Meryl Streep on Becoming the Ultimate Helicopter Mom in 'Into the Woods'

meryl streep, into the woods

Having raised four children who are now adults, Meryl Streep knows plenty about parenting ... which may explain why she recently hit the bulls-eye on the biggest mistake parents make with kids. In Into the Woods -- due out in theaters December 25 -- Streep plays a witch who keeps her daughter, Rapunzel, locked in a tower in an effort to shield her from a harsh world. She's like the ultimate helicopter mom -- and a vicious, vindictive one, too, blinding the prince who tries to lure her precious child away. Sound familiar?

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"We do overprotect sometimes -- not that I do!" Meryl said of parents at a recent press junket for the film.

The witch she portrays is one massive crank ... but Streep admires the fact that she's the only character in the film who doesn't lie at some point to get what she wants. That said, her brutal honestly clearly doesn't win her any popularity points. Since after all, she quips, "What makes a woman more attractive than never lying? That's why we call them witches, or bitches."

Here's what else this award-winning actress had to say about motherhood, singing in musicals, and more:

How she felt being cast in this movie:
I had seen Bernadette [Peters] do the witch 20, maybe 30 years ago? A loooong time ago. And I remember it vividly. It was etched in my soul. I was amazed when they were putting this together and wanted me to be the witch. It's just a great piece of American theater history and to imagine I could sing [in] this movie was a privilege. So I worked very hard to bring my voice back. I used to have a good voice. I tried to do my exercises I remembered from Yale -- clearing your sinuses, if you stand upside down ... I'm not going to do it, but it gets everything flowing!

How motherhood prepared her for this role:
If you raise children, you forget what age they are. I don't mean you literally forget, but you treat a 13-year-old like she's 10. And there's a big difference in those three years. And they can't stand it. They want to be treated like they're 17 when they're 13. And you can't help thinking of them as 10, or 10 months old. Because it's all so recent.

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On what her character loves most:
I think she'd say Rapunzel, but I think the real answer is probably being right. The two are conflated in the parental mind; they get mixed up. Because being right is protecting her. She also makes the mistake many make that if they look beautiful, they're loveable -- by their husband, children. She thinks Rapunzel won't be ashamed of her if she drinks this potion [that makes her beautiful]. And we all make that mistake, thinking that what's outside rather than inside makes you more worthy of love.

On her favorite fairy tale:
When my children were little, we had Shelley Duvals' entire set of Faerie Tale Theatre. It's fantastic. It's everything: Thumbelina, Carrie Fisher on a little acorn, Chris Reeve, and Bernadette Peters as Sleeping Beauty. But the fairy tale that really scared me was Bluebeard. That's the one where he just kills one after another of these women, these wives he lures up to the castle. I think of fairy tales as stories women tell women to warn them, to keep them safe.

How do you feel about protecting your kids -- do you think you overdo it?

 

Image via Walt Disney Films

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