Music of the Heart | EW.com

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Meryl Streep, Music of the Heart

BEHIND THE ''MUSIC'' Virtuoso Streep, true to form, immersed herself in intensive study of the violin (Kerry Hayes)

Maybe Madonna didn’t feel like learning the violin. Originally set to star in this drama based on ”Small Wonders,” the 1995 Oscar-nominated documentary about East Harlem violin instructor Roberta Guaspari, the songstress ducked out two weeks before shooting was scheduled to begin.

Desperate for a replacement, Craven tapped Streep. Convinced by what she calls an ”impassioned letter” from Craven – known for horror classics ”A Nightmare on Elm Street” and ”Scream” – the Oscar queen joined the cast (which also includes Bassett, as the principal, and singer-cum-actress Estefan, as an elementary school teacher).

Streep, being Streep, got familiar with the fiddle by practicing four to six hours a day for two months. ”Believe me, I wanted to do it in a half-assed way, and have it only look good,” says Streep. ”But I had to play six minutes of the Bach Double Concerto with the greatest violinists in the world.” Streep’s referring to the scene where she performs at Carnegie Hall with virtuosos Isaac Stern and Itzhak Perlman.

Meanwhile, the genre-jumping director had his own concerns. ”You worry that you’re going to be on stage with Meryl Streep and she’s going to say ‘Get out of here!”’ says Craven. ”It was scary at first.” BUZZ FACTOR: 6