Meryl Streep Blasts Walt Disney at National Board of Review Dinner

Meryl Streep
Dimitrios Kambouris/FilmMagic

Emma Thompson, Bruce Dern, Octavia Spencer and Will Forte accept awards at dinner gala

The National Board of Review dinner is like the big pre-game to the Golden Globes, where wine bottles are uncorked in New York and don’t stop flowing until the Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s gala on Sunday. But this year’s ceremony will forever be remembered for its nine-minute tour-de-force speech from Meryl Streep.

Streep, for once, wasn’t invited to accept an award. Instead, she was there to honor Emma Thompson for her portrait as “Mary Poppins” creator P.L. Travers in Disney’s “Saving Mr. Banks.”

There was plenty of effusive Thompson praising in the speech — with phrases like “she’s practically a saint” and “she’s a beautiful artist” — and it ended with a poem that Streep had written for her friend titled “An Ode to Emma, Or What Emma is Owed.” But Streep also made a point of blasting Walt Disney for his sexist and anti-Semitic stances.

The edgy riff offered a different perspective on Disney from the sugarcoated hero played by Tom Hanks in “Saving Mr. Banks.” Streep was once rumored to be in the running for the role of P.L. Travers, although her remarks suggest why she might not have pursued the project.

“Some of his associates reported that Walt Disney didn’t really like women,” Streep said, quoting esteemed animator Ward Kimball on his old boss: “He didn’t trust women or cats.”

Streep talked about how Disney “supported an anti-Semitic industry lobbying group” and called him a “gender bigot.” She read a letter that his company wrote in 1938 to an aspiring female animator. It included the line, “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.”

The quirky National Board of Review committee announces its winners early, so the real surprise is in what they will say on-stage. This year’s list of honorees included Thompson for best actress, Bruce Dern for best actor (“Nebraska”), Will Forte for best supporting actor (“Nebraska”) and Octavia Spencer for best supporting actress (“Fruitvale Station”). The Weinstein Co.’s drama, made only for $1 million, also received recognition for best-directorial debut (Ryan Coogler) and breakthrough performance (Michael B. Jordan).

“Her” landed best picture and best director for Spike Jonze.

The night opened with Coogler accepting his award from Lee Daniels. Coogler paid tribute to Oscar Grant, whose 2009 BART police shooting inspired his picture, which he partially filmed at his grandmother’s house in Oakland, Calif. “Statistically, I’m not even supposed to be alive from where I came from,” Coogler said. “There are so many Oscar Grants … who see their lives ended senselessly on the streets.”

Michael B. Jordan thanked his father. “He really showed me what it means to be a man,” Jordan said. “He sacrificed for his family and he put himself last a lot of times.”

Jordan remembered getting cast on HBO’s “The Wire” at 16. “Life was amazing,” he said until episode 12 when he learned that his character would be killed on-screen.

“No actor on that show wanted that visit from [creator] David Simon,” he mused. “Actors were dropping left and right.” And then he moved to Los Angeles, where he was on a “7-11 diet. It’s exactly what it sounds like. You go to 7-11, and whatever you can afford, you eat that week.”

Ex-“Sopranos” scribe Terence Winter accepted best-adapted screenplay for “Wolf of Wall Street” from Edie Falco and Steve Buscemi. Joel and Ethan Coen were singled out for their “Inside Llewyn Davis” original screenplay and offered a characteristically short speech.

Some of the winners were repeats from the previous night’s New York Film Critic’s Circle Awards, including best animated feature (“The Wind Rises”) and best documentary (“Stories We Tell”).

The best ensemble prize for “Prisoners” was given to Maria Bello, Melissa Leo, Paul Dano and Terrence Howard. And the trifecta of directors turned actors in “Wolf of Wall Street”–Rob Reiner, Spike Jonze and Jon Favreau–presented the Spotlight Award to Leonardo DiCaprio and Martin Scorsese.

“We were never around when there was naked women,” Reiner complained.

DiCaprio and Scorsese gave a funny speech where they completed each other’s sentences.

“Keep it short,” Scorsese said.

