Barbra Streisand Accepts the AFI Life Achievement Award in 2001

ladies and gentlemen Barbra Streisand thank you thank you thank you so much I told them in front I said you know I don't think my life and career could fill a whole evening I really didn't think that so I am really very surprised and extremely touched first let me thank the the many people who have come here tonight for me especially those of you who told their stories got up and spoke I mean it is hard isn't it isn't it just to get up and say anything you know we can make movies and do all these things but it's hard to get up and just just talk I can't tell you how deeply humbled I am to be in the company of the men and women who have been honored before me Orson Welles my first teacher William Wyler John Huston your daddy Angelica Robert wises the actors Jack Nicholson Dustin Hoffman Clint Eastwood Sidney Poitier Elizabeth Taylor and Betty Davis to name just a few now Betty Davis made as she made over 80 films in her career and I've only made 16 which means for me to make that many films at the rate I'm going I'd be a hundred and twenty years old before I got this award no doubt having just wrapped another sequel to funny girl funny grandma maybe you know you see I've always wanted to be an actress ever since I can remember at 13 I auditioned for a radio show playing Joan of Arc at 15 I I remember doing a scene from Madea in acting class 16 was an important year for me I saw an old film starring Eleanor a doozy the great Italian actress and I'll never forget watching those flickering images being so impressed by the economy of her acting she so inspired me that I practically moved into the the 42nd Street library and York to read all the play she was in because my dream was to be a classical actress I wanted to play all the great parts Hedda Gabler Nora in the dolls house Shaw's and Shakespeare's Cleopatra but tonight I stand before you not having done any of it I got sidetracked I guess I couldn't get a job as a dramatic actress so I started to sing when I first started my career I was called a gifted kook when I came to Hollywood I was labeled difficult opinionated and that as a director I graduated to perfectionist which I don't think was meant as a compliment so I looked at the meaning of perfectionist and it says hypercritical fussy obsessive striving for perfection so I looked up obsessive and it says mysterious weird having a persistent disturbing preoccupation with an often unreasonable idea no I don't think that's necessarily true about me well maybe it is a little obsessive to have all the colors of the flowers outside every room in my house match the interiors but that's because I see the outside as an extension of the inside doesn't everybody this kind of if you want to call it obsession holds over into my professional life as well but I'm sure it's an obsession that most directors share before I made you until I flew to Amsterdam to study the Rembrandt's because I wanted to see how black the blacks were where the edges of the face is hard or soft would that affect the lenses we would use and and then there's the light I wanted the faces of the students who are searching for the answers and the questions to be lit by an inner glow that that reminded me of the luminescence of Rembrandt's paint I wanted to capture that light which comes from the desire to connect to a higher source the desire for enlightenment and I think great movies enlighten us as well they search for the truth they capture it place it into the national conversation and for me it's a privilege to to work in an art form that gives you a chance to take chances and gives you a voice to express your sense of injustice your dedication to the truth Jim and I go out to the movies a lot and I realize the true power of the the movies when I'm I'm part of the audience United in the dark we're really more alike than not alike caring about the same things you know love peace hope family engaged by a story that Springs from the collaboration of artists so to my collaborators and friends who have supported me encouraged me believed in me through the years sis Corman since I was 16 years old Marty Ehrlichman since I was 19 years old Alan and Marilyn Bergman since I was 18 years old it seems like we took our first steps together and now look at the journey we've taken thank you so much to Marvin Hamlisch who was with me and funny girl will probably be with me if I ever do funny grandma to all the directors I've trusted and to all the actors who put their trust in me thank you so much so now what to tell you the truth I'd like to do nothing for a while I'd like to take some time so that when inspiration knocks on my door I'll be ready to be deliciously consumed and obsessed again there's still more to do so much more to learn before I can truly feel worthy of this tremendous honor and who knows maybe someday I will play Hedda Gabler thank you to the American Film Institute for this incredible incredible moving evening this wonderful tribute I I really appreciate it thank you all thank you so much you

  • Streisand was purported to have said that she would like to be remembered as an actress who sang a little ! Talk about not recognizing a gift from God ( her voice) because it wasn't the gift she wanted (actress) ! For a smart woman she sure missed the boat on this . I would have liked to have heard what those who were there had to say about Barbra.

  • My dream came true this year when I was able to be in the same room with Barbra Streisand. She is soft-spoken, kind and so gifted. I love her voice in all its forms. Be sure to see Yentl, an underrated movie which is a cinematic gem. Loved her speech here… elegant, smart and humble. I also love that Barbra remains loyal to those in her professional and personal life. Amazing woman.

  • Her speech was riveting & the award so well deserved. I did find it unusual that she didn’t include her son & husband.

  • OH MY GOD. ….
    Barbra Streisand is a my favorite singer of all times.
    if i ever get the meeting with Barbra Streisand, it will be my dream come true. …..
    i loves you always.

  • She certainly deserves her recognition. Some of her movies have truly been great, and I’m sure everyone has their favorites. Some have been real duds. But nobody can say Streisand isn’t one of the greatest talents ever to have graced stage/screen/records.

