Meryl Streep is getting used to being swept off her feet. Two summers ago, she frolicked on a Greek island with no fewer than three former lovers in “Mamma Mia!”. Last August, an adoring husband beamed at her in “Julie & Julia.” And in “It's Complicated,” she plays a divorcée who has a fling with her hotheaded ex-husband (Alec Baldwin) just as she's contemplating dating her gentlemanly architect (Steve Martin).
“My leitmotif!” the actress laughs. “I mean, am I not the luckiest woman on the face of the planet?” Sipping a cappuccino while Baldwin looks on with a wry smile, she adds, “I think it's more to do with the fantasy of women my age and the we're-not-done-yet feeling.”
That’s a familiar theme for “It's Complicated's” writer-director, Nancy Meyers, who explored similar terrain with Diane Keaton and Jack Nicholson in 2003's “Something's Gotta Give” — raking in $125 million in the process. If early buzz is to be believed, “It's Complicated” could be headed in the same direction, which would give Streep, 60, her fourth box office smash in three years and Baldwin, 51, his first big-screen hit since he started winning Emmys for NBC’s “30 Rock.” On a recent afternoon in New York, the ebullient costars chatted about working together for the first time. Baldwin supplied the deadpan humor and Streep, plenty of magnetic laughter.
EW: For Hollywood, this movie makes a pretty bold statement: that romance isn't just for twenty- or thirtysomethings. Was that appealing?
Meryl Streep: Oh, yeah. That’s what made me think it would be [a hit] — I’m knocking on wood, of course. But there’s a gigantic audience out there that’s neglected, and they have their little fantasies, hopes, aspirations, sadness, regrets, and everything else. There’s just nothing for them.
Alec Baldwin: I don’t mean to be glib, but the title really is perfect. It is complicated. I had a pretty tough divorce myself, so sometimes I sit there and I go, “Well, should I have worked it out? Maybe I should have tried harder.” It’s also what you teach your children about their love lives. That’s a big thing for me, to teach my daughter: No risk, no reward. I want her to realize that it’s a roll of the dice. Not everybody gets so lucky, where they have a family and a marriage forever and ever. [Gestures to Streep, who has been married to sculptor Don Gummer since 1978] But you have to try. People say, ‘Do I believe in getting married?’ Oh yeah, of course I do. I’d love to get married again. [Pause] I have to find a really rich woman so I can stay home and read books all day.
EW: No! You can never leave “30 Rock” — and hopefully Tina Fey wouldn’t let you. Speaking of which, between that show and this movie, you’ve now worked with two of the most talented, successful ...
Streep: Two of the biggest ball-breakers.
Baldwin: Right when I thought Tina was a ball-breaker, then I got to work with the ball-breaker. The Bette Davis of her generation! No, no, no. Well, it’s funny, because we would joke about the kind of glacial pace of the movie. It took forever to make. Nancy’s very slow and deliberate. And we do the TV show fast. I will literally jog to the set. We motor it along. Then we did this, which was the opposite.
Streep: Shooting was five months.
Baldwin: For a spoken-word comedy with no action and no effects, that’s a long time. But we had great people. Working with her [points to Streep] was fun. She’s fun! And who’s more beautiful than she is? No one is more beautiful than she is.
Streep: [Blushing] Oh, God.
Baldwin: That’s the truth. And you’re just floating, in awe of how great she is. She hates when we talk about her that way. That’s when she starts tapping on the table. [Streep is indeed nervously drumming her fingers.]
Streep: We were laughing a lot. That’s the main thing.
EW: You have such terrific chemistry together on screen. Did you know each other before the movie?
Baldwin: I’d met her many times, through friends.
Streep: [Surprised] Really?
Baldwin: She doesn’t remember. '“Alec who? I knew you when?” Those are the two questions I get.
Streep: It helps when you’re a huge fan. I’ve loved everything he’s done. I think the first time I saw him was in “Married to the Mob” and I said, “Oh my God! Who is this guy? He’s so funny!” And then I followed him, through “Glengarry Glen Ross,” everything. So we’ve wanted to work together for a long time — at least I have. And Steve [Martin] made it fun. He’s a graceful man and [his character] is a true romantic. He’s tender.
