Meryl Streep said she has always enjoyed playing difficult women as she presented her portrayal of Margaret Thatcher on Tuesday in Berlin, where she was being honored for her achievements over more than three decades.
Streep, 62, is a double Oscar winner and a strong contender to pick up a third for her role as Thatcher in "The Iron Lady." It already has won her best-actress honors at the Golden Globes and at Britain's BAFTAs.
"I do like difficult women, or at least the ones that are difficult to understand — I do like translating them," she told reporters at the Berlin International Film Festival.
In her acting, Streep said, "I find ... what's like me in this person, and I've been lucky in tracking a number of different characters that have qualities that I recognize in myself."
"I won't identify the ones that coincide with Margaret Thatcher's," she added.
Streep said she learned a lot that surprised her about Thatcher, the divisive conservative leader who reshaped Britain as prime minister between 1979 and 1990, in making the film — notably in that some of her positions were at odds with those of U.S. conservatives.
"I had made decisions about Margaret Thatcher since I was a young woman," she said. "I had a knee-jerk reaction to her as a liberal left-wing actress from New York."
Streep said that Thatcher "was a feminist whether she liked it or not — she opened doors for women."
"When I grew up, there were no women presidents of corporations, very few got into law school, medical school ... there was a certain ceiling," she added. "That has changed, and it's changed because of women like Margaret Thatcher, who just put their head down and went ahead."
The Berlin festival awarded Streep an honorary Golden Bear, the event's top award, for the achievements of a career in which she has appeared in more than 40 films and picked up 17 Oscar nominations. It is screening "The Iron Lady" and six older Streep movies out of competition.
Festival director Dieter Kosslick described her as "a brilliant, versatile performer who moves with ease between dramatic and comedic roles."
Streep said she was "very, very honored" to get the prize — though she said that, after such a long career, it is a challenge "to be new, to be fresh, to surprise yourself and other people."
"It's a weird life, an acting life, because you don't have any sort of goal," she said.
"I think if I'd set a goal, all I'd do is disappoint myself."