Meryl Streep Explains Why Her Love Scene With Robert Redford Was Her Favorite: ‘I Didn’t Want It to End’

 “It’s a sex scene in a way, because it’s so intimate,” the acting legend shares of her iconic “Out of Africa” shampoo sequence

A standing man pours water through a sitting woman's hair, outdoors.
Robert Redford and Meryl Streep in "Out of Africa" (via Getty Images)

Meryl Streep reflected, during a Cannes Q&A, on her famous scene with Robert Redford where he intimately washed her hair in the film “Out of Africa.”

In the epic 1985 Sydney Pollack romantic drama, Streep starred as a Danish baroness who falls in love with a big game hunter, played by Redford, while running a coffee plantation in colonial South Africa. 

The movie’s iconic moment features Redford tenderly washing Streep’s hair by a river, while reciting lines from English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s seminal poem, “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.”

“It’s a sex scene in a way, because it’s so intimate,” the 74-year-old actress said during a Q&A Wednesday at the Cannes Film Festival.

She added, “We’ve seen so many scenes of people f–king, but we don’t see that loving touch, that care. It’s gorgeous.”

The audience responded with applause during the conversation at Cannes’ Théâtre Debussy.

Streep went on to explain that she, Redford and the crew had to be aware of the potentially dangerous animals in the area while filming the scene.

“I didn’t want it to end that day, even in spite of the hippos,” she continued.

Meryl Streep Cannes
Meryl Streep on the red carpet at the Cannes Film Festival

“We had lions, but they were imported from California and they were supposedly fine — tame. They were not,” the actress said, setting up the tension in the background as she filmed with Redford.

“And the second thing we were told is the animal that kills the most people in Africa is the hippopotamus, if you get between the hippopotamus and the water,” Streep continued. “So we were shooting in the river and the hippopotamus were right above it. I don’t know if they show that in the movie, I can’t remember, but I was aware of it.”

Unfortunately Redford, now 87, was not initially a gifted hair stylist during the shampoo scene, Streep said. “It was not good.”

So she got her longtime hair and makeup artist Roy Hellund to take Redford aside to give him a few pointers, she explained.

It worked. “Redford took the lesson, and he just really got into it, and he was great,” Streep recalled. “By take five I was so in love,” she said of her costar.

Streep was awarded an honorary Palme d’Or at Cannes’ opening ceremony earlier this week for her expansive career.

Taking a look at the industry, as France currently goes through its own #MeToo reckoning, Streep also discussed how significantly the film industry changed once women gained authority at the studios.

“Before there were women in greenlight positions at studios, it was very hard for men to see themselves in a female protagonist. It was not difficult for the women executives to see themselves in a male protagonist, but the hardest thing — I’ve said this 150,000 times — the hardest thing is for a male to live through the female in a movie who’s the lead,” Streep said during the Q&A, TheWrap reported. “They just didn’t get it.”

“Out of Africa” was based on Karen Blixen’s 1937 autographical book. The film received 11 Academy Award nominations, including a best actress nod for Streep. The movie went on to take seven Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director for Pollack.

For all of TheWrap’s Cannes coverage, click here.

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