during a vitriolic rant in August:

Osage County Violet Weston declares: "Women aren't sexy when they're old."

But one look at Meryl Streep, the actress who portrays her, and you realise that she, at least, certainly defies that remark.

Her blonde hair tidied away from her face and barely any lines or wrinkles on her glowing skin, the Oscar-winning actress looks a decade younger than her 64 years.

A bespectacled Streep says: "The world will tell you that is true, but individually, we can defy the world's wisdom."

The star of films like Julie & Julia, Mamma Mia! and The Hours has made history after receiving her 18th Oscar nomination for her performance in the big screen adaptation of Tracy Letts's Pulitzer Prize-winning play.

She already has three golden statuettes in her possession (Best Supporting Actress for Kramer vs Kramer in 1979, and Best Actress for Sophie's Choice in 1983 and The Iron Lady in 2012).

Julia Roberts, who plays Streep's daughter Barbara in the movie, is also up for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar and Bafta.

"I am so happy for our film that Julia and I have been nominated. We are both so proud of August: Osage County," says Streep, adding that it's "thrilling" that the awards buzz will help attract more people to watch the film.

Things could have been very different, though - she turned the part down at first.

"I said no, I really did," she admits. "But they dragged me in, kicking and screaming," she adds.

She is no stranger to portraying 'hard' women - after all, this is the actress who took on the opinion-dividing former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher (The Iron Lady), tyrannical magazine editor Miranda Priestly (The Devil Wears Prada) and an accusing nun (Doubt) - but she was not sure about sharp-tongued, pill-popping cancer-stricken matriarch Violet.

The story revolves around Violet's strained relationship with her family, as they reunite following a crisis. Tensions build as previous clashes are rekindled - one scene even sees Roberts strangle Streep as the two women come to blows.

"I said no, because who really wants to sign up to know what it feels like to have mouth cancer, children that hate you, a husband who would rather kill himself than be in your presence, and chemotherapy, pills, misery and a horrible past?" says Streep.

"To crawl into that head and that heart, argh! Because part of that pain, you realise as you get older, is these things cost you more, in a weird way. You carry them home, you feel you bleed more easily with it."

Director John Wells understands why his leading lady had her "reasonable doubts".

"The role is, on a day-to-day basis, a difficult place to be," he notes. "Violet's bitter and sarcastic, a holy terror to everyone who comes into her path. Meryl is actually a personable, kind, gentle person, so day after day, she was attacking all these people that she likes."

Streep was eventually persuaded to sign on though, when she heard who her co-stars would be.

The film also features Juliette Lewis (as youngest daughter Karen) and Sam Shepard (husband Beverly) as well as Ewan McGregor, Chris Cooper and Benedict Cumberbatch.

"It's a great part and I thought, 'Hell, such a cast'. How could I not?" Streep says, adding: "I fell in love when I met Benedict. Everybody does! He's so dear."

During filming, it was Streep who brought the cast together, and became the unofficial 'matriarch' of the group.

Co-star Lewis reveals: "Meryl wanted us all to live in a house together, but they couldn't find a house big enough, so we lived in these identical little condos next to each other.

"We'd go to Meryl's at night and have potluck dinners... We'd just hang out and share stories. It was pretty great."

l August: Osage County is in cinemas now.