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The assumption now was that any woman could do both: the dreaded cliché of “having it all.” But what about the Joanna Kramers, who couldn’t manage either? When he first saw the set, Dustin said, “My character wouldn’t live in this apartment.” The whole thing was quickly redesigned to fit whatever was in his head.
Meryl spoke with her mother, who told her, “All my friends at one point or another wanted to throw up their hands and leave and see if there was another way of doing their lives.”She sat in a playground in Central Park and watched the Upper East Side mothers with their perambulators, trying to outdo one another. She thought about Joanna Kramer—who after the movie came out, “the more I felt the sensual reason for Joanna’s leaving, the emotional reasons, the ones that aren’t attached to logic. In contrast to most films, they would shoot the scenes in order, the reason being their seven-year-old co-star.
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.
Only weeks after losing the love of her life, she had found the second love of her life, the man who would become her husband. Corman wanted to counteract the “toxic rhetoric” he had been hearing from feminists, who he felt lumped all men together as “a whole bunch of bad guys,” he says now.He should look like Meryl: a constant reminder of the absent Joanna. Some of the marketing executives at Columbia thought she wasn’t pretty enough. They thought that she was a character actress,” Richard Fischoff said, describing exactly how Meryl saw herself.But she had her advocates, including Dustin Hoffman and Robert Benton, and that was enough to twist some arms.The little boy under the covers was Justin Henry, a sweet-faced seven-year-old from Rye, New York.In her search for a kid who could play Dustin Hoffman’s son, the casting director, Shirley Rich, had looked at hundreds of boys.