Meryl Streep Wins Best Actress For 'The Iron Lady'

Legendary actress wins third Oscar in upset victory over front-runner Viola Davis

In a surprise that clearly shocked even her, acting legend Meryl Streep won the Best Actress Academy Award on Sunday (February 26) for her performance as Margaret Thatcher in "The Iron Lady."

It's Streep's third Oscar; she won in 1979 for her supporting turn in "Kramer vs. Kramer" and for Best Actress in 1983 for "Sophie's Choice." Her nomination for "The Iron Lady" was her 17th, the most of any actor in film history. She's received 13 nominations in the 29 years since her last win.

"When they called my name, I had this feeling I could hear half of America going, 'Oh no, come on. Her? Again?' But, whatever," Streep joked from the podium.

In the lead-up to the awards, the race seemed to be a two-way contest between Golden Globe winner Streep and Davis, who took home the Screen Actors Guild Award for Best Actress. But Davis was easily the front-runner. Her film, "The Help," was by far the most successful of all the films nominated in the Best Actress category, and she was the only contender whose film was also nominated for Best Picture.

Streep even embraced her former co-star Davis on her way to the podium. The two were both nominated — Streep for Best Actress and Davis for Supporting Actress — for their turns in 2008's "Doubt."

"First, I'm going to thank Don, because when you thank your husband at the end of the speech, they play him out with the music, and I want him to know that everything I value most in our lives, you've given me," a teary-eyed Streep said.

She also lavished praise on longtime friend and makeup artist Roy Helland, whom she worked with on her very first play when she moved to New York City to be an actress in the 1970s. They first worked together on the big screen in "Sophie's Choice" and have since collaborated on "every single movie in between." Helland scored his first Oscar for his work on "The Iron Lady."

Colin Firth, last year's Best Actor winner for "The King's Speech" and Streep's co-star in the box-office hit "Mama Mia!," presented the actress with the award. The actress dedicated much of her speech to her many colleagues in the room.

"I really understand I'll never be up here again," Streep said. "I really want to thank all my colleagues, all my friends. I look out here and, you know, I see my life before my eyes. My old friends, my new friends. And really, this is such a great honor, but the thing that counts the most with me is the friendships and the love and the sheer joy we have shared making movies together, my friends. Thank you, all of you, departed and here, for this inexplicably wonderful career."

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