EXCLUSIVE: From Iron Lady to feminist icon – Meryl Streep to join Carey Mulligan in women’s suffrage drama.

Meryl Streep is set to play iconic political activist Emmeline Pankhurst in Ruby Films drama Suffragette, which begins shooting in the UK on Monday (Feb 24).

The Oscar-winning actress is in final negotiations to join the project, which will reunite the star with The Iron Lady writer Abi Morgan and financier Pathe. 

ScreenDaily understands that Streep will have a small but important role in the film, which will see her character give a “tour de force” speech on women’s rights during a political rally.

Additional high profile casting has rounded on the project in recent weeks and will be announced in the coming days.

Pathe, Film4 and the BFI are among backers on the drama, in which Carey Mulligan stars as Maude, a “foot soldier of the early feminist movement” who becomes radicalized and turns to violence as a route to change.

Sarah Gavron (Brick Lane) directs Suffragette, producers are Ruby’s Faye Ward and Alison Owen. Executive producers are Pathe’s Cameron McCracken and Film4’s Tessa Ross and Katherine Butler, while Chris Collins is lead exec for the BFI Film Fund.

Pathe will distribute in the UK and France and also handles international sales.

Born in Manchester in 1858, Pankhurst founded a number of political groups including the Women’s Franchise League and the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU).

She and her followers became infamous for resorting to militant tactics as a means of protest against gender inequality. Pankhurst and other WSPU members were sentenced to repeated stints in prison, where they staged hunger strikes to secure better conditions.

In 1999, Time magazine named Pankhurst as one of the 100 Most Important People of the 20th Century, stating: “She shaped an idea of women for our time; she shook society into a new pattern from which there could be no going back.”

Streep famously played another iconic British figure, Margaret Thatcher, in 2011’s The Iron Lady - a role for which she won an Academy Award.

The actress described the divisive Conservative party leader as “a pioneer, willingly or unwillingly, for the role of women in politics.”

But the late Prime Minister was known to have little time for feminist ideology. Thatcher’s political ally Lord Hurd has said the leader was left “cold” by feminism and she is often quoted as saying “I owe nothing to women’s lib”.

Streep last month received a record 18th Oscar nomination for her performance in August: Osage County. The legendary leading actress also made headlines last month for criticising Walt Disney, labelling him a “gender bigot”.