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Who's So Vain?

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The penthouse suite of New York City’s deluxe Stanhope Hotel. Goldie Hawn, 46, sits at a dining table, picking at a bowl of spaghetti. Enter Meryl Streep, 43. Streep—Hawan’s costar in the current hit movie Death Becomes Her, a dark comedy about the lengths to which two middle-aged prima donnas will go to stay young—sits down and begins eating out of Goldie’s plate, they are joined by senior writer Marjorie Rosen, who gets them talking about the subject of the movie: vanity., As an opening gambit she asks what they each like about their physical selves.

Goldie: (Giggling) I don’t know, I like the way my lungs work, and I like the way my bladder functions.

Meryl: I’ve always had this mature sort of nose. In Heartburn they wrote into the script for me something like, “I’ve always wanted to have a nose job, but I always thought my nose gave me character”—which I don’t really believe.

Goldie: Did you think you were pretty growing up?

Meryl: No.

Goldie: When did you realize that you were pretty?

Meryl: (Wryly) I still haven’t, uh, come to the moment.

Rosen: What do you both think of Demi Moore posing nude in body paint on the cover of Vanity Fair ?

Meryl: Now that is the most beautiful woman in the world.

Goldie: She’s outrageous. She is beautiful. She’s smart, she’s great.

Meryl: Now Goldie, you think you’re nice-looking, don’t you?

Goldie: I think I’ve a pleasant face.

Rosen: And your incredible eyes?

Goldie: Sometimes they look great. But when I wake up in the morning, I can honestly say that, until they’re fixed and fluffed (laughing), they’re not the same eyes that you might look at.

Rosen: Goldie, did you think you were pretty as a girl?

Goldie: No. As a teenager I would go to dances and come home crying because boys wouldn’t ask me to dance. I was a real wallflower. Which is why I say to my 13-year-old daughter. Katie, “Please don’t go to the boys for your esteem. You’ve got to feel good about yourself.”

Meryl: And everything in our culture…

Goldie: …works against that.

Meryl: It’s a constant uphill thing. My son, Henry, who’s 12, asked me, “Who do you think is the prettiest girl in my class?” And I said. “Who cares?”

Goldie: Someone asked me recently, “Now that you’re older, don’t you wish you could play the ingenue just one more time?” And I said, “Are you nuts?!”

Meryl: I like who I am now. Other people may not. But I’m comfortable.

Goldie: I love this stage of my life.

Meryl: I feel freer now.

Goldie: You know what I’ve discovered too? As a young woman, you’re never that sure of anything. It was hard for me to make real girlfriends because of competitiveness.

Meryl: Maybe that’s because opportunities are limited to the favored few.

Goldie: And now, getting older, it’s so great. We’re more sure of ourselves and can have relationships with each other that aren’t about competitiveness.

Meryl: I don’t want growing older to matter to me. And I don’t want the choice to be. “Get carved, or you don’t work!”

Goldie: The notion of plastic surgery can be very scary. Look, you cannot sustain anything forever. You’re passing the torch, and you sometimes feel pangs about it. You wouldn’t be normal if you didn’t reflect on it. But in the end, it isn’t such a bad thing.

Rosen: What happens if at some point they start sending you only the grandma roles?

Meryl: If the grandma roles are good, hey, I’m in there.