BEVERLY HILLS (CBS/AP) — Meryl Streep’s acceptance speech after receiving a lifetime achievement award at the Golden Globes turned out to be the opening volley in a war of words with President-elect Donald Trump.
The actress never mentioned Trump by name, but it was clear who her target was in pointedly saying that a performance from the past year that stunned her came from the campaign trail. She noted an incident where “the person asking to sit in the most respected seat in our country” imitated a disabled reporter from The New York Times.
“It kind of broke my heart when I saw it,” she said. “I still can’t get it out of my head, because it wasn’t in a movie. It was real life.”
Streep said that “when the powerful use their position to bully others, we all lose.”
Trump responded in a series of early morning tweets, calling Streep “one of the most over-rated actresses in Hollywood” and “a Hillary flunky who lost big.” He also defended himself against claims that he was mocking Times reporter Serge Kovaleski.
Streep’s comments on Trump also drew a backlash among conservatives on social media, including Senator John McCain’s daughter, Meghan McCain, a Fox News host who has been critical of Trump.
“This Meryl Streep speech is why Trump won. And if people in Hollywood don’t start recognizing why and how — you will help him get re-elected,” McCain tweeted.
Streep used the Globes, which are handed out by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, to highlight the diverse background of several of her colleagues and defend journalists.
Streep noted that “Hollywood” is a reviled place. But she said that it’s really a community filled with people from other places united in the mission to show different people and make audiences feel what they feel.
“Hollywood is crawling with outsiders and foreigners, and if we kick them all out, you’ll have nothing to watch but football and mixed martial arts, which are not the arts,” she said.
Streep put in a plug for vigorous journalism, urging that contributions be made to the Committee to Protect Journalists.
Besides endorsing Clinton for president, the actress has been aligned with President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama; the president lauded her (and admitted a crush on her) when he presented Streep with the Presidential Medal of Freedom award in 2014, the highest civilian award in the nation; she traveled with Mrs. Obama as part of the first lady’s Let Girls Learn initiative. Streep was also in attendance at the Obamas blowout farewell party at the White House on Friday with a host of other A-list celebrities.
While Streep won the annual Cecil B. DeMille Award and can boast of 48 Oscar and Golden Globe nominations, her career is still current. She was nominated this year for her portrayal of a bad opera singer in “Florence Foster Jenkins.”
She mentioned Carrie Fisher, who died just after Christmas, and how the actress and writer urged others to “take your broken heart and make it into art.”
She was introduced by fellow actress Viola Davis, who said her husband urged her every day when she worked with her to tell Streep how much she meant to her. She was too bashful then, but not on stage Sunday.
“You make me proud to be an artist,” Davis said. “You make me feel that what I have in me — my body, my face, my age — is enough.”
OVERRATED? HERE ARE THE NUMBERS:
Streep holds the record for the most Academy Award nominations of any actor. She has earned 19 Oscar nominations and three wins, as well as a record 29 Golden Globe nominations and eight wins, and two Emmy Awards.
Plus there’s a Presidential Medal of Freedom, not to mention 10 People’s Choice Awards, two British Academy Film Awards, four National Society of Film Critics Awards, two Screen Actors Guild Awards, a Kennedy Center Honor and has been named a Commandeur de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, the highest civilian honor given by the French government.
She’s also earned a Tony Award nomination, five Grammy Award nominations, the American Film Institute’s Life Achievement Award, an MTV Movie Award for Best Villain, an American Comedy Award, an Irish Film and Television Award, two Italian Online Movie Awards, two Teen Choice Award nominations and two Screen Actors Guild Awards. Additionally, there have been honors from film critics from Toronto, St. Louis, San Francisco, Phoenix, Palm Springs, New Jersey, Iowa, Kansas City, Las Vegas, Florida, North Texas, Oklahoma and Washington, D.C.
Trump and Streep, who spoke on behalf of Hillary Clinton at last year’s Democratic National Convention, are far apart on politics and have found themselves on opposite ends in Hollywood when it comes to honors. He has two Emmy nominations — no wins — for best outstanding reality competition. But he beat her to one award — a Golden Raspberry. He won a worst supporting actor trophy in 1989, appearing opposite Bo Derek in the crime comedy “Ghosts Can’t Do It.”
WHAT STREEP SAID:
Please sit down. Thank you. I love you all. You’ll have to forgive me. I’ve lost my voice in screaming and lamentation this weekend. And I have lost my mind sometime earlier this year, so I have to read.
Thank you, Hollywood Foreign Press. Just to pick up on what Hugh Laurie said: You and all of us in this room really belong to the most vilified segments in American society right now. Think about it: Hollywood, foreigners and the press.
But who are we, and what is Hollywood anyway? It’s just a bunch of people from other places. I was born and raised and educated in the public schools of New Jersey. Viola was born in a sharecropper’s cabin in South Carolina, came up in Central Falls, Rhode Island; Sarah Paulson was born in Florida, raised by a single mom in Brooklyn. Sarah Jessica Parker was one of seven or eight kids in Ohio. Amy Adams was born in Vicenza, Italy. And Natalie Portman was born in Jerusalem. Where are their birth certificates? And the beautiful Ruth Negga was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, raised in London — no, in Ireland I do believe, and she’s here nominated for playing a girl in small-town Virginia.
Ryan Gosling, like all of the nicest people, is Canadian, and Dev Patel was born in Kenya, raised in London, and is here playing an Indian raised in Tasmania. So Hollywood is crawling with outsiders and foreigners. And if we kick them all out you’ll have nothing to watch but football and mixed martial arts, which are not the arts.
They gave me three seconds to say this, so: An actor’s only job is to enter the lives of people who are different from us, and let you feel what that feels like. And there were many, many, many powerful performances this year that did exactly that. Breathtaking, compassionate work.
But there was one performance this year that stunned me. It sank its hooks in my heart. Not because it was good; there was nothing good about it. But it was effective and it did its job. It made its intended audience laugh, and show their teeth. It was that moment when the person asking to sit in the most respected seat in our country imitated a disabled reporter. Someone he outranked in privilege, power and the capacity to fight back. It kind of broke my heart when I saw it, and I still can’t get it out of my head, because it wasn’t in a movie. It was real life. And this instinct to humiliate, when it’s modeled by someone in the public platform, by someone powerful, it filters down into everybody’s life, because it kinda gives permission for other people to do the same thing. Disrespect invites disrespect, violence incites violence. And when the powerful use their position to bully others we all lose. O.K., go on with it.
O.K., this brings me to the press. We need the principled press to hold power to account, to call him on the carpet for every outrage. That’s why our founders enshrined the press and its freedoms in the Constitution. So I only ask the famously well-heeled Hollywood Foreign Press and all of us in our community to join me in supporting the Committee to Protect Journalists, because we’re gonna need them going forward, and they’ll need us to safeguard the truth.
One more thing: Once, when I was standing around on the set one day, whining about something — you know we were gonna work through supper or the long hours or whatever, Tommy Lee Jones said to me, “Isn’t it such a privilege, Meryl, just to be an actor?” Yeah, it is, and we have to remind each other of the privilege and the responsibility of the act of empathy. We should all be proud of the work Hollywood honors here tonight.
As my friend, the dear departed Princess Leia, said to me once, take your broken heart, make it into art.
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