“You mean, under-three-hours short?” DiCaprio asked, alluding to their film’s 179-minute running time.

“Saturday Night Live’s” Seth Meyers introduced his ex-costar Will Forte. “I’m not used to getting awards,” Forte said. “My family members have actually lost friends because they’ve sent those friends to the movies I’ve been in.”

Dern said that at 77, he found the role of a lifetime in “Nebraska.”

“I’ve never had someone give me an opportunity and believe in me and trust me like Alexander [Payne],” he said. “I knew I had a friend who I could trust.”

After thanking Streep for her tribute, Thompson launched into a comedy routine that urged women to stop wearing high heels, among other punch lines.

“It’s such a cold night,” Thompson said of New York’s record-low temperature. “It’s the only time I’ve been actively grateful for the menopause.”

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  1. rosemary montrose says:

    Meryl Streep. Has Meryl any idea what she is talking about? I think she lives in a Hollywood cocoon of wealth and fame that traps the media into reporting her views. Hey! Meryl. Check the World Health Organisation , Nato and UNICEF for information. Freedom.Yes! Meryl, I think you are naive!!!

    • Jeffrey C Harris says:

      Rosemary, you are right that we should strive in every way possible to push the Muslim nations of the world to stop human rights violations in the name of (just one view of their) religion. I’m all on board with you there. But, Meryl was talking about accepting needy refugees — victims of men’s wars — into our country who happen to be Muslim. We can’t and shouldn’t make solving all the issues of Islam contingent upon helping the needy, no matter their religion. That would be inhuman of us. Meryl wasn’t naive at all; she was quite right. And, so are you. Helping refugees and being a strong voice for Muslim reform movements are not mutually exclusive!

  2. Amber says:

    She did a good job of destroying any respect people had for her.
    She is a very rich spoiled brat , who was always rich in American, whose family was here due too over a million USA Soldiers, mostly white Christian men, died freeing death camps in Europe. There would be no Movie Star Merryl Streep. Yet she denigrates those people.

    Talk Radio has eaten her alive.
    Even liberals are saying she disgraced her chance to be honored because she is a sore loser.
    The reportr in question has normal use of his arms and hands.
    He does not have palsy.
    Trump talks with his hand and arms.
    A million videos prove it.

    I was stunned. She crossed a Line. They all did. Soon people are not only going to be offended, they are not going to spend their money to see movies made by and starring people who berate them for wanting a job……………and to stop flooding the USA with cheap labor.
    She was a no class woman last night.

  3. Oh Fiddlesticks, as Flora might say. I so wish I had a way to communicate with Meryl, because I love her dearly, as a dramatic artist. What she overlooked in her speech here, though, is the maturing and enlightenment of the man Walt Disney, as he lived past 1938. I wouldn’t make Meryl view Walt through rose-colored glasses. The annals of his life do indeed contain some regrettable, and later repented, affiliation with anti-semetism, misogyny, racism, and even McCarthyism! But, he also grew as a person over his life. He evolved, just as you might expect an open minded person to do, after living through the Great Depression, the 50’s, and into the late 60’s. He was always progressive in hiring gay animators, for one thing, and his feelings toward women in the workplace most certainly evolved. Meryl can see perfect evidence of this the next time she is in the ABC Building commissary, on the Walt Disney lot. Toward the back of the open dining room, Meryl. Now, look upon the walls. There, among the historical photos you will see, proudly displayed, a vintage black and white picture of animators working on none other than “Sleeping Beauty”, a film second only to Ben Hur in success the year of its release, 1959. And, those animators, lovingly toiling to bring the Three Good Faeries to life, are women. All of them.

  4. MCS says:

    I’m on Walt Disney’s side. Thanks.

  5. ITTTY IT says:

    And HOW many Meryl Streep pictures will people be watching 50 years from now?

    And HOW many, in fact, are they even looking back on NOW?

    Take a look at any level of 2014 franchise slum Hollywood.

    Take a look at their sleazy record over the past few decades.

    STREEP is the worst sort of ‘on board’ sellout.


