The marriage that Meryl Streep admitted was 'largely on the rebound', has turned out to be one of the longest and most loving in show-business
They were a couple who seemed to be made for each other...drama school students who dreamed of fame and fortune... and spending their lives together. The future looked bright ... Meryl Streep, with a degree from Yale, was determined to make it as an actress, regardless of the disapproval of her parents and John Cazale was already being recognised as an outstanding talent.
"When I get my first break, we'll get married," he told Meryl Streep. But when it came, heartbreak and tragedy came too. In 1977 they both got their big break in the iconic movie The Deer Hunter ... and John Cazale was found to have inoperable cancer. He died in March 1978 shortly after finishing the movie and Meryl Streep was convinced her life was over, too.
"I'd walk from room to room in our apartment expecting to find John. Then I moved out. I had nowhere to go but I knew I couldn't stay there."
A friend of Meryl's brother, a young sculptor named Don Gummer, offered to lend her his flat while he went on a three-month European vacation. When he came back she married him. Not surprisingly, friends and relations wondered what was going on. Said one pal: "We didn't even know they liked each other..."
"I haven't got over John's death," Meryl Streep told her critics. "Our love was the sort you read about in poetry books. But I've got to go on living and Don has showed me how to do that."
Nearly 35 years later, he's still doing so. The marriage that Meryl Streep admitted was "largely on the rebound," has turned out to be one of the longest and most loving in show-business. With Don Gummer's unwavering support, Meryl Street has become the most successful actress in movie history with 14 Oscar nominations, 23 Golden Globe nominations and 11 Bafta nominations.
At 64, she has no intention of retiring or even slowing down. In the past year she has made four movies but she says that the family — she and Don have four children — always comes first. Living "as far away from Hollywood as possible" the family have a secluded home on the small town of Salisbury, Connecticut, where Meryl can be seen doing shopping, chatting to neighbours and walking her dogs.
"She's never happier than when she can leave the superstar image behind and just be a mum and wife," says a friend. "Don has been a tremendous support over the years. She's a real home-body nowadays."
Meryl Streep agrees. "I turn things down which would take me too far away for a long time. I'm very domesticated at home — I love cooking and gardening and we just live like any normal couple as much as we can."
Meryl took a year off after the birth of their fourth kid and is very involved in her husband's work. And the secret of the success of the marriage which nobody thought would last? "We allow each other the space to have their own lives," Meryl says.
"Don plays golf and I like the arts. I go to the theatre a lot. Don doesn't care if he never goes to the theatre... we're just different.
"We agree about the big things, like the kids and money but we sometimes scrap over the little things — whose turn is it to get the car serviced, and silly things like that. "You have to talk about all issues that arise, even the smallest things. You listen to people's problems, suggestions and advice and accept that you're not always right. Conversation would seem to be the key to a successful marriage."
Don Gummer, one of America's most successful sculptors, looks back over the past three decades and "just can't believe, my luck.
"Meryl was shattered by John Cazale's death and I did what I could to help and pretty quickly I realised I was falling in love with her although we were — and still are — very different people."
Meryl says she was a shy quiet teenager and it was only when she was 17 that she came out of her shell when she found she had a gift for acting. The mousy bespectacled girl stopped feeling "dorky" as she once put it. She dyed her hair blonde, switched to contact lenses and won a place to the prestigious all-girl college Vasser to study music but soon switched to drama. Further study at Yale led to meeting John Cazale and the love affair which ended in tragedy ... and with Don Gummer coming unexpectedly into her life.
Says Al Pacino, a long-time friend, who knew Meryl during the John Cazale tragedy: "People wondered if it would work with Don — it was so quick and took everyone by surprise. It just proves that love can move in some mighty mysterious ways..."