Yesterday would’ve been my Nannie’s 91st birthday. She died almost two years ago after a long, rich life full of family, travel, community service, music, baking, love, and laughter. As a family we went through some old pictures to compile a scrapbook in celebration of her life and I discovered many photos that I had never seen, especially of her early years. Every so often, I’d find one and think, “Wow – Nannie looks like a movie star!” I was inspired to do a post where I try to cast the role of my Nan in the story of her life, even though she was one-of-a-kind.
Allow me to introduce you to Mrs. June Allen, nee Sanford. She was fairly tall and always poised, even into her elder years. When she got sick, she did use a cane to assist with mobility, but still managed to project a stately posture. She had bright blue eyes and light brown hair that went gray fairly early in her life. A minister’s wife for 70 years she was actively involved in church life, which required lots of public and social events. She was always very stylish and took a lot of pride in her clothes and appearance. But she also had a sporty side – she played basketball in her school years and some of my fondest memories of her are swimming at the cottage. She was an excellent cook – I especially loved her baking – homemade bread and pies and molasses cookies were family favourites. Nan was pretty sharp – she didn’t miss much and had a quick wit. She liked doing crossword puzzles, watching curling and the Blue Jays, and gardening. Occasionally, although probably not as often as she would’ve liked, she went on some fabulous travel adventures: Greece, Egypt, the Netherlands, Bermuda, an Alaskan cruise, and a cross-Canada drive with two small kids! And she always took an active interest in the lives of her children, grandchildren, and great-children. She didn’t miss a graduation – and between us all, there have been many!
So in her early years, we’d need an actress who could capture her fun, athletic, goofy side; in her middle years, someone who could simultaneously convey a sense of propriety and nurturing; and nearing the end of her life, someone who would be convincing as an astute and dignified woman gracefully aging and enjoying life to the fullest.
Here’s my choice for Nan, the early years: Jessica Chastain. Physically, I think she is quite similar to Nan as a young woman. Jessica may have to dye her normally red hair darker for the role, but I think she could pull off the young, fun bride and mom pictured below.
So then, who best to play my middle-aged Nan? Who else but the chameleon herself: Meryl Streep. While the character of Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada doesn’t really jive with my Nan, Meryl’s look here as the classy, sophisticated fashion editor combined with her ability to transform into practically anyone on the planet would totally capture my Nan in all her fashionable glory. Don’t you think?
And finally, my ideal casting choice for Nan, the elder years would be Vanessa Redgrave. The distinguished Brit looks a lot like Nannie in her golden years and has that aura of proper decorum with a dash of mischief that reminds me so much of my Nan.
So there you have it, folks. This is my Oscar-winning dream cast for June Allen: The Movie. Now I just have to write the screenplay!