  6. Angus says:

    I find it interesting that Streep used the Ward Kimball quote from Neal Gabler’s book to accuse Walt Disney of hating women, but ignored Gabler’s own conclusion that, like most whites of his generation, Walt was racially insensitive, but “Walt Disney was no racist” (Gabler 2006, page 433). She appears to have cherry-picked quotes to support her pre-conceived negative opinion of Walt.

    Floyd Norman, an African-American animator who worked on both Disney movies and comics, was hired by the Disney Studios in 1956. While working on story development, he was often in meetings with Walt Disney during the late 1950’s to early 1960’s. Norman has stated repeatedly that he never saw any evidence that Walt was a racist. If Walt was the racist Streep claims, why would he allow his studio to hire an African-American in the 1950’s, much less sit down and discuss story ideas for his movies with one? (Norman is still alive and has posted on this topic many times.)

    Streep is excellent at delivering lines written by others, but she needs to avoid writing her own scripts if she wants to retain any credibility.

  7. Kizi 4 says:

    It’s encouraging to witness this. then we’ll really have something.Kizi 4

  8. Tom Crossman says:

    Meryl’s comments about Walt Disney are completely uninformed.

    She alleged that Walt “supported an anti-Semitic industry lobbying group.”

    The group she’s referring to is the Motion Picture Alliance, founded to fight communism in Hollywood. It was founded by a group of 20 – the who’s who of Hollywood – and 3 of the founders were Jews : Victor Flemming, Cecil B DeMille, and Ayn Rand, who wrote their publications. Ronald Reagan was a member as well. Walt disowned the group a few years later, and I imagine that’s when Victor, Cecil and Ayn left as well.

    He hired his first Jewish employee in 1925 – 3 years before Mickey Mouse came on the scene. Not a single Jewish employee, and there were many, ever considered him anti semitic.

    She quotes Ward Kimble as saying “he was suspicious of Women and Cats”? This is the scene: Walt standing in the corner looking suspicious as he watches his wife and 2 daughters play with their cats.
    And labeling him a sexist based on a form letter written in 1938? That’s just ludicrous.

    There is an enormous amount of information out there about whether or not Walt was any of these things – quite interesting really. Most people who’ve researched the facts don’t think Walt was anti semitic – there are no smoking guns here.

  9. mickyg1963 says:

    The only talent Walt Disney had was to employ others who had the real talent his creations relied upon. He was basically an ideas man – though some seem to think he was some kind of messiah, judging by the over-fawning comments, along with the childish diatribes against Meryl Streep. I do not for one minute agree with her view, but I won’t compound one ignorant view by uttering another in his defence. I’ll leave that stupidity to those dim-witted enough to do so.

    • Carl says:

      Now I understand what my Dad meant by the term, nincompoop.
      Childish diatribes? Oh really.
      They are protests against a travesty of utterly false lies directed against a great visionary.

  10. ted lang says:

    It’s too bad Meryl does not know what she’s talking about…

  11. Betty H says:

    I wonder why with her feelings on Walt Disney is Meryl then starring in “Into the Woods”, a Disney film? Things that make you go, hmmmm…

  12. Billiamo says:

    I’ll never forget a TV spot Meryl Streep did during the alar scare, when people were counseled to scrub their apples. Her self-importance made me shudder.

    Walt Disney made far more people happy than this over-mannered, over-feted actress ever will.

  13. ryan says:

    Meryl, not only did you dishonor the reason (Walt Disney) which the film ever existed in the first place, but also dishonored the honoree (Emma Thompson) by placing the spotlight on you and your opinion. How tactless and ungraceful.

  14. Brutus says:

    Really brave, attacking a man dead nearly half a century, who was dead before the women’s liberation movement and who came of age in a time when these thoughts were the norm, whose supposed sexist and antisemetic attributes are based on rumor and innuendo by many with an axe to grind, and which he cannot rebut. How brave. Where was she 35 years ago when she wasn’t yet established? Where was her anti-Disney speech then?

