Cecil B. DeMille Award at Golden Globe Awards
Broadcast on NBC January 23, 2000
On January 23, 2000, in the Beverly Hilton Hotel's International Ballroom in Beverly Hills, California and live on NBC in the U.S., Barbra Streisand received the Hollywood Foreign Press Association's 2000 Cecil B. DeMille Award for her “outstanding contribution to the entertainment field” from close friend Shirley MacLaine. This comes over two months after the November 4, 1999 announcement during a HFPA morning news conference by Anjelica Huston. Association president Helmut Voss said, “This award is long deserved because she is this giant being, such an amazing personality and active in so many different parts of the entertainment business. The vote for her was quite overwhelming [from the HFPA's board of directors]. So, it's appropriate to start the millennium off with her as the Cecil B. DeMille winner.” Streisand herself responded to the announcement — “I'm very grateful to the members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association who have been so supportive of me throughout my career.”
Barbra and husband James Brolin arrived during a light rain at 4:45 p.m. PST for the 5 p.m. three-hour dinner and awards ceremony. At 5:15 during the first commercial break, they were seated at a large round table directly in front of center stage with Nick Nolte (to Barbra's left), Shirley MacLaine (to Brolin's right), Josh Brolin & Minnie Driver, and Marty & Miko Erlichman. John Travolta, earlier slated to hand the DeMille Award to Barbra, was not present, sending his regrets at the last minute due to conjunctivitis, an eye infection. Barbra sent Travolta a get-well “big eye - flowers in an eye.”
Beginning at 6:50 p.m. Shirley MacLaine began the special award presentation to Barbra, which continued for nearly 30 minutes. She did an admirable job adlibbing due to a late-starting TelePrompTer. “I'll tell you when her career began as soon as this TelePrompTer begins,” said MacLaine. “Where is it guys?” She joked that this snafu had better not recur when Barbra comes to the stage to read her remarks, which broke up the audience.
Streisand performance clips dating back to her 1965 My Name Is Barbra TV special began to roll, each introduced by MacLaine, and, beginning with Funny Girl, shown in split-screen with Barbra's steady gaze from her table and occasional private asides with Jim. They held hands and watched a long parade of film clips continuing with Hello, Dolly!, The Owl And The Pussycat, What's Up, Doc?, The Way We Were, A Star Is Born, Yentl, Nuts, The Prince Of Tides, and The Mirror Has Two Faces. Tribute writers even got Barbra's RIAA Gold and Platinum album certifications correct (42 Gold, 26 Platinum, 13 Multi-Platinum). MacLaine recalled first seeing Barbra sing at the Cocoanut Grove in L.A. (1963). But she said the two “go way, way, way, way back—to the Garden of Eden. Barbra, you were not the first person to play a boy. I was Adam. But you were there. You were God.” She praised her friend's “taste, humor, and exceptional timing ... Barbra, you are one of the real ones, you are a universe unto yourself ... You are an artist unparalleled, and I simply adore what you have done with your life ... You are the greatest star of this or any other millennium — and I was there for all of them ” so congratulations!” Next, a wonderful clip montage to Barbra's Funny Girl film version of “I'm The Greatest Star” and Shirley's “Now!” signal brought the entire room to its feet for thunderous applause and Barbra's acceptance speech. As Barbra and Shirley embraced, the elder actress patted the younger's posterior.
Coming to the microphone, Barbra looked absolutely sparkling in a light gray full-neck, sleeveless blouse (very similar to that in her Millennium Concert) with matching long slit skirt. “Thank you. God, to watch a film like that, what a great business. You get to age publicly,” Barbra joked. “It's really nice getting awards (hey, somebody's cell phone just rang), it's difficult knowing just what to say. Anyway, this is heavy [lifting the award, as cell phone rings again.] Ya see? I have good ears.” For the next 8 minutes, nothing would distract the audience, as their attention was transfixed on Barbra.
Barbra Streisand's Cecil B. DeMille Award Acceptance Speech
“Someone asked me recently if they should be an actor, and I said if you have to ask, then the answer is no. The only reason to choose that life is because you feel passionate about it, because you have no other choice. I wanted to be an actress ever since I can remember. But I was very skinny. The only time I liked the way I looked was in the reflection of a hubcap. You remember those old round hubcaps? They made you look fatter! Like a camera, they added 10 pounds. Anyway, nowadays they have very strange hubcaps – have you noticed? You can’t see yourself in them. How are you supposed to check yourself out and stuff? Anyway, in high school (see I can tell how old you all are by the hubcaps) I was a misfit. I was an honor student and yet I had streaked hair, and I wore purple lipstick. And as a way of escaping reality, I hid out a lot at a nearby theater that showed these wonderful movies with subtitles. It was an art house, but at the time I didn’t know what that was. Now I know that those monochromatic frames, those black and white images that I later realized were made by Kurosawa and other great foreign directors would resonate for me many, many years later.
