believe in great romances, so we decided to dig deeper and discover how this particular story unfolded.

Back in 1976, Streep met actor John Cazale when they auditioned for Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure in New York. Although she was in her twenties and Cazale was 14 years her senior, the 2 immediately fell in love with each other:

’’He wasn’t like anybody I’d ever met. It was the specificity of him, and his sort of humanity and his curiosity about people, his compassion," Streep later said. Cazale was quite smitten as well: “Once [Cazale] was in that play, the only thing he talked about was her,” actor Marvin Starkman remembers.

The couple would spend 3 happy years together, starring in movies alongside each other before Cazale’s health suddenly started deteriorating. Not long after, at the age of 42, he was diagnosed with lung cancer. Shortly after, Cazale was offered a role in The Deer Hunter, which he accepted despite feeling weak. Streep decided to co-star in the film just to be close to him.

After finding out about his condition, the studio wanted to drop Cazale from the movie, but Streep threatened to leave if they fired him. For the next 5 months, Streep was by Cazale’s side as he underwent his cancer treatment while they were shooting the movie.

Theater producer Joe Papp remembers, “She took care of him like there was nobody else on Earth. She never betrayed him in his presence or out of his presence. Never betrayed any notion that he would not survive. He knew he was dying, the way a dying man knows it. She gave him tremendous hope.”

John Cazale passed away on March 13, 1978, with Meryl Streep by his side. The actress was so heartbroken and distraught that it seemed like the loss would derail her career as well as her personal life. A few months after the tragedy, Streep was forced to move out of the apartment they had shared.

Faced with the painful process of going through and packing up Cazale’s belongings, she called her brother, Harry, to lend a hand. As fate would have it, Harry brought along a friend, sculptor Don Gummer, who would later become Streep’s husband.

Gummer invited Streep to stay in his apartment since he was supposed to be out of town for a trip. But his vacation was cut short due to a traffic accident, and when Gummer returned home to recover, he and Streep fell in love, marrying in September 1978. While treasuring her 3-year relationship with Cazale, Streep didn’t allow the tragedy to prevent her from moving on with life, both personally and professionally.

In 1979, she was nominated for an Oscar for her role in The Deer Hunter, but she ended up winning the award the following year for the leading role in Kramer vs. Kramer. The Hollywood icon would continue appearing in more than 70 movies and winning major awards over a 4-decade-long career.

Streep’s career was blossoming and her personal life was equally fulfilling. In 1983, she won yet another Academy Award for Sophie’s Choice, and the same year, Streep and Gummer welcomed their first child: “This baby is an affirmative commitment in pretty desperate times. It’s the biggest thing that’s ever happened to me,” the actress told the press. Gummer and Streep have 4 kids together, a son and 3 daughters, all three of whom are following in their mother’s footsteps in terms of career choice.

Despite the tragic circumstances that brought them together, Gummer and Streep’s relationship blossomed into one of Hollywood’s longest-lasting marriages: “I haven’t got over John’s death, but I’ve got to go on living and Don has shown me how to do that,” Streep admitted in one interview.

Have you ever fallen in love in the unlikeliest of circumstances? What are your thoughts about Meryl Streep’s love story? Would you say it was fate, luck, or something else?

Bright Side/People/How a Devastating Loss Led Meryl Streep to Find the Love of Her Life
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