  • What happened to her film career after this? Some puerile "Fockers" films and a charming, but underrated and forgotten "Guilt Trip." Nothing great or substantial, and no directing. Such a waste.

  • What a magnificent Hedda Gabler she would be !! This woman is a force of nature, the most complete personalisation of Talent. What a fabulous artist she is. God bless Barbra!!!

  • She sounds so phony and unreal… but of course, she has learned her speech well. Unfortunately she became more and more "studied" throughout the years. Such a shame..

  • "We thank you, Barbra Streisand, for giving us that voice, that echoes so beautifully across time"–Sidney Poitier at the AFI Awards. Been a huge fan for over 50 years. Lucky to see her in concert a few years ago. She was great 50 years ago and continues to be.


  • In 1964, I traveled to New York City to see Funny Girl and to see and hear this young singer/actress that was in the news. She blew me away! And, yes to someone else who wrote here, her hands were absolutely gorgeous. It actually was a small theater, and I was in standing room only but we could see the stage very well. She became my idol that night in 1964. We are much older now, Barbra and I (I am near 80) but I am still as much in awe of her as i was in 1964. Her language skills are as wonderful as her singing voice. I've loved all her movies, but her singing is what I think we all will remember. And I was so happy when she found Dr. Gorgeous (from a very old TV show and what Carol Burnet would call a handsome comic on her show…which we all knew was a reference to Jim Brolin.) They are perfect together. Their love is as stirring as her voice. When I hear her voice, I know there is a God!

  • She got sidetracked as a singer!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Thank God she did. I think it's possibly  the best PLAN B I have ever heard.

  • Undeserved. People like Alfred Hitchcock, David Lean and John Williams have doné a huge contribution to the art of cinema. I don't think Streisand is on that level of filmmmaking. And if she got this because of her acting career, there were other actresses who deserved it more than her, like Glenn Close or Susan Sarandon. She received it even before than Diane Keaton… She has done more for music than cinema.

  • She's great. Blah blah blah. But travelling to Amsterdam to study the colours of Rembrandt paintings is a privilege. Poor first-time director don"t execute the same kind of grandiose preparation but that lack of means doesn't imply their movies are bad quality. Budget limits your vagaries.

  • She is THE ONLY person who can make me cry when she sings. Her singing touches my sole. We will NEVER, EVER see or hear the likes of anyone like Barbra Streisand again. NO ONE will EVER sing the way she does. She is a musical legend.

  • Damn, this is just about the MOST PERFECT lifetime achievement acceptance speech I've ever heard! Barbra Streisand just has a way with words, a way of looking at things, that sets her apart from all the other ordinary movie people. Of course, she has the self-assured presence of a diva, so even though she feels she hasn't yet deserved this award with her film career, you know she has had more impact than many of these people in the audience. I mean, of course she doesn't mention all the UNFORGETTABLE songs and albums, and everything else she's ever done, because they're not the focus on this night, but WHAT A WOMAN!

  • She's a treasure for us all to admire. Just like her speech for the Cecile D Miller Award at the Global Globes, she moved me again in this one, even more so, where her speech has different insights of her perception of the art form. Its truly something to behold as her journey has taken her here 50 years or so later. She's truly one Funny Girl.

  • Barbra Streisand is officially the most awarded entertainer in the history of showbusiness, receiving Academy Awards, Golden Globes, Tony's an Emmy and a Sony Award. Her album sales exceed 100 million worldwide and her movies speak from themselves.

    Fiercely private, but magnetically charismatic and charming beyond most peoples abilities.

    A superstar….infact, 'the' superstar!

    From here across the pond Barbra, we adore you!

    Chris (UK).

  • If Barbra Streisand were to receive a Grammy Life Achievement Award, like Frank Sinatra did, I would wholeheartedly support her entitlement to the honor. Streisand has had a fifty year career as a best selling recording artist, making the highest quality records with the best composers , arrangers, and conductors. However, the America Film Institute Life Achievement is given to a filmmaker whose work has significantly advanced the art of film, and whose contributions have stood the test of time. those standards are certainly applicable to past honorees, including James Cagney, Orson Welles, William Wyler, Bette Davis, James Stewart, Henry Fonda, Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, John Huston, John Ford, Sidney Poitier, Sean Connery, Al Pacino, Gregory Peck, Billy Wilder and Kirk Douglas. With respect to Ms. Streisand, one may certainly make the argument that Wyler's film of Funny Girl, and Streisand's film adaptation of The Prince Of Tides, and Sidney Pollock's The Way we Were,  are outstanding films; but the body of her film work has been uneven-Hello Dolly!, What's Up Doc?, The Mirror Has Two Faces, Yentl, etc. Shouldn't Stanley Donen [ Singin'In The Rain, On The Town, Funny Face, Two For The Road, Charade, Seven Brides For Seven Brothers ], have been honored before Streisand? Cary Grant? Katherine Hepburn? Elia Kazan?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *