2008 Laureate Prize Winner
2008 Benjamin Franklin Creativity Laureate in the Arts
Actress Meryl Streep has portrayed an astonishing array of roles in an illustrious career in the theater, film, and television. The two-time Academy Award winner and recipient of a record-breaking 14 Oscar nominations is widely respected as one of our most distinguished and talented actors. But she is also notable for the breadth and diversity of her philanthropic work.
Born in 1949 in Summit, New Jersey, Mary Louise Streep had never acted in a drama before her sophomore year at Vassar College, where she won the title role in the Strindberg play, Miss Julie. Upon graduating, she enrolled in the Yale School of Drama, where she received a Master of Fine Arts degree and the Carol Dye Acting Award. She was the first woman in the school's history to receive this honor.
Whatever character she portrays, Ms. Streep's work is suffused with dignity and decency. Her unique empathy for women has led audiences into the lives of some of the most memorable characters on film.
She gave an outstanding performance in her first film role, Julia (1977). The next year she was nominated for an Oscar for her role in The Deer Hunter (1978). She went on to win the Academy Award for her performances in Kramer vs. Kramer (1979) and Sophie's Choice (1982), in which she gave a heart-wrenching portrayal of an inmate mother in a Nazi death camp.
Ms. Streep is now the most nominated actor in the history of the Academy Awards. Moreover, with six Golden Globe Awards, she is tied with Jack Nicholson for the most wins, and has been nominated a record-breaking 23 times. Her work has also earned her a Cannes award, two Screen Actors Guild Awards, four Grammy Award nominations, two Emmy Awards, a British Academy of Film and Theatre Arts (BAFTA) Award, and a Tony Award nomination, along with other national and international accolades. In 2000 she received France’s Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. She is one of the few actors to have won all four major screen-acting awards (Oscar, Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild, and BAFTA awards).
Despite her prolific output, Ms. Streep only films in the summer and refuses stage roles in order to preserve time with her family. She has been married for 25 years to artist Don Gummer. They are the parents of a son and three daughters.
In addition to her accomplishments in acting, Ms. Streep is a passionate champion of causes as diverse as education, the environment, gender equality, poverty, healthcare, and human rights. In 1989 she co-founded Mothers & Others, a consumer advocacy group that worked successfully for 12 years to protect the health of children and the environment and to support organic and sustainable agriculture. Among the achievements was the 1996 Food Quality Protection Act regulating pesticides on food. She continues her advocacy work with organizations that include the Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard Medical School, Scenic Hudson, the Children's Health Environmental Coalition, and Partners in Health. An outspoken advocate for women, Ms. Streep is also active in Equality Now, working for women's human rights around the world.
Ms. Streep’s creativity has found expression well beyond the scope of her acting career. She is, quite simply, a brilliant actor on the world stage.