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With her Oscar win for “The Iron Lady,” Meryl Streep has joined a decidedly elite club, becoming only the fifth actor to win three Oscars.

Katharine Hepburn won four, and Walter Brennan, Ingrid Bergman and Jack Nicholson have three apiece.

Streep appeared stunned when her named was called Sunday. Viola Davis had been viewed by many as the likely winner for “The Help.”

“When I heard my name, I could hear half of America going, ‘Oh, no! Not again! Her!’ But whatever!” Streep said from the stage.

Strep thanked her longtime makeup artist J. Roy Helland, who won the makeup Oscar with Mark Coulier for “The Iron Lady,” and then got a large laugh by saying, “I’m never going to be up here again!”

Streep received her first Oscar nom for “The Deer Hunter” and won her first Oscar a year later for “Kramer vs. Kramer.” She was nominated in 1981 for “The French Lieutenant’s Woman,” then won the next year for “Sophie’s Choice.”

Streep then racked up a dozen more nominations over the next three decades without winning before taking the trophy Sunday for her portrayal of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in “The Iron Lady,” both as a retiree beset by senility and as formidable politician who peaked with the 1982 Falklands war against Argentina.

The 17 Oscar nods for Streep, 62, are the most any performer has been nominated by the Academy, including “Silkwood,” “Out of Africa,” “A Cry in the Dark,” “The Bridges of Madison County,” “Adaptation,” “Doubt” and “The Devil Wears Prada.” She received her 16th nom in 2009 for “Julie & Julia.”

Besides Davis, Streep bested Glenn Close for “Albert Nobbs,” Rooney Mara for “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” and Michelle Williams for “My Week With Marilyn.” Streep had won her eighth Golden Globe and a BAFTA Award earlier.