EW: The three of you share a hilarious scene involving marijuana.
Baldwin: Oh, does that get a laugh?
EW: Huge! So Meryl, what’s more fun, playing high on pot or high on orchid dust, as you did in “Adaptation”?
Streep: You’d think that I was the biggest ’head! I am so not. Well, I have a dim memory of all that. [Laughs] I do find it amusing — I love playing drunk, I love all these things of loss of control.
EW: You both give such vanity-free performances in this movie, particularly with respect to aging. Meryl, you have a great scene where your character freaks out in the plastic surgeon's office after the doctor explains the horrifying potential complications.
Streep: Well, if you’ve ever even contemplated that stuff and looked at what can go wrong in any of those magazines, it’s terrifying! I thought that scene was very well written, the way the doctor said they cut the top of your head and ...
Baldwin: They make a balloon out of the back of your scalp. They tie a little knot and you have a little bump for the rest of your life.
Streep: Kind of clears your sinuses, when you think about it.
Baldwin: Gets rid of your apnea. I told Meryl this story about how I did “Inside the Actors Studio” [in 1994], and then they asked me to come back a second time to raise money for the Actors Studio. I’m a total sucker, so I did it. And I sit there and Jimmy Lipton goes, “Let’s show a clip of Alec and his first visit 13 years ago.” They show a picture of me, and there were three women in the front row who gasped audibly [at how much I’d aged].
Streep: [Incredulous] Oh, stop it.
Baldwin: But you can’t worry about that. You can’t think about that.
Streep: You can’t. And also, we are who we are at this point. We can’t hide it.
EW: Lots of people in Hollywood try.
Streep: Yeah, but now every part of your life is chronicled. If something mysteriously looks better... [Trails off in a fit of giggles]
Baldwin: I’m not saying I wouldn’t do something! I intend to do something. I probably will. Let’s put it this way: I wouldn’t rule it out because ...
Streep: Yeah? When?
Baldwin: How ’bout today? What are you waitin’ for? [Laughs] You don’t think I wake up every day and wish I looked like this and this and this? But I can’t let that bother me. I’ll never forget, I said to Mike Nichols, “Who do you think is the greatest actor?” And he said, “Nicholson. Because he has no vanity.” I thought, God, what a thing to say.
EW: Meryl, is that true? You know Jack Nicholson well.
Streep: He has very healthy self-esteem. But I don't think he’s a vain man at all.
Baldwin: Not in the character. He was talking about how Jack [stands at] that bed in “Terms of Endearment” with his gut sticking out. It’s a classic scene.
EW: Alec, you do some of that yourself in this movie, baring almost all, including your behind.
Baldwin: [That was] my ass double! You can put that in Entertainment Weekly so people know. I have a great ass, if I may say so. That’s a part of my body that needs no surgical enhancement or rearranging.
Streep: It’s funny you don’t show it more.
Baldwin: Well, you gotta pay me a lot of money. They didn’t pay me enough. I think I even said that to Nancy: “I'm not going to show my ass in this movie. Maybe for [“9½ Weeks” director] Adrian Lyne or something like that, where it's more appropriate.''
Baldwin: But the guy who was my ass double, he worked on “30 Rock” one day, and he dined out on it the whole week. He showed up and told everybody, ''I was Alec's ass double.'' It’s a sick business.
EW: You’re not nude on screen, Meryl. Did Nancy ask you to bare all, as she did with Diane Keaton in “Something's Gotta Give”?
Streep: She asked me to bare all in many ways.
EW: Your soul.
Streep: Yeah. But I don't think if we had romped through half of this movie completely naked it would have added to the film. It’s about the intimacy of marriage and the comfort and the mess of it. It felt like what we did was exactly right.
EW: Alec, even if the bare buns weren’t your own, you do show plenty of skin. Did you need much convincing?
Baldwin: [Shakes his head] When you do a movie that you like or you’re hopeful about, you’ll go to any lengths if it seems right. And I was taking my clothes off for her [points to Streep] — not for you, the public. Big difference.
Streep: And Alec is fabulously handsome, so this is not a problem!
Baldwin: In spite of those women gasping in the front row.