Streep's performance drew rave reviews from critics and later earned her many award nominations, including her record-setting 14th Oscar bid, as well as a Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Comedy or Musical. Blunt also drew favorable notice and nominations, as did many of those involved in the film's production. While critical reaction to the film as a whole was more measured, it was well received by the public becoming a surprise summer box-office hit following its June 30 North American release. The commercial success and critical praise for Streep's performance continued in foreign markets, with the film leading the international box office for most of October. The U.S. DVD release likewise was the top rental during December. Ultimately, it would gross over $300 million, mostly from its international run, and finish in 2006's top 20 both in the U.S. and overseas. It is also the highest-grossing film in Streep's and Hathaway's careers. A television series is being developed.
Although the movie is set in the fashion world, most designers and other fashion notables avoided appearing as themselves for fear of displeasing U.S. Vogue editor Anna Wintour, who is widely believed to have been the inspiration for Priestly. Many designers did, however, allow their clothes and accessories to be used in the film, making it the most expensively-costumed film in history. Wintour later overcame her initial skepticism, saying she liked the film and Streep in particular.
Andrea "Andy" Sachs, an aspiring journalist fresh out of Northwestern University, lands the magazine job "a million girls would kill for": junior personal assistant to icy editor-in-chief Miranda Priestly, who dominates the fashion world from her perch atop Runway magazine. She puts up with the eccentric and humiliating requests of her boss because, she is told, if she lasts a year in the position she will get her pick of other jobs, perhaps even the journalistic position she truly craves.
At first, she fits in poorly among the gossipy fashionista who make up the magazine staff. Her lack of style or fashion knowledge and fumbling with her job make her an object of scorn around the office. Senior assistant Emily (a name Miranda also uses to refer to Andy) Charlton, her coworker, is condescending to her. Gradually, though, with the help of art director Nigel, Andrea adjusts to the position and its many perks, including free designer clothing and other choice accessories. She begins to dress more stylishly and do her job competently, fulfilling a seemingly impossible request of Miranda's to get two copies of an unpublished Harry Potter manuscript to her daughters.
She also comes to prize chance encounters with attractive young writer Christian Thompson, who helped her obtain the Potter manuscript and suggests he could help her with her career. At the same time, however, her relationship with her boyfriend Nate, a chef working his way up the career ladder, and other college friends suffers due to the increasing time she spends at Miranda's beck and call.
Shortly afterwards, Andrea saves Miranda from social embarrassment at a charity benefit when the cold-stricken Emily falters in reminding Miranda who an approaching guest is. As a result, Miranda tells Andrea that she will accompany her to the fall fashion shows in Paris, rather than Emily who had been looking forward to the trip for months. Miranda warns Andrea that if she declines, it could adversely affect her future job prospects. Emily is hit by a car before Andrea can tell Emily the next morning, making her choice moot.
During a gallery exhibit of her friend Lilly's photography, Andy again encounters Christian, who openly flirts with her, much to the shock and disgust of Lilly, who witnesses it all. After Lilly calls her out and walks away, Andy bumps into Nate, who, when she tells him she will be going to Paris, is angered that she refuses to admit that she's become the girls she's made fun of and that their relationship has taken a back seat. As a result, they break up in the middle of the street the night before she leaves for Paris.
In Paris, Nigel tells Andrea that he has got a job as creative director with rising fashion star James Holt, at Miranda's recommendation, and will finally be in charge of his own life. She also finally succumbs to Christian's charms, and sees her boss let down her guard for the first time as she worries about the effect an impending divorce will have on her twin daughters. In the morning, Andrea finds out about a plan to replace Miranda as Runway editor with Jacqueline Follet, editor of the magazine's French edition, later that day. Despite the suffering she has endured at her boss's behest, she attempts to warn Miranda but is seemingly rebuffed each time.
At a luncheon later that day, however, Miranda announces that it is Jacqueline instead of Nigel who will leave Runway for Holt. Later, when the two are being driven to a show, she explains to a still-stunned Andrea that she was grateful for the warning but already knew of the plot to replace her and sacrificed Nigel to keep her own job. Pleased by this display of loyalty, she tells Andrea she sees some of herself in her. Andrea, repulsed, said she could never do to anyone what Miranda did to Nigel, primarily as Nigel mentored Andrea. Miranda replies that she already did, stepping over Emily when she agreed to go to Paris. If she wants to get ahead in her career, that's what she'll have to be willing to do.
