Hollywood in Austin
Harry Styles was not the only celebrity to grace Austin with his presence over the weekend: Hollywood legends Robert De Niro and Meryl Streep were just down the street for the Harry Ransom Center’s Celebration of Film gala on Saturday, September 24.
Dazzlingly-dressed guests had the chance to walk their own red carpet, exiting their vehicles at the AT&T Conference Center on campus at the University of Texas at Austin. Members of the Texas Blazers, a student service organization, were on hand to guide guests down to the Zlotnik Family Ballroom, where a photo marquee opportunity awaited in front of the iconic José Parlá mural.
The 4,000-foot mural also served as a backdrop to the cocktail reception, towering over guests during the pre-dinner hour. As guests took their seats for the delicious meal, Harry Ransom Center Director Stephen Enniss kicked off the celebration with a welcome talk. His speech, along with an accompanying film by local production firm Revelator, highlighted the Center's 65 years of archiving important American cultural history, and introduced the story behind the new Robert De Niro Curator of Film endowment.
Enniss in turn introduced the night's master of ceremonies, Leonard Maltin, a film critic and Hollywood legend in his own right. Maltin shared his experience watching De Niro's career develop in real time, tracing anecdotes all the way back to Mean Streets and even earlier. He also introduced the inimitable Meryl Streep, who took the stage to share a few words in honor of De Niro's contribution — not only to the Harry Ransom Center, but to the arts as a whole.
Streep's speech was, perhaps unsurprisingly, equal parts moving, delightful, and hilarious, complete with her own De Niro impression. You can view the speech here:
Meryl Streep's speech at the Harry Ransom Center gala on Saturday, September 24.Courtesy of Harry Ransom Center
By the time the man of the hour took the stage, the audience was well-practiced in the standing ovation. De Niro dazzled, tracing his heart for preservation to his father's art studio, which he has kept in pristine condition long after his passing, as a way of remaining near. He also charmed, joking that if he had seen his own "junk" displayed as nicely as it now is at the Harry Ransom Center, he might have considered keeping it.
Thankfully for UT students, Austinites, and film lovers everywhere, he didn't. The De Niro Papers are now on display at the Center, and Saturday night's guests had the privilege of viewing them first at the gala's official after party.
Hosted by brothers Owen Wilson, Luke Wilson, and Andrew Wilson, the Post-Production After Party not only provided a glimpse of the De Niro papers, but also a chance to see their mother's stunning photographs in the Center's current exhibit, The Writers: Portraits by Laura Wilson. More cocktails flowed, music blared, and photo booths provided guests the chance to preserve their own memories of one truly unforgettable night.