WASHINGTON – Years after playing a Washington newspaper reporter, Dustin Hoffman is returning to the nations capital to share an honor with David Letterman – who appears surprised at how culturally important his Top 10 lists have been.
The actor and comedian are among seven people who will receive the 2012 Kennedy Center Honors, the performing arts center announced Wednesday. They join Chicago bluesman Buddy Guy, the surviving members of the rock band Led Zeppelin and ballerina Natalia Makarova.
The award is the nations highest honor for those who have influenced American culture through the arts. It comes with a dinner with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and a reception hosted by President Obama. The honorees will be saluted by fellow artists Dec. 2 in a show to be broadcast Dec. 26 on CBS.
Hoffman, now 75, said in an interview that he was last in Washington for Obamas inauguration in 2009.
Its maybe the coldest Ive been since I was in Calgary, Canada, when it was 70 below for a film, Hoffman said. Since I froze my (behind) off watching him be inaugurated, the least he could do is to shake my hand under the circumstances.
Kennedy Center Chairman David Rubenstein called Hoffman one of the most versatile and iconoclastic actors of any generation. Hoffman has played lead roles in films as diverse as All the Presidents Men, Rain Man and Tootsie.
In television, Lettermans unconventional wit and charm has made him one of the most influential personalities, Rubenstein said.
Letterman, an Indianapolis native and Ball State graduate, said it was a wonderful honor for his family, his co-workers at CBSs Late Night with David Letterman and for himself. In 1993, Letterman helped honor one of his mentors, longtime Tonight Show host Johnny Carson, with the Kennedy Center prize.
I believe recognition at this prestigious level confirms by belief that there has been a mix-up, he said in a written statement. I am still grateful to be included.
Guy, 76, was a titan of the blues who has influenced countless electric guitar players over the past 50 years, Rubenstein said. Eric Clapton has called him the best guitar players alive, without a doubt.
Guy, born into a family of sharecroppers with no electricity or running water in Louisiana, said hes still pinching himself after hearing about the honor.
Im hoping this will give the blues a lift, Guy said of the honor.
Makarovas artistry has ignited the stages of the worlds greatest ballet companies, Rubenstein said. The 72-year-old dancer left her native Russia in 1970 and made her debut with the American Ballet Theatre in a production of Giselle.
The three surviving members of Led Zeppelin – John Paul Jones, Jimmy Page and Robert Plant – are being honored for transforming the sound of rock n roll.
They influenced many other bands with their innovative, blues-infused hits such as Good Times Bad Times, Immigrant Song, Kashmir and Stairway to Heaven.
The British band, which has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, issued a joint statement saying America was the first place to embrace their music.