    50 years from now Disney will live on in a company employing tens of thousands, theme parks he envisioned and built, movies, and TV shows bearing his name. Meryl Streep will be the equivalent of some forgotten silent movie actress. Overrated in her time and a dime a dozen.

  15. John Smith says:

    I do not understand the reasons why she should attack a man that died almost 50 years ago that has made so many people happy to be living. What purpose did it fulfil.It seems the more famous you become the more you have to spout off. Doesn’t she know nobody is perfect including her and people are usually affected by the era they live in. I have lost all respect for MS. Streep but I do appreciate her ability to act.

  16. Greg says:

    Walt Disney’s work contributed to the enthusiasm and imagination that made us the envy of the world. It also filled theaters with baby boomers who enjoyed his films and got into the movie going to have it. That appreciation of moviegoing also benefited Ms. Streep. I am also awaiting Ms. Streets other contributions such as Streepland in Anaheim or Streep World in Florida. I’m not sure my grandchildren will enjoy those as much as Disneyland.

    • joelg69 says:

      ..can’t help noticing that your “response” to Ms. Streep’s comments was unresponsive, irrelevant and personally nasty..

      ..hope it made you feel better..

  17. Robert H says:

    I’ve never understood what a celebrity has to gain in offering their personal opinion on issues that are sure to alienate a lot of their admirers. Surely those of their inner circle are aware of their viewpoints but it seems the national platform given to celebrity status isn’t good enough being utilized for solely entertainment & it is generally those on the left who insist offering their cemented views no matter how much the public resists/rejects accepting those viewpoints. Rest assured Ms. Streep that WD was far more a springboard to successful careers of many you accuse him of chastising/ostracizing than your one dimensional role as the quintessential feminist ever produced relative success for the men you choose to rail against. It’s unfortunate you probably don’t understand that aspect of your commentary. Downplaying the greatness of an icon leaves an after taste you truly don’t care about real equality,, it is superiority you seem to seek with your words even when closer examination shows you might not have achieved your stardom without the unselfish efforts of a true achiever & pioneer like Walt Disney.

    Keep it real Ms. Streep,, stay with contemporary analogy when a real dick of today might ask you to take a secondary stance that your inflated hubris could not possibly accept.

    WD’s legacy has stood the test of time. Be cautious yours falls short making ill timed remarks that could prove regrettable in your future..

  18. Jenny McCarthey says:

    Also, Streep quotes Ezra Pound, a known anti-Semite, in her diatribe. Priceless.

    • ted lang says:

      Ignorance Rules… n’est ce pas? Disney was a product of his time, a far different time that I or Miss Streep were born into. He was a penny pincher BECAUSE of his childhood… One must wonder if Miss Streep had to go to work at 8 delivering papers in the snow or be beaten by father typical of those times.
      I went to work at 11, by the way, scraping floors in a chocolate factory to help support my family, working up to six hours a day after school but seven days a week nonetheless… What a fun childhood I had …of course, I’m doing at least as well or better than Streep today…lol… and as Orson Welles, a former tenant, friend used to say: “I earned it.”

    • William Box says:

      Is that Mother McCauley Jenny McCarthey? Go Mighty Macs !!!

  19. Jenny McCarthey says:

    Heaven help us. Meryl has her “I’m not just an actress” horn rims on. Anyone who has a grandpa or great-grandpa born around 1901 should go bitch-slap them right now for being sexist, and even possibly anti-Semitic. I guess Walt’s biggest problem is that he created something big enough to make him famous enough to single out.

  20. El Conde says:

    Walt Disney anti-Semitic??? He used to play polo with Charley Chaplin during the early years. They were such good friends that it was Charley Chaplin who told Walt he should keep ownership of all his movies. That’s how the Disney movie distribution company, Buena Vista, was founded. It is interesting to me that many of these replies show a real knowledge of Walt Disney. Yet, those who know least (like Streep) are always the ones who spout off the most!