Andrea gets out of the limo at the next stop, going not into the show with Miranda but out into the street, where instead of answering yet another call from her boss she throws her cell phone into the fountain of the Place de la Concorde, leaving Miranda, Runway and fashion behind.
Later, back in New York, she meets Nate for breakfast. He has accepted an offer to work as a sous-chef in a popular Boston restaurant, and will be moving there shortly. Andrea is disappointed but her hope is rejuvenated when he says they could work something out, implying they will have a long-distance relationship in the future. At the film's conclusion, she has finally been offered a job as a newspaper reporter, greatly helped by a fax from Miranda herself who told the editor that Andrea was her "biggest disappointment ever," and if they didn't hire her they would be idiots. Andrea calls Emily and offers her all of the clothes that she got in Paris, which Andrea insists that she doesn't need anymore. Emily accepts and tells Andrea's replacement she has some big shoes to fill. In the last shot, Andrea, dressed as she was at the beginning of the film but with a bit more style, sees Miranda getting into her car across the street. They exchange looks and Miranda gives no indication of a greeting, but gives a soft smile once inside the car, before sternly telling her chauffeur to "go."
While the basic plot elements of Weisberger's novel remain in place, many changes were made to the specifics. Screenwriter Aline Brosh McKenna created an entirely different crisis at the end of the story, and this required changes to many of the characters.
To set up the climax, details along the way were changed or added. Irv Ravitz, head of Elias-Clark, was given a far bigger part in the movie. The scene where Andrea succeeds where the sick Emily faltered at the benefit was adapted from a similar scene in the novel which did not involve Emily. Her inability to go to Paris in the novel is due to a bout of mononucleosis. McKenna and Frankel decided to have her suffer the car accident instead of Lily to let Andrea out of a moral dilemma that could have made her less sympathetic in viewers' eyes.
Afterwards, the novel's Andrea sells her leftover clothing to a second-hand shop for $38,000 and finances her writer's life for the next year. She, too, eventually returns to publishing when she sells a short story to Seventeen, and then returns to Elias-Clark to discuss freelance writing assignments with another of the company's magazines, The Buzz.
Lily underwent the most significant change. Her role in the novel is far larger: she has been Andrea's best friend since eighth grade and the two went through college together. Instead of running an art gallery, she is a graduate student in Russian literature at Columbia University. Stressed from her studies, she starts to pick up men in bars and develops a drinking problem, which leads to her car accident and the climactic confrontation between Andrea and Miranda.
She, Andrea, Alex/Nate and Miranda are all depicted as having come from Jewish backgrounds. The film makes no reference to any character's ethnicity.
Among the minor characters, James Holt and Jacqueline Follet, who figure prominently in the film's resolution, were created for it and do not exist in the novel. Likewise, several gay male Runway staffers were combined into the film's Nigel, very different from the original in the book modeled on André Leon Talley. Miranda's nanny Cara and the Elias-Clark security guard Eduardo were also eliminated. Only Christian is similar to his text counterpart (and his name was changed as well.)
Director David Frankel and producer Wendy Finerman had originally read The Devil Wears Prada in book proposal form.It would be Frankel's second theatrical feature. He, cinematographer Florian Ballhaus and costume designer Patricia Field, drew heavily on their experience in making Sex and the City.
Tucci was one of the last actors cast. Supposedly, the filmmakers had auditioned Simon Doonan, the creative director at Barney's and E!'s Robert Verdi, both openly gay men highly visible as media fashion commentators, for the part. Verdi would later claim there was no intention to actually hire him and the producers had just used him and Doonan to give whoever they ultimately did cast some filmed research to use in playing a gay character (he would end up with a walk-on part as a fashion journalist in Paris). Tucci claims he was unaware of this: "All I know is that someone called me and I realized this was a great part." He based the character on various people he was acquainted with, insisting on the glasses he ultimately wore. Sunjata had originally read for Tucci's part, rather unenthusiastically since he had just finished playing a similar character, but then read the Holt part and asked if he could audition for it. Baker auditioned by sending a video of himself, wearing the same self-designed green jacket he has on when he and Andrea meet for the first time.
