The forces behind “One True Thing” (which opens Friday) learned that there are two types of movies: Those that do and don’t star Meryl Streep. When Anna Quindlen, who wrote the best-selling book that inspired the film, would do public readings, fans of the novel would always ask her who would be starring as Kate Gulden, the dying mother whose driven daughter comes home to take care of her. “I would mention Meryl’s name, and the gasp from the audience would be overwhelming,” says Quindlen.
However, having Streep as your star can also be nerve-racking. “She has one of those presences that always maintains itself,” says director Carl Franklin. “There are people that may intimidate you, but when you meet them, you think, okay, they’re not all that. But that doesn’t happen with Meryl. Even after having worked with her, there’s still always the feeling that you’re in the presence of somebody very special. That was daunting for me.”
Renée Zellweger (who plays Streep’s daughter), on the other hand, had a slightly tougher time being accepted. “When I first was told they were thinking of Renée, I had only ever seen her in ‘Jerry Maguire,'” says Quindlen. “I said, ‘Oh, I don’t think this is good. She’s too sweet, and I think her beauty is going to be distracting.’ I was on the phone in my kitchen, and my then 14-year-old son Quin heard and said, ‘Mommy, you’re absolutely wrong. You’ve got to see Renee in ‘Empire Records.’ He went to Blockbuster and got this little film that all 14-year-olds apparently love because at one point Renée wears an apron and a little short skirt. And in it she’s really hard and tough and kind of mean, and I said, ‘I can’t believe that’s the same woman. She’ll be perfect.'”