Actress Meryl Streep was one of the honorees at the 34th Kennedy Center Honors, held at the White House in Washington D.C., on December 4, 2011. The event was filmed and will be televised on CBS on December 27, 2011. In addition to Meryl Streep, this years honorees include: Barbara Cook, Neil Diamond, Yo-Yo Ma and Sonny Rollins.
34th Kennedy Center Honors to air on CBS
Paying tribute to Meryl Streep were Tracey Ullman, Robert DeNiro and director Mike Nichols. Following are the remarks and accolades to Streep at the Kennedy Center Honors. The remarks were followed by a tribute film.
Tribute to Meryl Streep by Tracey Ullman
Emmy Award-winning actress and comedian Tracey Ullman began the tribute to her longtime friend, multiple Academy Award, Golden Globe and Emmy Award-winning actress Meryl Streep, stating, “I’m here to talk about my friend Meryl Streep – which is a great honor, but not easy. I was with my daughter Mabel a couple of weeks ago, who has known Meryl all her life, and I asked her what she thought I should say. ‘Hmm,’ she said. ‘It’s getting harder and harder, Mum, I mean, what hasn’t been said?’ And this is true because it’s obvious that Meryl is brilliant, the actress of her generation, the cream of the crop; she’s strong, tenacious, a champion of women worldwide…”
Ullman continued, “I could talk about how brilliant she is as Margaret Thatcher in her latest film, ‘Iron Lady,’ and how amazed I was to see the girl from Jersey becoming the girl from Grantham. I mean, only Meryl could give such a compassionate portrayal of a woman I raged against in the ‘80s… ‘You need an angle, Mum,’ Mabel said. There was a long pause and then she looked at me with a furrowed brow and said, ‘Is there anything Meryl’s bad at?’ Well, we tried to think of something, and we couldn’t! She can sing, dance, cook – cooks like Julia Child, in fact… and if she was bad at something she would practice like crazy in private so that she would be more brilliant at it than anyone else in the world. We even have secret footage of her in bed at 6 in the morning learning to speak Chinese! I’m not saying how we got it… so I am officially in awe of you, dear friend; you try harder, give more and remain as humble as anyone I know. I’m honored to be here tonight to be a part of this prestigious tribute to you.”
Tribute to Meryl Streep by Robert DeNiro
Academy Award and Golden Globe Award-winning actor and 2009 Kennedy Center Honoree Robert De Niro continued Streep’s tribute. “As an actor looking at those moments of Meryl’s life, my first thought is… I was amazing in ‘Deer Hunter,’ wasn’t I? I gave a performance that was strong yet sensitive, fiercely masculine, but with an affecting inner beauty… I was nominated for an Academy Award for ‘The Deer Hunter.’ And so was Meryl. That was her first. She’s up to 16 now. You know what that means? She’s sat through the Academy Awards 16 times! Jesus! Now that’s a record. Coincidentally, Meryl and I have each won two Oscars, but I’ve only been nominated six times, so I actually have a better winning percentage.”
De Niro continued, “One factor keeping Meryl’s average down is that she has to compete with Meryl Streep. In the Golden Globes, where she set records of 25 nominations and seven competitive wins, she’s actually lost twice to herself… including last year, when her performance in ‘Julie and Julia’ beat out her performance in ‘It’s Complicated.’ Meryl was so gracious in losing… In each of those movies and in everything I’ve seen Meryl do, I’m continually struck by how perfectly she inhabits, humanizes, and honestly portrays such a wide range of characters. There’s never a false note, never an overlooked detail. Truly, no one does it better.”
Tribute to Meryl Streep by Mike Nichols
Streep’s friend and director, Academy Award, Golden Globe, Emmy Award, Tony Award and Grammy Award-winning director and 2003 Kennedy Center Honoree Mike Nichols, spoke next. “Meryl becomes a different person in each movie, body, soul and all. She stands alone as an actress. She could handle any part thrown at her except maybe Gidget. She’s the definition of versatility which makes her a nightmare as a dinner partner… the fact is I have no idea how she does it, I only know that watching it is one of the great experiences of my life. Frankly, I’m not sure she knows how she does it. If she does, we’ll never get it out of her. She simplified it for me when she told the only thing I ever heard her say about it: ‘Well, you know. You never know what you’re going to do ‘til you do it.’ Best description of movie acting I ever heard.”
Nichols then introduced a tribute to Streep, beginning with Academy Award and Tony Award-winning actor Kevin Kline, who co-starred with Streep in “Sophie’s Choice.” “Meryl doesn’t take shortcuts. In her work, she insists on going the extra mile. Sometimes literally. We were doing our first dress rehearsal of ‘Mother Courage’ at the Delacourt Theater in Central Park. After 12 grueling hours of rehearsal in the sweltering heat in our winter-weight costumes – Meryl giving 110 percent, perfecting what would become a bravura performance, it’s now midnight, I’m exhausted, we all are. I’m hailing a cab to take me three blocks to my house. And I see Meryl climbing on a bicycle. Now Meryl lives at the other end of Manhattan, about six miles away from Central Park. I tell her she’s crazy as she peddles off into the dark New York streets and she yells over her shoulder, ‘I have to build up my stamina!’” Golden Globe Award-winning actress Emily Blunt, who starred in “The Devil Wears Prada” with Streep, then took the stage, along with Golden Globe and Emmy Award-winning actor Stanley Tucci, who further extrapolated upon Streep’s many virtues. Then, Emmy Award-winning actress Anne Hathaway, who also starred in “A Devil Wears Prada” with Streep, sang “She’s Me Pal,” joined by her fellow actors in honor of their leading lady.
President Barack Obama remarks at 34th Kennedy Center Honors