Streep, Meryl: Inspired by Robert De Niro

Streep Honors Robert De Niro for Inspiring Acting Career: “He’s Been My Beacon for 50 Years”

Streep honored her friend during a gala in Austin for the Harry Ransom Center: “I don’t see him very often. We don’t chat. But I know he is, without question, always there for me and he always will be.”

 

“True story,” she recalled from an Austin podium in opening a tribute that was less about bathrooms and more about an acting hero.

“I heard that a friend of mine that I knew in college got cast in a big movie, and it was the first person that I ever knew that had been cast in a movie. Michael Moriarty was a beautiful young actor. So, all my friends after work, we went to the movie theater to see him.”

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Two months later at the same movie theater, Streep and friends were seated to check out Scorsese’s Mean Streets. “And there’s the guy, there’s the same kid,” Streep recalled. “And only he’s not slow. He’s not Southern. He’s a New York punk. He’s absolutely mean, this fast-talking street-smart guy and we were blown away. We scoured the credits and saw his name. I said, ‘Oh my God.’ He’s Italian. He’s De Niro. He’s an actor. And it really blew me away.”

Streep delivered the anecdote during a gala event held at the AT&T Hotel and Conference Center that shined a spotlight on the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin and its 65th anniversary.

The center, a humanities research library and museum, has hosted De Niro’s personal archive since 2006.

This year, it created a new endowment called the De Niro Curator of Film to honor the legendary star.

He took the stage to accept the shine but not before Streep finished her personal tribute the man who she would go on to share the screen within a few years, first in 1978’s The Deer Hunter and later, in 1984’s Falling in Love.

“Over the years, people have always said to me, ‘What actress do you most admire? What actress’ career would you like to emulate?’” Streep said that she has a long list of women she reveres including Geraldine Page, Colleen Dewhurst, Vanessa Redgrave, Maggie Smith, Carole Lombard, Barbara Stanwyck.

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Beacon for 50 Years

“But, really, the second time I saw De Niro, I said to myself, that’s the kind of actor I wanna be. That’s what I wanna do. And I wanna do it with the commitment and the passion and the skill and the beauty with which he applies to it. And he’s been my beacon for 50 years.”

“He’s a man whose presence in my life for 40 years has been a consoling constant. But I don’t see him very often. We don’t chat. But I know he is, without question, always there for me and he always will be. He’s a man who lives by his loyalty to his ideals, to his country and to the people that he loves.”

De Niro, for his part, accepted the love with speech that illuminated his reasoning for gifting the university his personal archive of film memorabilia that includes scripts, costumes, props, notes and correspondence.

“If I didn’t do something to keep it intact, little by little, it would just disappear,” he said. “My colleague, the invaluable Robin Chambers, has been my partner in planning this arrangement with the Ransom Center. Around 2004, she showed me Brando’s personal annotated Godfather script for sale on eBay.

It may be very uncomfortable to think that this document, which could be a window into the mind and process of one of our greatest actors, would be sold to a collector or a fan who might keep it in a shelf or a drawer and never be shared with family, friends, students, historians, cinephiles. And I wanted my family to have access to my keepsakes because it’s part of their heritage.”

De Niro had the audience laughing with a jab at former President Donald Trump over the investigation into his handling of classified documents.

“It’s also important to preserve the narrative of film history to enhance our understanding and appreciation of the films themselves. The Harry Ransom Center is a leader in that essential mission to preserve our cultural heritage, but the collection isn’t quite complete. There are still some papers in the basement at Mar-a-Lago. I’ve been having some problems getting them released; they may have to send in the FBI.”