Meryl Streep has been signed to play opera diva Maria Callas for a new HBO movie. Page Six reports that Mike Nichols will direct the biographical film, based on Terence McNally’s 1995 Tony award-winning play Master Class, which recently had a revival on Broadway.
Callas’ life resembles an opera itself: She was a young Greek transplant in New York when her parents discovered her huge voice and started her vocal training. Her voice was not technically considered perfect, but Callas’ vast range—and range of emotion—led her to most of the female operatic leads (including La Traviata, Tosca, and Medea) and earned her the nickname “La Divina.” Singers as disparate (and far from opera) as Patti Smith and Linda Ronstadt still cite her as a hero and an influence.
Callas is also famous for her love life: Two years after meeting Aristotle Onassis at a party, she divorced her husband for him; she was planning on wedding the shipping mogul when he dumped her for Jackie Kennedy. She died of a heart attack at age 53 in 1977.
A few years before her death, Callas taught a voice course at Juilliard, which became the basis for Master Class. In the play, Callas looks back on her illustrious life and career as she coaches her students.
This is Streep’s second musical starring role in a row after her role as a washed-up rocker in the Diablo Cody-penned Ricky And The Flash (she’s taking guitar lessons from Neil Young). And she’s had much success playing legends before, with recent biographical portrayals such as Margaret Thatcher, Julia Child, and Anna Wintour. Nichols and Streep have an impressive track record together, including Silkwood, Heartburn, Postcards From The Edge, and Angels In America, also for HBO. Filming is set to begin in January.