“At the time I was going to two different acting teachers. I didn’t want to miss anything. And what I observed in those classes was that people were much more interesting when they weren’t trying to act, when they were doing nothing but a simple relaxation exercise. Just the tiniest twitch of an eyebrow became fascinating. I guess just being human, ya know? It was the something in the doing nothing, the truth of the moment, that was so powerful to me.
“And now here I am several decades later receiving the Cecil B. DeMille Award. I never worked with Mr. DeMille, but I was fortunate to have another cinematic giant as my first director. William Wyler, whom I adored, was a brilliant, brilliant storyteller [applause for Wyler]. Willie knew the truth when he saw it. And his willingness to listen to...[holding the award at her hip] feels like a baby. Ya know how you hold a baby...his willingness to listen to this neophyte’s ideas made me want to please him even more. One of my prize possessions is a megaphone that Willie gave me at the end of shooting Funny Girl, which still sits on my desk. He wanted to encourage me to direct, at the time, someday. Anyway, when I was preparing to direct my first film, I couldn’t wait to speak to Willie. We planned to meet when I got back from a location scout. But unfortunately Willie passed away before I returned, and we never got to have that talk. But his wife Tallie wrote me a beautiful letter that said, ‘If you’re ever on the set and you don’t know what to do, be very still and you’ll hear Willie whispering in your ear.’ And, believe me, I heard him many times.
“What I love about directing is the learning process: the research, the details, the challenge of how to tell a story. How to serve the actors who have entrusted themselves to you. How to create an atmosphere where the actor is free to bear his soul and reveal his own truth. I’m drawn to subjects that celebrate life and the resilience of the human spirit. I love films that make us care about a little mouse in The Green Mile, that we just saw recently, or Ruben Carter’s unjust prison sentence. The beauty of art is that it can show humanity to itself. I know this has been said many times, but it is a privilege to be able to work at something you feel passionate about. And I’m deeply grateful to the members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association who’ve been so generous in acknowledging my work from the very beginning of my career. Thank you for your continued support and this most wonderful tribute.
“I’m also very grateful to the many people who’ve shared my passion for the details. Joe Layton, who did my first, my earliest TV specials; Harry Stradling who photographed my first four pictures; Sidney Pollack (I don’t know where you are) who directed The Way We Were, (ah, there you are honey, hi!) [applause]. And so many other wonderful record producers, songwriters: Harold Arlen, Jule Styne, Steven Sondheim, Marilyn and Alan Bergman, Marvin Hamlisch. Screenwriters, costume, and production people, hairdressers, orchestrators. And my husband, Jim, who keeps my passion alive and who doesn’t mind that I’m not so skinny anymore, right?
“My last thought of the evening: awards. In researching some of the songs that I just sang on New Year's Eve, I was surprised to find out that some of our greatest standards never won an Academy Award. As a matter of fact, they were never even nominated. Like A Foggy Day, I’m in the Mood For Love, Someday My Prince Will Come. And there were many movies that were never nominated like The African Queen, Singing In The Rain, 2001, Close Encounters, which we actually just showed Jim’s little daughter last night. I thought to myself, it doesn’t matter really how many awards something received. What matters is: did it stand the test of time? Did it touch people’s lives? Can you remember where you were when you first heard that song or saw that movie. Who were you with? Did you laugh or cry? What was going on in your life at the time? Was it at the end of a love affair or the beginning of a marriage? Does it bring back memories when you hear or see it today? The truth is, when it comes to awards, I’m not certain anyone remembers from year to year who won or didn’t win. They remember the work, not the validation of the work. So, if by next year you‘ve all forgotten that I received this award, I promise you I’ll understand. And I’ll always have this to remind me of this very special honor. Thank you.”
After the Award ...
