1. Meryl was born Mary Louise Streep on 22 June, 1949, in Summit, New Jersey, to an artist mother and pharmaceutical executive father.
2. While growing up, Meryl had the all-American upbringing – she was a cheerleader and homecoming queen in high school. So popularity was clearly nothing new to her…
3. Her boundless talent isn’t all God-given. She received her BA in Drama from Vassar College and her MFA from Yale Drama School.
4. Like any actress bound for greatness, Meryl tackled the works of Shakespeare in her early career, performing in productions of Henry V and The Taming of the Shrew.
5. She was engaged to John Cazale (who played Fredo Corleone in The Godfather movies) until his death in 1978.
6. Her first feature film role was a small but pivotal one in the 1976 drama Julia, opposite Jane Fonda and Vanessa Redgrave.
7. Her next big role was as part of the star-studded ensemble cast of Michael Cimino's The Deer Hunter, alongside Robert DeNiro, Christopher Walken and her then-fiancé John Cazale, who died of bone cancer before filming was completed.
8. Her first major award (of many, many more to come) was an Emmy in 1978 for her role as a woman married to a Jewish artist and living in Nazi-era Germany, in the mini-series Holocaust.
9. Her first Oscar nomination was for Best Supporting Actress for The Deer Hunter, a role she wasn't even that interested in at first.
10. She married sculptor Don Gummer in September 1978, six months after Cazale's death, and in atypical Hollywood style, they're still together!
11. They have four children: Henry, Mary Willa (Mamie), Grace Jane and Louisa Jacobson. Mamie is also an actress, and played the younger version of her mother's character in the 2007 movie Evening.
12. Renowned for her hard work and dedication to her performances, Meryl was trusted to write her own dialogue for two key scenes in Kramer vs Kramer – something that didn’t sit well with her co-star Dustin Hoffman.
13. Despite her astounding 15 Academy Award nominations – a record – she has only ever won twice (for Kramer vs Kramer and Sophie's Choice). She also holds the record for most Golden Globe nominations – a whopping 23. And she doesn't seem to be retiring any time soon…
14. Meryl has a reputation for her chameleon-like ability to lose herself in a role completely, and her knack for mastering foreign accents is but one tool of her arsenal of awesomeness. She nailed a Polish accent for Sophie's Choice, went Danish for Out of Africa, Italian for The Bridges of Madison County, and Australian for her über-famous line in A Cry in the Dark – "A dingo ate my baby!" Quite.
15. You wouldn't believe it, but Madonna was first choice to play her lead as an inspirational music teacher in Music of the Heart (1999). Maddie probably drops that fact into conversations whenever anyone brings up her woeful roles in Swept Away and Next Best Thing.
16. Meryl isn’t all about the drama, though. Her first comedic role was opposite Roseanne Barr in the 1989 film She-Devil.
17. Does she look a bit like Glenn Close to you? The two actresses are apparently mistaken for one another quite often.
18. She and Goldie Hawn were originally set to play Thelma and Louise, until Meryl's pregnancy during development put the kibosh on that cool idea.
19. But she is not too cool to offer her voice skills to the odd animated project, as she did for The Simpsons, King of the Hill and the upcoming film adaptation of Roald Dahl's Fantastic Mr Fox (set for a 12 February 2010 release in South Africa).
20. Katharine Hepburn allegedly considered Meryl to be her least favourite modern actress, saying : "Click, click, click," in reference to the wheels turning inside Streep's head. Ouch!
21. Meryl was also nominated for a Grammy Award in 2008. No, not for the Mamma Mia! soundtrack, but for "The One and Only Shrek" - Best Spoken Word Album For Children.
22. What do the die-hard fans of this living screen legend call themselves? The Streepers. Sounds more like a doo-wop vocal group, to be honest.
23. Her run-ins with Madonna are many. This is what she said when she found out that the Material Girl was poised to steal the role of Evita Peron from her: "I can sing better than she can. If Madonna gets it, I'll rip her throat out!" Last we checked, Madonna still had her neck intact. Promises, promises.
24. In Meryl's latest movie Julie & Julia, she plays iconic TV chef Julia Childs, a role for which she had to gain 7kg – which seems easy enough once you've feasted your eyes on the delectable dishes she whips up in the movie! A must-watch.
* Julie & Julia, directed by Nora Ephron, also stars Amy Adams, Stanley Tucci and Susan Lynch and is released in cinemas across South Africa on 13 November. Watch the trailer here.