A Teary Meryl Streep Reflects on Her Last Time at Cannes While Accepting Honorary Palme d’Or: ‘I Was About to Turn 40 and I Thought My Career Was Over’

Meryl Streep
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Before Meryl Streep could accept her honorary Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival on Tuesday night, she was greeted by a thunderous two-minute standing ovation. The 74-year-old Oscar winner was so overcome with emotion that she first pretended to walk off the stage, but eventually began to dance to the applause.

French star Juliette Binoche, herself emotional, presented the award to Streep, saying: “When I see you on the screen, I don’t see you … Where does it come from? Were you born like this? I don’t know, but there’s a believer in you; a believer that allows me to believe.”

Binoche called Streep “an international treasure” as she listed off many of Streep’s most beloved roles, from “Sophie’s Choice” to “Julie and Julia.” Binoche later added, “You changed the way we look at cinema.”

In her speech, Streep thanked Cannes for welcoming her back after 35 years, with her last appearance being for 1989’s “Evil Angels.” She said that watching the ceremony’s retrospective clips of her career was “like looking out the window of a bullet train, watching my youth fly into my middle age, right onto where I am standing on this stage tonight. So many faces and so many places that I remember.”

Streep said that the last time she was at Cannes, “I was already a mother of three, I was about to turn 40 and I thought that my career was over.”

“That was not an unrealistic expectation for actresses at that time. And the only reason that I’m here tonight and that it continued is because of the very gifted artists with whom I’ve worked, including Madame La President,” she said, gesturing to jury president Greta Gerwig, who directed her in 2019’s “Little Women.” “And, incidentally, that was my daughter she was beating up in ‘Frances Ha’ in the first clip. I’ll speak to you about that later.”

Streep ended her speech by saying that she is “just so grateful that you haven’t gotten sick of my face and you haven’t gotten off the train.”

“My mother, who is usually right about everything, said to me: ‘Meryl, my darling, you’ll see. It all goes so fast. So fast.’ And it has, and it does,” Streep said. “Except for my speech, which is too long.”

Indeed, Tuesday night’s ceremony seemed somewhat Streep-themed, with even the music corresponding to one of her fan-favorite roles in “Mamma Mia.” ABBA’s title track to the movie musical played outside on the red carpet, while Streep’s rendition of “The Winner Takes It All” soundtracked her credits reel and “Dancing Queen” played as she accepted the Palme d’Or.

Streep joins several other industry heavyweights who will be appearing at this year’s edition, including “Star Wars” stalwart George Lucas, who will receive an honorary Palme d’Or at the closing ceremony; Francis Ford Coppola, who is presenting his new film “Megalopolis” in competition; and Paul Schrader, whose “Oh, Canada” is also competing for this year’s Palme d’Or.

The iconic and prolific actor has received a record-setting 21 Oscar nominations over her nearly five-decade-long career and has won three, for her performances in “Kramer vs. Kramer” (1980), “Sophie’s Choice” (1983) and “The Iron Lady” (2012).

“I am immeasurably honored to receive the news of this prestigious award,” Streep said in a statement when her honorary Palme d’Or was announced exclusively by Variety. “To win a prize at Cannes, for the international community of artists, has always represented the highest achievement in the art of filmmaking. To stand in the shadow of those who have previously been honored is humbling and thrilling in equal part. I so look forward to coming to France to thank everyone in person this May.”

From Variety US