Meryl Streep negotiated for a higher salary, director David Frankel thought it was 'undirectable,' and more revelations
It’s Runway, revisited: In celebration of the 10th anniversary of The Devil Wears Prada, which hit theaters June 30, 2006, the cast and creative team recollected the making of the beloved fashion movie for an oral history at Variety.
Based on Lauren Weisberger’s bestselling 2003 novel of the same name, The Devil Wears Prada was a surprise hit in the summer of 2006, grossing $326 million worldwide and picking up two Oscar nominations — one of which went to Meryl Streep for her performance as imperious fashion-magazine editor Miranda Priestly.
Streep connected with the script immediately, she told Variety, but not the offer, which was “to my mind slightly, if not insulting, not perhaps reflective of my actual value to the project.” So studio Fox doubled it. “I was 55, and I had just learned, at a very late date, how to deal on my own behalf.”
Her inspired portrayal of Miranda was something special from the start. At the table read, “when Meryl opened her mouth and basically whispered, everybody in the room drew a collective gasp,” Anne Hathaway recalled. “It was so unexpected and brilliant.”
Insisting that her performance was not based on Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour, who, it is widely believed, provided Weisberger’s inspiration for the character in the novel, Streep explained, “The voice I got from Clint Eastwood.” And Miranda’s ironic sense of humor — “that I stole from Mike Nichols.”
While Fox had to woo Streep with money, Hathaway had at that point mostly made a name for herself as a family-friendly, Disney-princess type, and she had to campaign hard for the role of Andy, Miranda’s assistant. “I had to be patient,” she told Variety. “I wasn’t the first choice.” Fox wanted Rachel McAdams, who repeatedly rejected the project before the studio finally offered it to Hathaway.
The rest of the cast came together as if by accident: Emily Blunt happened to be on the Fox lot auditioning for a fantasy franchise when a casting agent had her make a spontaneous audition tape — wearing jeans and flip-flops — for the role of the snobbish first assistant Emily. Stanley Tucci wasn’t hired until 72 hours before he needed to start shooting.
Prada “seemed undirectable to me,” director David Frankel said. “It was a satire rather than a love story.” Early drafts were “Zoolander-like,” and the narrative structure of the novel — which reads largely as just a series of atrocities committed by a cruel boss against her hardworking assistant — needed to be substantially reworked for the screen.
Frankel brought in screenwriter Aline Brosh McKenna to rewrite the script, and then Streep made three vital changes. “Getting the business-of-fashion scene in the movie” — a.k.a. the famous “cerulean sweater” monologue — was crucial to her, as well as “a scene where [Miranda] is without her armor.” She got the latter in a scene late in the film, when Miranda tells Andy about her impending divorce.
Finally, at the table read, Streep made her last suggestion: Changing her final line directed at Andy, in the backseat of a limo at Paris Fashion Week, from “Everybody wants to be me” to “Everybody wants to be us.”
Head to Variety for the full oral history. That’s all.