Meryl Streep Argues Stern Nun Role Similar To War on Terror Absolutists

Actress Meryl Streep, who plays an authoritarian nun battling a "passionate liberal priest" (according to Newsweek) in the new film "Doubt," told the Boston Herald on Sunday that the film is actually a metaphor for those who think the war on terror can be won with force. She argued, "It's about someone who thinks you can control evildoers with force and a firm hand and an unrelenting, 'We will not negotiate (with terrorists).'"

The liberal actress also added, "Or there's another approach, one with all these layers of humanity who think you have to have innocence so it doesn't go bad and get corrupted." Philip Seymour Hoffman, who co-stars in the film as a priest suspected of sex abuse, appeared on Monday's "Good Morning America" as part of a three day promotion that the ABC network is providing for the film. In the interview with news anchor Chris Cuomo, Hoffman somewhat cryptically said of the film, "...Certainty is usually connected to something positive. And doubt is usually connected to something negative. And what if you switch that and what would happen? And the film kind of is looking at those issues." (Reviews of the film suggest it comes down on the side of doubting.)

Cuomo responded, "And for people who believe, that is huge." In addition to Hoffman, Streep will appear on Tuesday's program to talk about the movie. Another co-star, Amy Adams, will stop by on Wednesday. This promotional push could be reminiscent of the three days and 19 minutes that GMA gave to the left-wing anti-war film "Lions For Lambs," which also featured Ms. Streep.

A transcript of the December 8 segment, which aired at 8:35am, follows:

CHRIS CUOMO: From his Oscar-winning turn in the movie "Capote," to his high flying villain in "Mission Impossible III," it seems Mr. Philip Seymour Hoffman can do just about anything he likes and he'll have the critics raving all along the way. His latest film is called "Doubt." And there's here's no doubt you'll be hearing a lot about this film come Oscar time. Very good to have you on the show.

PHILIP SEYMOUR HOFFMAN: Thanks. Thanks for having me. .

CUOMO: This is a big, complicated film. There's a lot going on in this. From an actor's perspective, what drew you to this, "Doubt?"

HOFFMAN: Um, the debate, the underlying debate in the film. I mean, when people see it they'll know what I mean. The debate between certainty and doubt. And I think someone talked about it a couple days ago- I was overhearing it- that certainty is usually connected to something positive. And doubt is usually connected to something negative. And what if you switch that and what would happen? And the film kind of is looking at those issues.

CUOMO: There's a brilliant line early in the film, that doubt can be as strong a bond as anything else.

HOFFMAN: As certainty.

CUOMO: And for people who believe, that is huge. Now, obviously, there's a second layer to this, which is that your character plays a priest. There are allegations of wrongdoing vis-a-vis a child. No surprise that we've heard that line before. And there's the interplay between you, the character of Meryl Streep, who plays the principal, and Amy Adams, a younger nun. Let's play a clip. Take a look and listen.

["Doubt" clip]

MERYL STREEP: So what do you think, Father, is there something new we can do?

HOFFMAN: We all love the Christmas hymns but it might be jolly to include a secular song.

STREEP: Secular?

HOFFMAN: Yes, "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas." Something like that.

STREEP: What would be the point of a secular song?

HOFFMAN: It's fun.

AMY ADAMS: "Frosty the Snowman."

HOFFMAN: That's a good one. We could have one of boys dance up as a snowman, dance around.

STREEP: Which boy?

["Doubt" clip ends]

CUOMO: Little hint to the early tension. Now, it should be noted this is a Pulitzer Prize winning play.

HOFFMAN: Yeah. Terrific.

CUOMO: The writing is extraordinary. Pick up the theatricality when you see the movie. You had to make a choice about how you wanted to play this priest. Some have played him as someone who is maybe getting a bad rap. Others as maybe someone who is not getting a bad rap. How did you deal with that choice?

HOFFMAN: Well, when it's- I mean- you're playing the guy, you have to fill in the back-story, you know, as specifically, with as much stakes as possible. But it's that decision, or that thought process, is such a private thing. Especially when attending to this story because you want people to go into this film without any knowledge of what my opinion is because that's what the film is about. It's how it affects you in that way- that you should leave. And usually, almost since the play started until now, during the whole two-year run, it's like 60/40, one way or the other, in the audience, almost always. And I like to keep it that way.

CUOMO: Now, you've worked with Meryl Streep before, you know her power as an actor. When I heard her voice in this, I was transported immediately back to grammar school.

HOFFMAN: Yeah. Yeah.

CUOMO: Were you aware? You know, when you heard it, you were like, wow. That's it. That's the voice? That's the character.

HOFFMAN: Yeah, because my character's not from the Bronx.

CUOMO: Right.

HOFFMAN: My character's a drifter. He's somebody who's been to a few different parish along the northeast border. But she's one of the authentic person who's probably born and raised in the Bronx. And maybe Amy's character too, I'm not sure. And, you know, she has to come through that. It's beautifully. It's really authentic.

CUOMO: Now, you did research in churches, right? What was the take-away from that?

HOFFMAN: I have a friend, Father Jim, he, you know, showed me around, pretty much. And I went and saw some of his sermons. I just need to get filled in on what the priest is actually doing. You know, what I mean? So, I could look believable in what he's wearing. The history of the church in the '60s. 'Cause the movie takes place in the '60s. And that's very important.

CUOMO: Sure. Big Vatican II came for the Catholic Church.

HOFFMAN: We left Latin and went to English, all of that stuff happened. And, so, he filled me in on that. So, he filled me in on all that. It was good.

CUOMO: It's a debate that keeps going. The film is timely and as well as historical. It's really interesting. And you do a great job. I'm sure you're going to hear plenty of that.

HOFFMAN: Thank you.

CUOMO: It's great to have you here. Merry Christmas to you, you got two young kids about the same as mine.

HOFFMAN: I actually have three now. I just had a third six weeks ago. I wouldn't expect you guys over here to know that.

CUOMO: Congratulations. Merry Christmas. I was behind in my reporting. Shame me later. Continued good luck to you. And Great, great news about the expanding family. "Doubt" opens in theaters this Friday, December 12th. And tomorrow, we're going to have one of the co-stars here with us. You may have heard of her. Meryl Streep. We were just talking about her just now. Amazing. And then Amy Adams will be here on Wednesday. So, I'm sure you're going to want to see all of them.

Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock is the senior news analyst for the Media Research Center and a contributing editor for NewsBusters.org