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On March 12, 1978, the man Meryl Streep had been dating for nearly two years died as she sat at his hospital bed.

She had met John Cazale, the crane-like character actor best known for playing Fredo Corleone in the in the summer of 1976.

Right before their entrance, Dustin slapped her hard across the cheek, leaving a red mark. She’s going to bring us up with the Screen Actors Guild. Clutching Joanna’s trench coat, she pleaded with Ted, “Don’t make me go in there!

Benton heard the slap and saw Meryl charge into the hallway. ” As far as she was concerned, she could conjure Joanna’s distress without taking a smack to the face, but Dustin had taken extra measures. Benton filmed the speech in a wide shot first, reminding Meryl to save her energy for the close-up.

In the early chapters, their marriage is portrayed as superficially content, with wells of ennui underneath.

The problem is Joanna Kramer, who finds motherhood, by and large, “boring.” She starts taking tennis lessons. About 50 pages in, Joanna informs Ted that she’s “suffocating.” She’s leaving him, and she’s leaving Billy.

As she soaked in the atmosphere—muted traffic noises, chirping birds—she thought about the “dilemma of how to be a woman,” she said later, “how to be a mother, all the gobbledygook about ‘finding yourself.’ ” Most of her friends were actors in their late 20s who didn’t have children, women at their peak career potential, which, paradoxically, was the height of their baby-making potential. To make the story real to Justin, they would tell him only what was happening that day, so he could it, which would inevitably come off as phony.

His direction would be communicated solely through Dustin, as a way of bonding on-screen father and son.

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In her search for a kid who could play Dustin Hoffman’s son, the casting director, Shirley Rich, had looked at hundreds of boys.From the beginning, they were an unusual pair: a pellucid 27-year-old beauty just a year out of the Yale School of Drama and a 41-year-old oddball with a forehead as high as a boulder and a penchant for Cuban cigars. Only months after she moved into his Tribeca loft, Cazale was diagnosed with advanced lung cancer.When he was cast in the Vietnam epic Meryl joined the film, in part, just to be with him. A few weeks after he died, Meryl’s brother helped her pack up her belongings.“She could have delivered anything to anybody at any time.”They wrapped for the day. Hunching over her on his cane, he asks her to name the “longest personal relationship” of her life. “It did not succeed,” she answers weakly.“Not ” It’s at that moment we see the “whole human being” Joanna believes herself to be crumble before our eyes, trapped like a sea creature in a fisherman’s net. Now, with a fat finger waving three inches from her face, Meryl heard the words “Were you a failure at the one most important relationship in your life? When she did, he gave a little shake of his head, as if to say, “No, Meryl, you weren’t a failure.”Who exactly was up on the stand? No matter what you do, the pain is always there in some recess of your mind, and it affects everything that happens afterwards. But, just as a child does, I think you can assimilate the pain and go on without making an obsession of it.”When Benton saw Meryl glance to the side, he noticed Dustin shaking his head. You didn’t fail as a mother.” Amid the rancor of the court proceeding, it was a final gesture of the love they once had.When they returned to the Tweed Courthouse, it was to shoot one of the most wrenching scenes in the film: Joanna’s cross-examination by Ted’s lawyer, John Shaunessy, played with cowboy-like bluster by Howard Duff. Before the take, Dustin had gone over to the witness stand to talk to Meryl. Was it the actress who had stormed into the hotel room, guns blazing, telling three powerful men to re-write their screenplay? As she sat on the witness stand, defending her life, was she thinking about John? They filmed the remaining testimonies, and the court sequence was in the can. ”“Oh, I did them for years,” the woman said, “but I burned out. It was just too painful.” She added cheerfully, “I really love what I’m doing now.”“What?