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Exclusive interview with Meryl Streep and Al Pacino. The stars talk about acting in Tony Kushner's six-hour HBO epic ''Angels In America,'' and they look back on 27 years of friendship

Al Pacino, Meryl Streep, ... | SPIRITUAL ENCOUNTERS Streep plays Rosenberg's ghost during her scenes with Pacino in ''Angels''
Image credit: Angels in America: Stephen Goldblatt/HBO
SPIRITUAL ENCOUNTERS Streep plays Rosenberg's ghost during her scenes with Pacino in ''Angels''

Between them, Al Pacino, 63, and Meryl Streep, 54, have appeared in more than 60 films. But, incredibly, they've never worked together. Until now. The occasion is appropriately monumental: HBO's $60 million, six-hour ''Angels in America.'' Mike Nichols helms Tony Kushner's adaptation of his own play about love in the AIDS-plagued time of Reagan (airing in two parts on Dec. 7 and Dec. 14). Pacino plays Roy Cohn -- the McCarthyite legal eagle who railroaded Ethel Rosenberg into the death chamber. Streep reaffirms her standing as cinema's canniest chameleon: She plays an angel, an aged rabbi, a Mormon mother, and, during her scenes with Pacino, Rosenberg's ghost.

Introduced to each other 27 years ago by Pacino's friend and Streep's then boyfriend, the late actor John Cazale (''Dog Day Afternoon''), the actors share a cozy rapport. ''Cappuccino, Al Pacino?'' Streep giggles, pouring coffee. ''How many times have you heard that one?'' ''Thirty,'' Pacino quips. ''And that's just today.'' Here's what they told Entertainment Weekly about their long friendship and their new roles in ''Angels.''

You've known each other for most of your professional lives.

MERYL STREEP Al was the first famous person I ever met. Except for Richard Nixon.

How do they compare?

STREEP Al was not as scary.

AL PACINO I was looser.

Were you nervous meeting Al?

STREEP Yeah! I remember the old ''Godfather'' days, walking around with you downtown. It was horrible. People would scream at you. I determined I was never going to get famous.

PACINO People relate to you because of the attending celebrity baggage --

STREEP No, it isn't about your baggage -- it's about the fact that your face is 40 feet big on the screen!

PACINO Right.

STREEP It's like the ancient Greek actors who made shoes so that they would get bigger on stage -- you're sort of the modern-day gods or something. And you can't help it; you can't help making that assumption that the person is bigger than who they are.

PACINO I remember a woman grabbing my hand, an elderly Italian woman, and she kissed it, as if to say ''Godfather.'' But I don't know if that's the way it is anymore.

STREEP Now everybody is famous. It's a little bit easier.

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