Last Thursday, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association announced that Meryl Streep DRA ’75 will receive the Cecil B. DeMille Award at the 74th annual Golden Globe Awards ceremony.
Established in 1952 and named in honor of its inaugural recipient — an American filmmaker regarded by some as a founding father of Hollywood — the Cecil B. DeMille Award honors lifetime achievement in motion pictures. Past recipients include Walt Disney, Barbra Streisand and Woody Allen. The 14th woman to receive the award, Streep will officially join their ranks during the Golden Globe Award ceremony on Jan. 8, 2017.
“It’s no surprise that the HFPA has chosen Meryl Streep as the recipient of the 2017 Cecil B. DeMille Award,” Lorenzo Soria, president of the HFPA, said in the announcement. “Meryl’s enthralling body of work across a diverse set of genres has made her a role model over the past 40 years. … Simply put, she is a trailblazer, having paved the way for women in television, film and stage.”
Streep is regarded as the “greatest living actress” by many film industry critics and members. A quick Google search of this term combined with the actress’s full name even provides a first-page hit: “If Meryl Streep wasn’t an actress, who would be considered the greatest living actress?” Indeed, the moniker has been adopted by many within the industry, and media outlets such as Vanity Fair and Vogue regularly refer to Streep by that title.
Such an honor is not given to Streep unreasonably. The Yale alumna has received eight Golden Globes and was nominated for the award 29 times — more than any other actor or actress. Critics say that she may even be nominated for the 30th time and acquire another statuette this year for her part in the film “Florence Foster Jenkins.” She also holds the record for the most Academy Award nominations of any actor, with 19.
“Meryl Streep’s work onstage and on-screen is transformational and brave,” said Evan Yionoulis, a professor at the Yale School of Drama’s Departments of Acting and Directing and a resident director of the Yale Repertory Theatre. “I love the definition of the actor’s job that she gives in the documentary ‘Theater of War’: ‘I am the voice of dead people, the interpreter of lost songs.’ Streep’s work is a testament to the impact the art of acting can have.”
Despite the critical acclaim, the actress has always been more than humble. Streep herself said multiple times that the title of “greatest living actress” is too much and that she does not consider herself deserving.
On the Yale School of Drama’s celebration of its 75th anniversary, Streep also recalled her years at the institution and said that having been cast in many of the school’s plays, she felt like she was almost stealing parts from her peers. “My achievement, if you can call it that, is that I’ve basically pretended to be extraordinary people my entire life, and now I’m being mistaken for one,” she said in a speech at Princeton in 2006.
However, her movie and theatrical performances aside, her social work and volunteering efforts are also notable. For instance, in 2014 she established two scholarships at the University of Massachusetts Lowell to benefit English and math majors.
Moreover, even though Streep has previously said that she is a humanist and not a feminist, she still shows a great amount of support for female empowerment and gender equality organizations. Streep is the spokesperson for the National Women’s History Museum and a member of the Advisory Council of Equality Now, an organization dedicated to protecting and promoting female human rights around the world.
“Meryl Streep has demonstrated not merely consummate talent as an actor, but integrity as well as generosity,” Columbia University film professor Annette Insdorf said. “She lends her voice to social issue films, and even appeared recently in the CNN documentary ‘We Will Rise,’ about the need to educate girls around the world. I cannot think of an actress who is more smart, compassionate and dedicated to humanity than Streep.”
Streep received an Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree from Yale in 1983.