Actor highlights Disney's membership of antisemitic lobbying group during speech honouring Emma Thompson in Disney biopic Saving Mr Banks
While honouring Emma Thompson at a dinner for the National Board of Review on Tuesday night, Meryl Streep made an extraordinary speech that criticised Walt Disney for being a "gender bigot" who was a member of an antisemitic lobbying organisation.
Streep, perhaps Hollywood's most respected and beloved actor, showed she is far from a cosy establishment figure as she carefully trod a line between praising Thompson and attacking Disney. The very film Thompson was being celebrated for, Saving Mr Banks, is based around Walt Disney's persuading of PL Travers to allow him to adapt Mary Poppins.
According to Variety's Ramin Setoodeh, Streep called Thompson "a beautiful artist" who is "practically a saint", and read out a self-penned poem to the actor, before launching into her criticisms of Disney. She quoted a letter he wrote to a female animator that read: "Women do not do any of the creative work in connection with preparing the cartoons for the screen, as that task is performed entirely by young men." She also noted that Disney's colleague Walter Kimball said that his boss "didn't trust women or cats."
Elsewhere at the awards, which open two months of prize-giving in the US film industry, there was recognition for Oscar favourites as well as some relative outsiders. Bruce Dern and Will Forte were commended for their performances in Nebraska, while the cast of Prisoners, including Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal, received the ensemble prize. Spike Jonze won best director for Her, which also won best picture.
Fruitvale Station, one of the year's most acclaimed indie releases, won three awards: best supporting actress for Octavia Spencer (who won the same category at the Oscars in 2011 for The Help), best directorial debut for Ryan Coogler, and Michael B Jordan for breakthrough performance. Jordan may be familiar to UK audiences as teenage drug dealer Wallace in HBO's TV series The Wire, and he dedicated the award to his father: "He really showed me what it means to be a man: he sacrificed for his family and he put himself last a lot of times."