James Corden Finally Tells the Dark Truth About Meryl Streep

Meryl Streep in Valentino at the Costume Designers Guild Awards. (Photo: Getty Images)
Meryl Streep in Valentino at the Costume Designers Guild Awards. (Photo: Getty Images)

The focus of Tuesday evening at the Beverly Hilton may have been this year’s achievements in costume design for film and television, but from the moment the 19th Annual Costume Designers Guild Awards began, the guests had only one thing on their minds: Meryl Streep.

Host Mandy Moore joked that the show was coming live from the Meryl Streep Ballroom, referring to the scene of Streep’s powerful speech on the same stage for the Golden Globes a month prior.

Lily Collins, one of the night’s honorees, couldn’t wait to snap her second picture with Streep in as many months. But it was late night host and Streep’s Into the Woods co-star James Corden who made the most lasting impression of the evening, recalling his first encounter with the legend while presenting the actress with the Distinguished Collaborator Award.

Lily Collins in Alexander McQueen at the Costume Designers Guild Awards
Lily Collins in Alexander McQueen at the Costume Designers Guild Awards. (Photo: Getty Images)

“I remember the first time I met Meryl. We were in London, and Meryl was having a bite to eat with Christine Baranski. I walked over to the table and I said, ‘Hello, I’m James.’ And she looked me right in the eye, and I’ll never, ever forget it, she said to me, ‘I’d like the lemon crusted salmon,’” said Corden, as Streep and the audience roared. “I explained to Meryl that I was an actor and I was actually about to play the baker in Into the Woods alongside her, and she said, ‘That’s great. I’d like the lemon crusted salmon and a diet Coke, no ice.’ What I’m trying to say is, and it’s time that someone said it, she’s a complete b***c.”

As Corden went on to praise Streep and her career achievements, joking that she would use the night’s award as a doorstop for her Golden Globe room, he also revealed that the actress had once pursued costume design before becoming an actress. “Yeah, but she failed,” deadpanned Corden. “Which means that for all of you, you can say, ‘I’m better than Meryl Streep.’”

Streep dedicated the award to her mother, who had inspired her to major in costume design. “Halloween was like the run-up to Fashion Week in our house,” said Streep. “She made me [into] a Statue of Liberty and here’s the inspired piece — a Carvel’s pistachio ice cream swirl.”

Mandy Moore in Jenny Packham at the Costume Designers Guild Awards
Mandy Moore in Jenny Packham at the Costume Designers Guild Awards. (Photo: Getty Images)

Streep went on to describe her relationship with her favorite costume designers — Ann Roth, Albert Wolsky, Colleen Atwood, Consolata Boyle, and Santo Loquasto among them.

“That moment of creation. It’s so hard. You never see it in a movie, really. They never really get that right,” said Streep, adding with a sly smile. “It’s just a happy surprise, like simultaneous orgasm or something. It is a little tiny miracle.”

La La Land, Hidden Figures, and Doctor Strange took home the awards in the film category while Game of Thrones, The Crown, and American Horror Story: Roanoke dominated in television. For the actors presenting, there was no doubt about the importance of the night’s accolades. “The costume can say so much before I, as an actor, open my mouth to say a line,” said Pretty Little Liars’ Troian Bellisario. “If I’ve walked on screen or on stage, you have thoughts about my character from what I’m wearing, so it’s a very, very important part of creating a character.”

Meryl Streep at the Costume Designers Guild Awards
Streep at the Costume Designers Guild Awards. (Photo: Getty Images)

Is there pressure, then, in dressing for a room full of costume designers whose job it is to read wardrobe choices? “Yeah!” exclaimed Collins, who received the Lacoste Spotlight Award. “I was like, what can I wear that is going to pay homage to them and not go too wild?”

Collins chose a body-hugging embroidered Alexander McQueen gown. “I saw this and thought, I think I need to wear that. It’s multicolored and fun, and I just get to wear glitter on a Tuesday.”

Another fear the presenters had were wardrobe malfunctions. Transparent’s Kathryn Hahn made a joke about walking in heels in front of a bunch of costume designers, and Belisario was worried about making sure her plunging gown stayed in place. But the award for the night’s greatest save went to Transparent’s Amy Landecker, who discovered upon arrival that her Stella McCartney suit — which happened to be one of her character’s costumes on the next season of the Amazon drama — still had the security tag attached to it. Landecker admitted it was a first for her. “Someone from Stella McCartney had to run over and take it off,” Landecker laughed, adding, “This has happened to everybody, right?”

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