  21. Ogilvy says:

    Disney was a genius — “When a genius appears, you can know him by this sign; that all the dunces are in a confederacy against him.” – Jonathon Swift

  22. jim says:

    Well, Ms. Streep had you any knowledge of social history from the 1920s-30s you would realize those were VERY typical views of whites of all economic and social strata. Especially someone from the MidWest like Mr. Disney. He may not have “liked women” but he was married, had two daughters and as the movie portrayed, had a female advisor and executive secretary-at a time when it was very common for that post to be held by a man. Using the standards of 2014 to judge a man from 1938 is typical of self-serving narcissists that seem to flock to this industry.

  23. William Box says:

    very enlightening Ron. “Good answer, good answer, I like the way you think Mr. Halpert, I’m going to be watching you.” (Sam Kinson, Old School). Truly Ron, it is a good answer.

  24. William Box says:

    This is some good history. FYI, if Walt was in any way against a jew, it wasn’t because he was Jewish but most likely he was a freakin hard core communist and espousing the communist party in his work for Mr. Disney. There were lots of hard core commies in the industry back then. Then Stalin was shown to be as bloody as Hitler and most of them gave up the Party line. I guess those that did not, who always embraced the Party line, and their children, known as ‘Red Diaper babies’, who were fed Marx’s Manifesto with their Mother’s milk, continue to view Disney as Lucifer. I would bet, Madame Streep is a red diaper baby. Others, and this is fact, are: Carl Bernstein, Wash Post, David Axelrod, Obama Campaign Manager, Valerie Jarrett, top Obama Advisor and Obama himself, both natural parents and his ‘mentor’ Frank Marshall Davis. ‘Workers of the World united against Disneyland” – how stupid!!

  25. kirok says:

    Wait? So this man and his mouse has brought happiness to millions of chidren for almost a century and this C.U.Next Tuesday has the gaul to make a mockery of the guy? Yeah whatever.

  26. julie says:

    I once thought Ms. Streep was a wonderful actor, but I no longer will be supporting someone who tells lies. Any intelligent person would’ve checked their facts before inserting foot in mouth. I hope you get what you wanted from this.
    I would choose Mr. Disney over you any day and he’s dead!

  27. Bernadette Fratini says:

    Why was Merell compelled to smear Mr Disney on award night. Things were different back in the 30’s . If
    Walt was alive today I’m sure he would be wiser. Who are you to judge someone . Wise up.

  28. Rhett says:

    Streep must be needing work.

  29. Craig Lutes says:

    Yeah Meryl!

  30. Greg says:

    I have only one name to add Mary Blair….Walts favoured creative artist…contributed the overlook look and feel of many of his beloved films and contributed a great deal of the overall design of Disneyland attractions….and yet all Meryl has to prove her sad vacuous point is a letter written in 1936…
    Meryl with an axe to grind…pathetic!

  31. JLR says:

    It’s common knowledge that many in the entertainment business are very narcissistic, Meryl Streep included. Here’s some food for thought. Psychopaths are also very gifted at ‘mimicking’ or ‘parroting’ the behavior of others. Sounds a bit like a certain actress, eh! I think it’s best to express strong opinions to the living, since the accused cannot defend themselves from the grave. Here’s an interesting article re: Walt Disney that gives some perspective: Times change and people change. Let the man rest in peace.

  32. marie downing says:

    No wonder she is so great at playing o BITCH!

  33. LTodd says:

    Well, she got a headline.

  34. Teresa Welby says:

    So George three, why is it that black people vote mostly for democrats?

  35. Aaron says:

    Very poor form Ms Streep. I don’t see the porpose of attacking Disney now. He created a great legacy of family entertainment. There is no reason to attack him now.

  36. Teresa Welby says:

    Wow, so many comments ignorant about what it takes to be a great actor… “actors are parrots”. So much ignorance. Why are so many people outraged that Streep would dare to take on Walt Disney? You’d think he was Mohammed and we were all discussing Islam the outrage is so out of control.
    Several people have said Disney did employ women illustrators…but the point is made that they were tracers, not in creative positions. Perhaps Streep was unfair and I have always said it makes no sense to judge people in history by today’s standards. But seriously, Streep is a great actress and Disney was a bit of a bigot and can take the criticism. We don’t need to whitewash the man to admire what he has done.