Weisberger is widely believed to have based Miranda on Anna Wintour, the powerful editor of Vogue. Wintour reportedly warned major fashion designers who had been invited to make cameo appearances as themselves in the film that they would be banished from the magazine's pages if they did so. Vogue and other major women's and fashion magazines have avoided reviewing or even mentioning the book in their pages. Wintour's spokespeople deny the claim, but costume designer Patricia Field says many designers told her they did not want to risk Wintour's wrath.
Only Valentino, who had designed the black gown Streep wears in the museum benefit scene, chose to make an appearance. Coincidentally, he was in New York during production and Finerman dared Field, an acquaintance, to ask him personally. Much to her surprise, he accepted. Other cameos of note include Heidi Klum as herself and Weisberger as the twins' nanny. Streep's daughter's film debut as a barista at Starbucks was cut.
Hathaway prepared for the part by volunteering for a week as an assistant at an auction house; Frankel said she was "terrified" before starting her first scene with Streep. The older actress began her working relationship with Hathaway by saying first "I think you're perfect for the role and I'm so happy we're going to be working on this together" then warning her that was the last nice thing she would say. Streep applied this philosophy to everyone else on set as well, keeping her distance from the cast and crewmembers unless it was necessary to discuss something with her.
She also suggested the editorial meeting scene, which doesn't advance the plot but shows Miranda at work without Andrea present. It was also her idea that Miranda not wear makeup in the scene where she opens up to Andrea and worries about the effect on her daughters of her divorce becoming public knowledge.
Frankel, who had worked with Patricia Field, before on his feature-film debut, Miami Rhapsody as well as Sex and the City, knew that what the cast wore would be of utmost importance in a movie set in the fashion industry. "My approach was to hire her and then leave the room," he joked later.
While none appeared onscreen, designers were very helpful to Field. Her $100,000 budget for the film's costumes was supplemented by help from friends from throughout the industry. Ultimately, she believes, $1 million worth of clothing was used in the film, making it the most expensively costumed movie in cinema history. The single priciest item was a $100,000 Fred Leighton necklace on Streep. Hathaway's most expensive item was a Yigal Azrouël angora coat, valued at $2,005
Chanel asked to dress Hathaway for the film, and Dolce & Gabbana and Calvin Klein helped Field as well. Although Field avoids making Streep look like Wintour, she dresses her in generous helpings of Prada (By Field's own estimate, 40% of the shoes on Streep's feet are Prada). Field added that much of the audience would not be familiar with Wintour's look and that "Meryl looks nothing like Anna, so even if I wanted to copy Anna, I couldn't." But, like Wintour and her Vogue predecessor Diana Vreeland, the two realized that Miranda needed a signature look, which was provided primarily by the white wig and forelock she wore as well as the clothes the two spent much time poring over look-books for. Fields said she avoided prevailing fashion trends for Miranda during production in favor of a more timeless look based on Donna Karan archives and pieces by Michael Vollbracht for Bill Blass, a look she describes as "rich-lady clothes." She didn't want people to easily recognize what Miranda was wearing.
She contrasted Andrea and Emily by giving the former a "textbook" sense of style, without much risk-taking, that would suggest clothing a fashion magazine would have on hand for shoots. Much of her high-fashion wardrobe is, indeed, Chanel, with some Calvin Klein thrown in for good measure. Blunt, on the other hand was "so on the edge she's almost falling off." For her, Field chose pieces by Vivienne Westwood and Rick Owens, to suggest a taste for funkier, more "underground" clothing. After the film's release, some of the looks Field chose became popular, to the filmmakers' amusement.
