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Meryl Streep Gets AFI Award

Inhuman. Shape-shifter. Spirit channeler. Too perfect.

Those were the unusual accolades bestowed upon Meryl Streep by some of her famous colleagues Thursday night as the actress received a lifetime achievement award from the American Film Institute.

Jim Carrey, Jack Nicholson, writer-director Nora Ephron and Shirley MacLaine all paid tribute to the Oscar winner.

"Meryl, you are a special effect," said Goldie Hawn, her co-star in the 1992 dark comedy "Death Becomes Her."

Streep played a character based on Ephron in the 1986 comic-drama "Heartburn." The movie was taken from Ephron's fictionalized account of her broken marriage to journalist Carl Bernstein. Nicholson played the husband.

"I highly recommend having Meryl Streep play you," Ephron told a crowd of thousands gathered at Hollywood's Kodak Theatre. "If your husband is cheating on you with a carhop, get Meryl to play you - you'll feel much better."

"If a dingo eats your baby, call Meryl," Ephron added - a reference to Streep's role as an Australian mother who loses her child in 1988's "A Cry in the Dark."

"She plays all of us better than we play ourselves," Ephron said.

"I wish I were her, I really do," Streep said in her acceptance speech, calling the praise overwhelming.

The evening started with Carrey, who co-stars with Streep in the upcoming "Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events."

"Shape-shifter! Body snatcher!" he declared before belting out a comedic rendition of the Tina Turner song "Simply the Best."

MacLaine, who is famous for her ideas about reincarnation, spirits and other mysticism, said she wondered if Streep's acting abilities were otherworldly.

"I have a theory," MacLaine joked. "I think she knows more about channeling than I do!"

Nicholson told Streep that she was too good to be true.

"From the bottom of my heart ... I pity you," he said. "So perfect ... Nobody's that perfect, right?"

Streep, 54, has two Academy Awards: supporting actress for 1979's "Kramer vs. Kramer" and lead actress for 1982's "Sophie's Choice." She holds the record for most total Oscar nominations with 13.

"Meryl Streep is an alien," Mary-Louise Parker, her co-star in the recent HBO miniseries "Angels in America," said in a taped segment. "It really doesn't make any sense to me that she could do all that and still be human."

The ceremony also included presentations by James Woods, Claire Danes, Diane Keaton and director Mike Nichols. It was taped for broadcast on the USA Network June 21.

Previous honorees include Nicholson, Barbra Streisand, Elizabeth Taylor, Tom Hanks, Steven Spielberg, Alfred Hitchcock, Sidney Poitier and Orson Welles.

By Anthony Breznican

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