June 28, 2006

“Devil Wears Prada” skewers fashion boss from hell

By Claudia Parsons

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Meryl Streep, who plays a tyrannical
fashion magazine editor in "The Devil Wears Prada," insists she
didn't draw on Vogue editor Anna Wintour for her character --
on the contrary, she based it on men she knows.

The film is based on the best-selling book, which sent
shock waves through the fashion world in 2003 with its barely
disguised fictional version of the inner workings of Vogue
magazine, written by former Vogue staffer Lauren Weisberger.

In the book, the editor of Runway magazine, Miranda
Priestley, is portrayed as unreasonable and bullying to her
staff. In the film, she also has a softer side on rare
occasions and her genius and business savvy are emphasized.

Fashion circles have been abuzz before the film's June 30
release about whether Wintour, the most powerful woman in
fashion, might seek revenge in the pages of Vogue against those
who collaborated on the movie.

But Vogue spokesman Patrick O'Connell said Wintour had
enjoyed the film when she attended an advance benefit screening
recently. "She found it very entertaining," he said.

Two-time Academy Award winner Streep, who revels in the
role of the fur-coat-clad boss from hell, said she modeled the
character on various people -- but not Wintour.

"Unfortunately you don't have enough women in power, or at
least I don't know them, to copy," she said in New York before
the film's release on Friday. "Most of my models for this
character were ... male," she said.

"I know the book was based on an assistant's eye view of
Anna Wintour, but it didn't interest me to do a documentary of
Anna Wintour," Streep said. "I didn't know anything about her
and I only met her at the first benefit. She was a good sport
about it. She's been told that I don't resemble her."

The woman responsible for dressing Streep and co-star Anne
Hathaway, who plays the editor's assistant, was fashion
designer Patricia Fields, who was also the costume designer on
the hit television show "Sex and The City."

"I didn't worry about offending anyone," Fields said,
adding that fashion labels from Chanel to Prada were only too
willing to lend their clothes for the movie. Italian designer
Valentino even makes a cameo appearance in the film.

Fields also said the movie was about more than fashion.

"I love fashion," she said. "But if it were just about
fashion, I don't think there are enough people that are
interested in that per se and it had to have other factors."

Hathaway, who made her name in the teen hit "The Princess
Diaries," plays Andy, who aspires to be a journalist but takes
a job as editor's assistant at Runway because the only other
option was a car magazine. Initially clueless about fashion,
she is eventually transformed into a Chanel-wearing
"fashionista" not so different from those she used to mock.

Early reviews have been positive, with the Hollywood
Reporter calling it "delicious fun" and predicting box office
success, particularly among women.

"Clothes to die for and an outrageous fashion diva compete
for attention in this dishy comedy," was its verdict.

But Streep joked that there was plenty for men to enjoy as
well. Asked at a news conference whether she thought the film's
message about a tough female boss succeeding in the business
world made it a feminist movie, she blanched.

"There's a way to kill the box office," she said. "No, this
is a guy flick, a lot of eye candy, a lot of lingerie shots."