Sunday, January 11, 2015

Nonverbal Communication Analysis No. 3065: Meryl Streep "Not Pretty Enough" To Be In King Kong - The Graham Norton Show - Body Language Tells (VIDEO, PHOTOS)

This is an entertaining and intriguing video clip from The Graham Norton Show. In it, Meryl Streep recounts (at the prodding of Graham) a negative experience she once had with Dino De Laurentiis. For the first remake of King Kong (which De Laurentiis produced in 1976), Streep had shown up for a sort an audition for the female lead (which eventually went to Jessica Lange). What follows is a partial body language analysis of her telling of this awkward event.

According to Ms. Streep, Dino De Laurentiis said to his son, ''Why do you bring me this ugly thing?" - referring to Streep. The producer did not realize that although he was speaking in his native language - Streep was also fluent in Italian.

This is Graham Norton's nonverbal response (1:17). His eyes are also widely opened - a necessary component when the surprise is real. Now this is a point of considerable body language nuance - yet if you look at Norton's mouth here, while it does have a definite vertical oval shape (as is also required for significant and sincere surprise) - his lips are not pulled in - rather they are relatively non-contracted and loose.

Moreover a few seconds later (here at 1:21) notice Norton's hands stayed in his lap and his leg remained crossed. If his surprise were more significant, his legs would have become uncrossed - and his hands would have moved towards and probably touched his face.

Here - about a second after the above image, Norton's body remains relaxed and his mouth shuts quickly (his surprise lasted 4 seconds) without an immediate significant ensuing emotion. This is very unusual with sincere surprise (there is virtually always a second emotion evident and rapidly appearing after sincere surprise) - and although the lack of higher resolution images/video of Graham's face in this moment - along with his lack of contraction and inward turning of his lips noted above - suggest rather strongly that although Norton was NOT sincerely surprised. We know that he had had some foreknowledge of this event - and thus his surprise was of course significantly muted or even partially faked or exaggeration.

This image taken after Streep tells everyone what her come-back was to De Laurentiis, "... I understand what you're saying. I understand that I'm not beautiful .... ENOUGH!" (1:32)

This facial expression is made up of both true surprise - note the widely opened eyes AND the tightened lips - yet the mouth is drawn in - in a small oval/circle. This is a blending of two emotions - that of sincere surprise and that of fear - but a social type of fear (rather than danger associated fear) which also very much has an anticipatory component being projected here - as if to say, "Oh! WHAT happened next!?"

This image taken a half a second after the one immediately above - has lost much of its surprise component (again, sincere surprise is truly short lived) and has taken on an element of empathy as evidenced by the changes in Graham's eyelids and eyebrows (and sincere surprise almost always is rapidly replaced by another emotion).

Now looking a few of Ms. Streep's nonverbals we go backwards in the video a bit to 0:37 - and we see that she has suddenly crossed her arms. This dynamic tells us that she is emotionally uncomfortable discussing this story in a public forum.  This is but one of many examples of a MAP (Manipulator, Adaptor, Pacifier). Most MAPS indicate a generalized component of anxiety.

At 0:38 Meryl leans forward with her arms crossed. This body language acts as an amplifier - putting further emphasis on her emotional discomfort, anxiety and temporary and partially beta behavior.

A Jaw Jut along with tightening of her mid-face and chin dimpling in this cluster-context - taken together are indicative of anger (1:01) as she is partially reliving the emotionally painful event.


Ms. Streep displays a very brief and classic disgust display (thus a microexpression) as she is recounting her memory of Dino De Laurentiis and his misogynistic behavior. Interestingly this disgust example is associated with a "sniff" - it's as if the person's subconscious is trying to camouflage the disgust (this also is commonly seen in contempt).

Here at 1:01, Ms. Streep gestures very briefly to her ear (when she explains that she understood Italian). If this story was fabricated, even this three-time Oscar winning actor would not have displayed this body language. In this context such a nonverbal speaks to her high sincerity quotient.

This guest appearance is a great reminder that even though she is one of the greatest actors of our era, when she is just being herself (and not "in character"), Meryl Streep or any of us display nonverbal behavior which indicate our true emotions and thoughts. Being able to decipher body language will give you at an extreme advantage in all facets of life - business and personal.

See also:

Nonverbal Communication Analysis No. 3064: Pastor Recounts Punching a Child in the Chest

Nonverbal Communication Analysis No. 2424:  Giada De Laurentiis on Conan O'Brien  Beautiful Teeth but Insincere Smiles and  Some Body Language Signals of Waning Love

Nonverbal Communication Analysis No. 3046: Chris Pine Dials Up His Alpha - "Into the Woods"

Negotiation Nonverbal Communication Secret # 1261:  True Surprise - Rarely Captured  IMF Director Christine Lagarde 

>Negotiation Secret No. 56:  Surprise with a Touch of Fear - with Bill Clinton

>Negotiation Secret No. 133:  Blake Lively - Surprise or a Smile or Neither?

Nonverbal Communication Analysis No. 2507:  Secretary of State Kerry's Disgust  An Oft Overlooked and Camouflaged Body Language Signal

Nonverbal Communication Analysis No. 2504:  Former New England Patriot Aaron Hernandez and a  Commonly Missed Body Language Signal