Backstage in the press area, Barbra posed for photos, including one with a HFPA past president and then politely declined another member's request, explaining, “If you do one, then you have to do them all.” Everyone realized there wouldn't be time for that this night. She then moved to a media room for 10-15 minutes of Q&A with print and electronic media reporters. “This is an effort for me. I don't enjoy the kind of glamorous, so-called glamorous — my feet hurt (I'm wearing high heels),” Barbra admitted, “I get cramps.” She said receiving the DeMille Award was nice, but “I don't dwell on the past. I'm very happy with the present.” Regarding success, she noted, “I've been called many names, like perfectionist, difficult and obsessive. I think it takes obsession, takes searching for the details for any artist to be good. It's easy to be sort of good. If you care so much, you kind of get punished for it.” Streisand obviously enjoyed Hilary Swank's performance in Boys Don't Cry, because when the Q&A was interrupted by the announcement of Swank's Golden Globe win, she said excitedly, “Oh good! I voted for her. Somewhere, in my little list,” referencing the evening's souvenir program, “they give you a list for you to keep track.”
Answering a question regarding future concert plans, Streisand said that her two Timeless Millennium performances in Las Vegas were for her fans and that the four upcoming March shows in Australia, and “maybe two more — one in Los Angeles and one in New York” should be considered her "swan song," the conclusion to her concert career. “I just don't like it. I don't enjoy public performances and being up on a stage,” Barbra said candidly. “It's very hard to sing 30 songs a night ... it's not fun, and I want to have fun...I don't enjoy public performances — public speaking, public singing, public anything. I like to be behind the camera or in a recording studio.” She said she would prefer to focus her creative time on directing films, so she would not have to get dressed up and would be able to continue enjoying life with Jim, as real people do, enjoying a slower pace. “I'd rather travel. We just like to get in the car and go,” she said, “stopping at motels and truck stops. We're normal people. We like simple pleasures.” On her relationship with her husband: “Love is the answer. I kind of try to say that in the movies I do. And it's really nice to have it not just in fantasy but in reality. It just puts everything in perspective.” She said she reads scripts for films with Jim, but “it would have to be awfully good.” Still clearly interested in directing, Barbra said, “I'd like to direct another movie someday, but I don't have to.” As for acting, one thing that keeps her away is “fittings and rehearsals. I'm just enjoying my life now.” The only recent acting role she “would have loved to do” was playing Woody Allen's wife in the film he's been shooting, but her concert commitments posed a scheduling conflict this past fall.
[Barbra-Archives note: Tracey Ullman played the wife in Allen's Small Time Crooks.]
Barbra revealed that during the award presentation's film clip retrospective, she whispered something in particular to Jim. “I tried to show him Nuts one night, and he fell asleep. So when they were showing Nuts, I think I said, 'Honey, this was the one you fell asleep in.' Because he was saying to me, 'This looks good!'” She added, “I'm going to screen it for him again earlier in the evening.”
On future plans, Barbra said she wanted to do a director's version of Yentl, referring presumably to the DVD reportedly in the works. She also reiterated her desire to write an autobiography. In addition she underscored her belief in television as a strong film medium for “subjects I feel passionate about and that take up social issues,” which she produces through Barwood Films. Perhaps in response to another question about work, Barbra replied, “I'm really very lazy these days,” after which she departed the press room to enthusiastic applause.
During a career spanning four decades, Barbra Streisand has won more Golden Globes (10) than any other entertainment industry artist. She was the first woman ever to win the Golden Globe for Best Director for the 1983 movie, Yentl. Complete Globe award listing as follows (each year noted is that of actual awards ceremony and honors work during previous year):
- 1969: Best Motion Picture Actress (Comedy or Musical), Funny Girl
- 1970: World Film Favorite—Female
- 1971: World Film Favorite—Female
- 1975: World Film Favorite—Female
- 1977: Best Motion Picture (Comedy or Musical), A Star Is Born
- 1977: Best Motion Picture Actress (Comedy or Musical), A Star Is Born
- 1977: Best Original Song, “Love Theme From A Star Is Born (Evergreen)”
- 1978: World Film Favorite—Female
- 1984: Best Motion Picture Director, Yentl
- 1984: Best Motion Picture (Comedy or Musical), Yentl
She also has been nominated 15 times, including as Best Director for The Prince Of Tides and as Best Actress for The Way We Were and The Mirror Has Two Faces, her most recent film.
Recent Cecil B. DeMille Award winners include Jack Nicholson (1999), Shirley MacLaine (1998), Dustin Hoffman (1997), Sean Connery (1996), Sophia Loren (1995) and Robert Redford (1994).
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