He was Fredo in “The Godfather” and “The Godfather Part II,” and had lead roles in “The Conversation” and “Dog Day Afternoon.” Of the five movies he starred in, all would be nominated for Best Picture, and three would win. “Once he was in that play,” actor Marvin Starkman said, “the only thing he talked about was her.” In looks and manner, Cazale was completely foreign to the young Streep.“One of the things I loved about the casting of John Cazale,” said “Dog Day” director Sidney Lumet, “was that he had a tremendous sadness about him. “He wasn’t like anybody I’d ever met,” she said later.They were the envy of the New York theater world — she the most naturally gifted actress in generations, he the most naturally gifted actor, legendary director Joe Papp their patron — until one day in May 1977.
Even Cazale’s brother, Stephen, didn’t realize how bad it was until one day, after the three of them had lunch in Chinatown, Cazale stopped on the sidewalk and spat up blood.In 1978, a young Meryl Streep was on the verge of becoming the greatest actress of her generation. “She doesn’t talk about it much,” says Michael Schulman, who explores this time in his new biography “Her Again.” “But that year was so wildly eventful and dramatic in her life.It was instrumental in shaping who she was as a person and an actor.” Streep was 29 years old, a gosling in the New York theater world.“I mean, I don’t even think we had a moment to say goodbye.” When Streep got back to New York, Cazale was worse than she’d ever seen him.For five months, the couple disappeared, and for Streep, this was it: No more work, only Cazale.