×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Cultural icons climb stairway to kudos

Kennedy Center Honors 2012

For 35 years, the Kennedy Center has been bestowing on cultural titans America’s most prestigious performing-arts award, the Kennedy Center Honors.

This year that company expands to include a protean actor, Dustin Hoffman; a master bluesman, Buddy Guy; a groundbreaking television personality, David Letterman; a prima ballerina, Natalia Makarova; and a seminal rock band, Led Zeppelin, whose surviving members consist of bassist-keyboardist John Paul Jones, guitarist Jimmy Page and singer Robert Plant.

A few of the honorees’ colleagues spoke to Variety about what contributions these artists have made other the years.

“Dustin Hoffman is a actor with immense psychic energy and impressive wit to match,” says Robert Redford, a Kennedy Center laureate from 2005. “I consider our relationship on ‘All the President’s Men’ to be one of the highlights of my career. He is deeply deserving of this honor.”

Continuing to laud his fellow thesp, Redford adds, “He’s an interior actor and a witty one — a very special guy. Based on the roles he’s played over time, you can see that he’s a real actor.”

The multiple Grammy-winning blues guitarist Robert Cray praised his colleague Buddy Guy’s unique style and personality. “He’s a master of the blues form, and he steps out of bounds. Outside of B.B. King — who has already received his Kennedy Center Honors — he’s the most deserving of this honor.”

In the 1980s, Cray toured with Guy and the great harmonica player Junior Wells, an experience he recalls as “heaven.” Cray notes both Guy’s connection to blues tradition, citing his association with Muddy Waters, and his influence on younger guitarists, including Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Jimi Hendrix and himself. And he remarks on a less-cited aspect of Guy’s career. “Nobody even mentions his singing and he’s one of the best blues singers walking the planet.”

David Letterman joins the ranks of just six other honorees to be lauded primarily for their contributions to television. (The first was Letterman’s idol, Johnny Carson, in 1993.) Craig Ferguson, who owes Letterman quite a debt for his own latenight career, calls him “a seminal broadcasting figure,” and draws parallels to Carson.

“He’s as important as Johnny was,” Ferguson says. “Johnny didn’t create the latenight talkshow, but he was the Tiger Woods of it. Dave identified the personality that’s become the touchstone to all that followed — from Jon Stewart to myself to anyone else who’s doing it. Everyone wants to be as cool as Dave.”

Lauding Letterman’s “identifiable humanity,” Ferguson positions Letterman as a game-changing figure. “He’s an icon in a business and art form that has changed beyond all recognition,” he says. “Dave is a masterpiece of what television has become. And he deserves this honor because of his bravery and integrity as a broadcaster, and because he’s more interesting than anyone else who does it.”

More Film

  • Thierry Frémaux, José Luis Rebordinos Honored

    Thierry Frémaux, José Luis Rebordinos Named Honorary Argentine Academy Members

    BUENOS AIRES — In a ceremony just before Friday’s prize announcements at Ventana Sur, Cannes chief Thierry Frémaux and José Luis Rebordinos, director of the San Sebastian Festival, were named honorary members of Argentina’s Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, in a new move for the Academy, out through by its new president, Bernardo [...]

  • Nona

    Film Review: 'Nona'

    Twenty years and 12 features down the line, it’s still hard to peg the directorial sensibility of Michael Polish, with or without the presence of brother Mark as frequent co-writer and actor. His output has been all over the place, from early Lynchian quirkfests to the very middle-of-the-road inspirational dramedy “The Astronaut Farmer,” not to [...]

  • Pawel Pawlikowski "Cold War"

    Pawel Pawlikowski's 'Cold War' Wins for Best Film, Director at European Film Awards

    “Cold War,” Pawel Pawlikowski’s black-and-white romance set in the 1950s, scooped the prizes for best film, director and screenplay at the 31st edition of the European Film Awards on Saturday. “Cold War” star Joanna Kulig also won the award for best actress. Marcello Fonte, the star of Matteo Garrone’s “Dogman,” won for best actor. Armando Iannucci’s [...]

  • The Favourite Bohemian Rapsody Star is

    The Best Movie Scenes of 2018

    When we think back on a movie that transported us, we often focus on a great scene — or maybe the greatest scene — in it. It’s natural. Those scenes are more than just defining. They can be the moment that lifts a movie into the stratosphere, that takes it to the higher reaches of [...]

  • Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

    Box Office: 'Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse' Soars Toward $35-40 Million Debut

    “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” is swinging into theaters on a high note. Sony-Marvel’s latest output is launching to $42 million from 3,813 North American locations in its debut, though other more conservative estimates place that number at $35.5 million. The animated superhero story picked up $12.6 million on Friday, easily leading the pack for the weekend. [...]

  • Ventana Sur : Cinema226 Closes Four

    Cinema226 Announces Four Intl. Co-Productions, Hints at More (EXCLUSIVE)

    Mexico’s Cinema226, run by Marco Antonio Salgado and Sam Guillén, is driving into a raft of Mexico, Argentina and Spain co-productions, playing off the current vibrancy of Mexican film production funding and distribution outlets. Among the projects are titles which have been standouts at Ventana Sur’s Blood Window, the next film by Mexico-based Argentine filmmaker [...]

  • Ventana Sur Debates Gender Parity in

    Ventana Sur Debates Gender’s 50/50 in 2020 for Argentina Film Industry

    BUENOS AIRES — Despite recent gains, namely the equality pledge towards 50/50-2020 signed at the Mar del Plata Film Festival on Nov. 12, producer Magalí Nieva, pointed out that no representative from INCAA was present following the apparent resignation of its vice-president Fernando Juan Lima. “We are left without an interlocutor to discuss gender policies [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content