Get to Know the Rocker Grandma Who Inspired Meryl Streep's Role in 'Ricki and the Flash'

Rocker grandma Terry Cieri (Photo: Terry Cieri/Facebook)

It’s likely you’ve never heard of 61-year-old New Jersey grandmother Terry Cieri. But she was the inspiration behind Meryl Streep’s hard-rocking, guitar-slinging lead singer in Jonathan Demme’s new movie Ricki and the Flash that hits theaters on Friday.

As we reported in May, Cieri sings in a cover band called Silk & Steel that regularly performs in the New Jersey shore town Toms River. She also happens to be Ricki and the Flash screenwriter Diable Cody’s mother-in-law. We recently spoke to Cody about Cieri and how she inspired a movie starring the three-time Oscar winner. 

Cody first saw Cieri perform when she and her now-husband, actor and producer Dan Maurio, celebrated their engagement (the couple wed in 2009). “I was not prepared,” Cody told Yahoo Movies. “I knew she was in a band, but I could not have anticipated that she would jump up onto the bar in high heels.” Before that, Cody had only known Cieri to be gentle, sweet and decidedly low-key. “To see the rock beast come out was really surprising and inspiring. That was a moment I realized I had to spin a story around this.”

Watch Cieri pour vodka while belting out Pat Benatar’s “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” (seen here at the 3:27 mark):

Cieri, who was born in Queens and grew up in Toms River, has sang and played guitar most of her life. She lists music making as her main job on Facebook. “She does it solely because she’s passionate about music,” said Cody. “It’s not a major source of income. It’s just something that she absolutely loves to do and can’t not do. As someone who is also an artist of sorts, that just resonated with me.”

Cieri performing by the beach (Photo: Terry Cieri/Facebook)

Cody spent months crafting the character of Ricki, a completely fictional creation who, in the movie, tries to reconnect with the family she abandoned to pursue her rock-and-roll dreams. She and Cieri have almost nothing in common except for, as Cody describes it, “the music and the perseverance. I think they’re both resilient ladies.” The screenwriter didn’t tell Cieri about the movie until Mother’s Day last year when she got the news that Streep was attached to star and that filming would begin in the fall. “I thought, ‘All right, it’s time to tell her!’ She was delighted,” said Cody, laughing. “I just made it clear to her that Ricki’s flaws are fully fictional.”

Terry Cieri poses with Meryl Streep at the New York premiere of ‘Ricki and the Flash’ (Photo: Terry Cieri/Facebook)

Cieri got to spend time with Streep on the set of Ricki and also appears briefly in the movie, dancing during the big musical number “Let’s Work Together.” She posted on her Facebook page earlier this week about attending the film’s New York premiere on Monday and hanging out with Streep and costar Rick Springfield: “Got Meryl and Rick’s autograph on my guitar strap!”

Related: How Pat Benatar Inspired Rick Springfield’s 'Ricki and the Flash’ Performance

Meryl Steep as Ricki (Photo: TriStar Pictures)

With the release of Ricki, Silk & Steel’s fanbase may very well be on the rise. “We’re a classic rock band,” Cieri said recently in an interview with the Asbury Park Press. “I can sing Janis Joplin and Led Zeppelin to Pink and Lady Gaga, so we cover a whole lot of music.” According to the band’s website, their next gig is this Saturday at a sushi restaurant called Shogun Legacy. If you happen to be in Toms River this weekend and want to rock out, their set starts at 8 p.m. Get in now before the Flash mob arrives.

Watch Terry Cieri perform: