Caroline Kennedy hosts the two-hour event.
Performers and presenters include Alec Baldwin, Jeff Beck, Jack Black, Jason Bonham, Tracy Chapman, Gary Clark, Jr., Alina Cojocaru, Billy Connolly, Angel Corella, Robert De Niro, Tina Fey, Foo Fighters, Morgan Freeman, Marcelo Gomes, David Hallberg, Beth Hart, Judith Jamison, Julie Kent, Kid Rock, Jimmy Kimmel, Lenny Kravitz, Laura Osnes, Veronika Part, Tiler Peck, Grace Ann Pierce, Bonnie Raitt, Ray Romano, Liev Schreiber, Jimmie Vaughan, Naomi Watts, Ann Wilson and Nancy Wilson.
Details of the evening, according to a previous statement from the Kennedy Center, follow:
President and Mrs. Barack Obama were seated with the honorees in the Presidential Box of the Opera House at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, after hosting the traditional White House reception for the honorees.
Host Caroline Kennedy opened the festivities by quoting poet Ralph Waldo Emerson, who said, “Congratulate yourselves if you have done something strange and extravagant and broken the monotony of a decorous age.” Kennedy then said, “Tonight we salute Honorees who, through their artistry and daring, have banished monotony and provided extravagant pleasure and joy to audiences the world over. On the signature wall behind me are the names of those who have gone before. To this splendid company we now add our Class of 2012.”
She continued, “With primal sounds at once beautiful and dangerous, these English lads built a band that gave new dimension to rock, and earned from an admiring world a ‘Whole Lotta Love’; a tall drink of water from Indiana who aspired to be Johnny, and earned a late night throne for a guy named Dave; a Louisiana sharecropper’s son who made his way to ‘Sweet Home Chicago’ and became America’s champion of the blues; a lithe beauty from St. Petersburg whose passion and elegance filled movement with meaning, giving new excitement to the words ‘Prima Ballerina’; as a ‘Graduate,’ a ‘Midnight Cowboy,’ a ‘Little Big Man,’ a ‘Rain Man’ and even as a ‘Tootsie,’ this actor redefined the movies’ idea of a leading man. These are our 2012 Kennedy Center Honorees.”
Academy Award and Golden Globe Award-winning actor and 2009 Kennedy Center Honoree Robert De Niro began the tribute to his longtime friend, multiple Academy Award, Golden Globe and Emmy Award-winning actor Dustin Hoffman, stating, “Dustin Hoffman is a world-class, spectacular, colossal… pain in the ass. Before Dustin burst on the scene, it was pretty much okay for movie stars to show up, read their lines, and, if the director insisted, act a little. It worked. There were good movies and good performances; everyone was happy. Then Dustin came along and ‘just had to get everything right.’ He made a statement that what the actor does is important… and it was inspiring. It inspired me. It inspired me to become a pain in the ass, too. Suddenly, we all ‘just had to get everything right.’”
De Niro continued, “What Dustin did – for all of us – was to make it okay to be a character actor and a movie star. He broke the mold of the movie star as the handsome leading man. Frankly, I would have preferred to make it as a handsome leading man. Damn you, Dustin Hoffman! …Dustin is one of the best character actors, best movie stars, best leading men to ever hit the stage or screen. That’s good news for all of us, even if it depresses the hell out of him. Dustin, you make me proud to be an actor. And I’m proud to call you my friend.”
Scottish comedian, musician and actor Billy Connolly, who starred in Dustin Hoffman’s directorial debut, “Quartet,” continued Hoffman’s tribute. “In ‘Tootsie,’ Dustin Hoffman played a driven, meticulous actor. It is said that in looking for inspiration for that character, Dustin found it in… Dustin Hoffman. Dustin persuaded director Sidney Pollack to let him stage an improvised acting class taught by his character. In the scene, the perennially out-of-work actor conducts an acting class for other perennially out-of-work actors.”
Tony Award-winning, Golden Globe and Emmy nominated actor Liev Schreiber, along with his wife, Academy Award-nominated actress Naomi Watts, then continued the tribute. Said Shreiber, “When Dustin and I first met on the set of Barry Levinson’s ‘Sphere’ nearly 15 years ago, he told me that I had a big head. He went on to qualify this remark by saying ‘It’s a good thing… if only your nose weren’t so large as well.’ Really, Dustin? …Watching Dustin, I saw what acting could be. At its best. I’d never seen anyone create characters like that before – so incredibly life-like and detailed, yet still, somehow… something more than real. I had to do that. I had to act like Dustin Hoffman. Not just me. All of us. You… and Ratso Rizzo… and all those other dirty movies you made, redefined acting for a new generation… so thank you, Dustin. I love you very much.”
Watts continued, “About 15 years ago, I got a call. I was invited to meet Dustin Hoffman for a film he was directing. I was not allowed to read the script in advance, so I felt completely unprepared to meet the master. The man I grew up watching, the giant, the real deal. I had a 30-minute slot, I was there for five hours. But that’s Dustin. For the first hour all I did was worry – what did he want? What was the movie about? Was I right for the character? Would my car get towed? Finally, I settled down and quickly realized this was a rare and extraordinary opportunity. I read some scenes – as he hovered over me with his smoky voice and laser instincts… What I learned in those few hours with Dustin was more valuable to me than a lifetime of acting classes. In a sense, it was the most important audition of my life.” The tribute then concluded with Tony-nominated singer Laura Osnes singing a special rendition of the classic song, “I’ve Grown Accustomed to Your Face.”
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