Tucci praised Field's skill in putting ensembles together that were not only stylish but helped him develop his character:
She just sort of sits there with her cigarette and her hair, and she would pull stuff — these very disparate elements — and put them together into this ensemble, and you'd go, "Come on, Pat, you can't wear that with that." She'd say, "Eh, just try it on." So you'd put it on, and not only did it work, but it works on so many different levels — and it allows you to figure out who the guy is. Those outfits achieve exactly what I was trying to achieve. There's flamboyance, there's real risk-taking, but when I walk into the room, it's not flashy. It's actually very subtle. You look at it and you go, "That shirt, that tie, that jacket, that vest? What?" But it works.He found one Dries van Noten tie he wore during the film to his liking and kept it.
She even chose separate computer wallpaper to highlight different aspects of Blunt's and Hathaway's character: Paris's Arc de Triomphe on the former's suggests her aspirations to accompany Miranda to the shows there, while the floral image on Andy's suggests the natural, unassuming qualities she displays at the outset of her tenure with the magazine. For the photo of Andrea with her parents, Hathaway posed with her own mother and David Marshall Grant. One of the purported Harry Potter manuscripts was later sold at auction for $586 on eBay, along with various clothing used in the film, to benefit Dress for Success, a charity which provides business clothing to help women transition into the workforce.
Aside from the clothing and accessories, some other well-known brands are conspicuous in the film.
The crew was in Paris for only two days, and used only exteriors. Streep did not make the trip.
Frankel praised Livolsi for making the film's four key montages — the opening credits, Miranda's coat-tossing, Andrea's makeover and the Paris introduction — work. The third was particularly challenging as it uses passing cars and other obstructions to cover Hathaway's changes of outfit. Some scenes were also created in the editing room, such as the reception at the museum, where Livolsi wove B-roll footage in to keep the action flowing.
Composer Theodore Shapiro relied heavily on guitar and percussion, with the backing of a full orchestra, to capture a contemporary urban sound. He ultimately wrote 35 minutes of music for the film, which were performed and recorded by the Hollywood Studio Symphony, conducted by Pete Anthony. His work was balanced with songs by U2 ("City of Blinding Lights," Miranda and Andrea in Paris), Madonna ("Vogue" & "Jump," Andrea's fashion montage & her first day on the job, respectively), KT Tunstall ("Suddenly I See," female montage during opening credits), Alanis Morissette ("Crazy," Central Park photo shoot), ("Our Remains," Andrea picks up James Holt's sketches for Miranda; Bittersweet Faith, Lily's art show), Azure Ray ("Sleep," following the breakdown of her relationship with Nate), Jamiroquai ("Seven Days In Sunny June," Andrea and Christian meet at James Holt's party) among others. Frankel had wanted to use "City of Blinding Lights" in the film since he had used it as a soundtrack to a video montage of Paris scenes he had put together after scouting locations there. Likewise, Field had advocated just as strongly for "Vogue."
The soundtrack album was released on July 11 by Warner Music. It includes all the songs mentioned above (except Madonna's "Jump") as well as a suite of Shapiro's themes. However, among the tracks not included is "Suddenly I See," which disappointed many fans. It became popular as a result of the film although the single did not crack the U.S. Top Forty. It nonetheless became a popular radio hit.
The studio also put together a trailer of scenes and images strictly from the first three minutes of the film, in which Andrea meets Miranda for the first time, to be used at previews and film festivals until they could create a more standard trailer drawing from the whole film. But, again, this proved so effective with early audiences it was retained as the main trailer, since it created anticipation for the rest of the film without giving anything away.
Initial reviews of the film focused primarily on Streep's performance, praising her for making an extremely unsympathetic character far more complex than she had been in the novel. "With her silver hair and pale skin, her whispery diction as perfect as her posture, Ms. Streep's Miranda inspires both terror and a measure of awe," wrote A. O. Scott in The New York Times. "No longer simply the incarnation of evil, she is now a vision of aristocratic, purposeful and surprisingly human grace." Kyle Smith agreed at the New York Post: "The snaky Streep wisely chooses not to imitate Vogue editrix Anna Wintour, the inspiration for the book, but creates her own surprisingly believable character." "Wintour should be flattered by Streep's portrayal," agreed Jack Mathews in the Daily News.
