WASHINGTON -- Years after playing a Washington newspaper reporter, Dustin Hoffman is returning to the nation's capital to share an honour 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 centre 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 nation's highest honour 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 Barack 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 Obama's inauguration in 2009.
"It's maybe the coldest I've 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."
While being honoured for his long career as an actor, Hoffman said he's most proud of his most recent work directing his first film, Quartet, which stars Maggie Smith and follows aging opera singers and musicians who are reunited at a retirement home.
Guy, 76, was a "titan of the blues" who has influenced countless electric guitar players over the past 50 years, Kennedy Center chairman David Rubenstein said.
"I'm hoping this will give the blues a lift," Guy said of the honour. "That's what got me started. I just wanted to be something different."
Makarova's artistry has "ignited the stages of the world's greatest ballet companies," Rubenstein said.
The three surviving members of the Britain's Led Zeppelin -- John Paul Jones, Jimmy Page and Robert Plant -- are being honoured for transforming the sound of rock and roll. "We owe a large debt to the vitality and variety of the music of the American people," band members said in a joint statement.
In television, Letterman's unconventional wit and charm has made him "one of the most influential personalities," Rubenstein said.
-- The Associated Press