  37. Just doing her part in destroying any semblance of pride in America’s history..

  38. Tyler E. says:

    Everything Meryl said was 100% true.. The real shame is Americans didn’t give a bleep enough to shame and disgrace the money-hungry man while Disney was alive!!

  39. Billy Martin says:

    From what I read here the article said “she read a letter that his company wrote”. You get from that he was a gender bigot? Words like bigot and racist are being so over used right now it is scary. This didn’t happen 1/10th as much until BO was elected. This country is spiraling downward at a rapid rate and a lot of the reason is because people want to dwell in the past and cast out destructive comments instead of finding constructive things to say. Hollywood needs a complete overhaul.

  40. C King says:

    Meryl is a talented actress. I love her work. Meryl, please respect your fans and not dis some of them with politics. We have a common ground with your talent. :)

  41. redcarol57 says:

    So Streep sings the praise of Emma Thompson who is devoutly Anti-Israel to the point of calling for an Israeli Theater group being banned from performing. Not sure how that’s not a bit anti-Semitic, all the while criticizing the late Walt Disney as an anti-Semite? What’s Streep smoking? And how can I get some?

  42. Very brave of her to attack a man lying in his tomb.

  43. Jack says:

    Someone’s bitter SHE never got to be in a Disney film.

  44. NCMike says:

    Who cares what this self-centered, tiresome, has-been says?

    • mickyg1963 says:

      Meryl Streep a ‘has-been’? Although I don’t agree with her rant against Walt Disney, I fail to see the point of insulting her with an equally stupid comment. Hardly as ‘has been’. She’s the most Oscar-nominated actress in film history, winning three times, along with winning a bucketful of Golden Globe and many other accolades from all over the world.

      I have no problem with people defending Walt Disney, but you look rather stupid when countering her view by spouting equally silly claptrap about her standing and ability as an actress. Attack her view not her talent, which is self evident from anyone who has watched her performances, either on stage or on film.

  45. jimmyrhythm says:

    In 1938, many businesses felt the same way about female employees. Times change; as time went on, Disney did, too.

    And, having been married twice, I don’t trust women, either. Doesn’t mean I don’t like ’em.

    • Kay says:

      @jimmyrhythym- how do you marry a woman you don’t trust? I’m truly sorry for you that you go through life distrusting half of the’d think, with the way women were treated throughout history that it would be the other way around. It sounds like you have some trust issues. I couldn’t imagine not trusting my husband. I can’t imagine wanting to have children with someone I don’t trust. God luck to you sir. I hope you realize how silly it is to hold all women accountable for the actions of a few. I was abused by my stepfather and abandoned by my father, it does not cause me to judge all men. Most men are good and I can recognize that

  46. Kingfish says:

    No one ever accused Ms. Streep of being particularly bright, just good at playing others on film.

    • Teresa Welby says:

      Oh Kingfish, do you know anything about acting? Great acting takes great intelligence. Besides, it is no secret that Disney was a bigot. That doesn’t mean he didn’t make great films.

  47. kimdi01 says:

    Where was Streep with her comments back when Disney was alive? She can talk all she wants because she knows he is not alive to give a differing view. Takes a lot of courage damning a person that has been dead for a while, but then Streep is more full of herself than others.

  48. KR Rayberry says:

    Funny how it is pretty easy to kick a man when he is dead, he doesn’t put up much of a fight.

  49. Crewjobs says:

    The great Walt Disney can withstand a posthumous flea bite or two from the likes of Meryl Streep.

  50. Everette Twinning says:

    Like most Hollywood types, actors seem to believe that the roles they play reflect themselves – if they play a genius, why, they are a genius; if they are society’s gift to the poor, they are a saint; and if they agonize over which child they must protect and which must die, well, they carry the ills and misfortunes of all the victims of the world. What they need to be reminded of is that they have memorized lines written by someone else, being closer to parrots than humans. Streep is a parrot who majored in mimic. And when she strays, she only pleases other parrots.

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