David Edelstein, in New York magazine, considered the film thin but loved Streep as well for her "fabulous minimalist performance." J. Hoberman, Edelstein's onetime colleague at The Village Voice, called the movie an improvement on the book and said Streep was "the scariest, most nuanced, funniest movie villainess since Tilda Swinton's nazified White Witch [in 2005's The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe]."
Blunt, too, earned some favorable notice. "[She] has many of the movie's best lines and steals nearly every scene she's in," wrote Clifford Pugh in the Houston Chronicle. Other reviewers and fans concurred. Roger Ebert gave the movie "thumbs down," while Richard Roeper gave it a "thumbs up."
While all critics were in agreement about Streep and Blunt, they pointed to other weaknesses, particularly in the story. Reviewers familiar with Weisberger's novel assented to her judgement that McKenna's script greatly improved upon it. A rare exception was Angela Baldassare at MSN Canada, who felt the film needed more of the nastiness others had told her was abundant in the novel.
But those who weren't and even some who were found it a predictable morality play that was enjoyable to watch for Streep if nothing else. David Denby summed up this response in his New Yorker review: "The Devil Wears Prada tells a familiar story, and it never goes much below the surface of what it has to tell. Still, what a surface!" Many felt that the scenes away from the magazine were a drag on the story.
Reactions to Hathaway's performance were not as unanimous as for many of her costars. Denby said "she suggests, with no more than a panicky sidelong glance, what Weisberger takes pages to describe." On the other hand, to Baldassare, she "barely carrie[d] the load."
It had a very successful run in theaters, making nearly $125 million domestically and over $325 million worldwide, a career high for Meryl Streep.
The Devil Wears Prada topped the charts on its first major European release weekend on October 9, after a strong September Oceania and Latin America opening. It would be the highest-grossing film that weekend in Britain, Spain and Russia, taking in $41.5 million overall. Continued strong weekends as it opened across the rest of Europe helped it remain atop the overseas charts for the rest of the month. By the end of the year only its Chinese opening remained; it is was released there on February 28, 2007.
Most reviews from the international press echoed the domestic response, heaping praise on Streep and the other actors, but calling the whole film "predictable." The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw, who found the film "moderately entertaining," took Blunt to task, calling her a "real disappointment ... strained and awkward." In The Independent, Anthony Quinn said Streep "may just have given us a classic here" and concluded that the film as a whole was "as snappy and juicy as fresh bubblegum."
In most markets the title remained unchanged; either the English was used or a translation into the local language. The only exceptions were Argentina, Ecuador, Mexico and Venezuela, where it was El diablo que viste Prada and El diablo se viste a la moda. In Poland, the title was Diabeł ubiera się u Prady which roughly means "The Devil Dresses At Prada's" rather than "The Devil Wears Prada." In Turkey, the title was "Şeytan Marka Giyer," roughly translated as "The Devil Wears Brand-Names." In Romania, the title was "Diavolul se îmbracă de la Prada," which roughly means "The Devil Dresses itself from Prada."
The Devil Wears Prada’ is an energetically directed, perfect-fit of a film that has surprised some in the industry with its box-office legs. It has delighted the country, much as did Lauren Weisberger’s book, which is still going strong on several national bestseller listsThe film was honored by the National Board of Review as one of the year's ten best. The American Film Institute gave the film similar recognition.
The film received ample attention from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association when its Golden Globe Award nominations were announced on December 14, 2006. The film itself was in the running for Best Picture (Comedy/Musical) and Supporting Actress (for Blunt). Streep later won the Globe for Best Actress (Musical/Comedy).
On January 4, 2007, her fellow members of the Screen Actors Guild nominated Streep for Best Actress as well. Four days later, at the National Society of Film Critics awards, Streep won Best Supporting Actress for her work both in Devil and A Prairie Home Companion. McKenna earned a nomination from the Writers Guild of America Award for Best Adapted Screenplay on January 11, 2007.
The following day, the British Academy of Film and Television Arts announced its 2006 nominations; Blunt, Field, McKenna and Streep were all among the nominees, as were makeup artist and hairstylists Nicki Ledermann and Angel de Angelis.
On January 23, 2007 Streep received her 14th Academy Award nomination for Best Actress, lengthening her record from 13 for most nominations by any actor male or female. Field received a Costume Design nomination as well. Neither won, but Blunt and Hathaway presented the latter award, amusing the audience by slipping into their characters for a few lines, nervously asking which of them had gotten Streep her cappucino. Streep played along with a stern expression before smiling.
Closed captions in French and Spanish are also available. The DVD is available in both full screen and widescreen versions. Pictures of the cast and the tagline "Hell on Heels" were added to the red-heel image for the cover. It was released in the UK on February 5, 2007.
A Blu-ray Disc of the film was released simultaneuously with the DVD. The featurettes were dropped and replaced with a subtitle pop-up trivia track that can be watched by itself or along with the audio commentary.
Frankel generally approved of his editor's choices, but differed on one scene, showing Andrea on her errand to the Calvin Klein showroom. He felt that scene showed Andrea's job was about more than running personal errands for Miranda.
Booth Moore at Los Angeles Times chided Field for creating a "fine fashion fantasy with little to do with reality," a world that reflects what outsiders think fashion is like rather than what the industry actually is. Unlike the movie, in her experience fashionistas were less likely to wear makeup and more likely to value edgier dressing styles (that would not, however, include toe rings). "If they want a documentary, they can watch the History Channel," retorted Field. Another newspaper fashion writer, Hadley Freeman of The Guardian, likewise complained the film was awash in the sexism and clichés that, to her, beset movies about fashion in general.
However, Charla Krupp, the executive editor of SHOP, Inc., says "It's the first film I've seen that got it right ... [It] has the nuances of the politics and the tension better than any film - and the backstabbing and sucking-up." Joanna Coles, the editor of the U.S. edition of Marie Claire, agreed:
The film brilliantly skewers a particular kind of young woman who lives, breathes, thinks fashion above all else ... those young women who are prepared to die rather than go without the latest Muse bag from Yves Saint Laurent that costs three times their monthly salary. It's also accurate in its understanding of the relationship between the editor-in-chief and the assistant.Ginia Bellefante, former fashion reporter for The New York Times, also agreed, calling it "easily the truest portrayal of fashion culture since Unzipped" and giving it credit for depicting the way fashion had changed in the early 21st century. Her colleague Ruth La Ferla found a different opinion from industry insiders after a special preview screening. Most found the fashion in the movie too safe and the beauty too overstated, more in tune with the 1980s than the 2000s. "My job is to present an entertainment, a world people can visit and take a little trip," responded Field.
There is none of this in the film. Instead, Nigel tells Andrea that, as a child, he told his family he was attending soccer practice when he was really taking sewing lessons, and read Runway under the covers of his bed at night with a flashlight. Finerman also says that during his first scene in the film, his visit to Andrea's hotel room in Paris to celebrate his imminent promotion, they had not yet decided how "extravagant" he would be. The film also gives no indication that he is involved in any traditional marriage or relationship with a woman. No other male staffer or editor has a significant part and indeed there is no reference to homosexuality at all. Jeffy and James, two of the gay men in the novel, were eliminated. One viewer, David Poland, pointed out this aspect of the film on his blog, The Hot Button, but noted it was part of a general desexualization that led him to call the movie No Sex in the City. On the other hand, a gay viewer who blogs about gay content in movies as Queer Beacon, found Tucci's portrayal refreshingly free of overdone stereotypes, while another gay blogger expressed his displeasure that a movie about an industry well-known for its openly gay men seemed so determined to avoid the subject. Controversy notwithstanding, readers of Gay.com voted the film the best of 2006. William Maltese, from AfterElton.com, called it "refreshing that the jokes in Devil do not come at Nigel's expense or because of his sexuality." It is also mentioned that Nigel is key for Andy's transformation from ugly-duck-to-swan propels her into the second half of the film.
Queer Beacon also wondered if Doug might be gay, since he is more aware of Miranda's importance to fashion than Andrea; also, later, when Lily takes him from Andrea at the gallery to introduce him to "someone he might find interesting," she doesn't specify that person's gender. Sommer says on his blog, however, that Doug was not written to be gay and was merely based on a friend of McKenna's.