Meryl Streep has opened up about her fondness for her 'Deer Hunter' co-star Robert De Niro, with the 3-time Oscar winner saying that tough guy actor was a major influence on her acting career.

Streep told The Hollywood Reporter that De Niro's performance in Scorsese's 1973 film 'Mean Streets' was the spark to inspire her to become an actor.

The acting legend recalled seeing De Niro in a film called 'Bang The Drum Slowly' and she says she was blown away by this young actor, who she thought was from the Southern United States and a non-actor.

A few months later, Streep and her friends saw 'Mean Streets' and saw De Niro again, in a decidedly different role.

"There's this guy, there’s the same kid,” Streep recalled.

"He’s not Southern. He’s a New York punk. He’s absolutely mean, this fast-talking street smart guy and we were blown away. We scoured the credits and saw his name. I said, ‘Oh my God.’ He’s Italian. He's Robert De Niro. He’s an actor. And it really blew me away.”

Streep and De Niro have starred together in two films, most notably 1978's 'The Deer Hunter' (which served as Streep's first Oscar nomination) as well as the forgotten 1984 film 'Falling In Love'.

Streep continued her ode to De Niro, by referring to him as "my beacon."

"Over the years, people have always said to me, ‘What actress do you most admire? What actress’ career would you like to emulate?’” Streep said, citing actors like Geraldine Page, Vanessa Redgrave, Maggie Smith, and Barbara Stanwyck as inspirations.

"But, really, the second time I saw Robert De Niro, I said to myself, that’s the kind of actor I wanna be. That’s what I wanna do. And I wanna do it with the commitment and the passion and the skill and the beauty with which he applies to it. And he’s been my beacon for 50 years.”

Streep was present at a gala in Austin, Texas, where De Niro was being celebrated at the University of Austin by having an endowment created in his name.

The actress will be next seen on our screens in the Apple TV+ series 'Extrapolations', an anthology series that explores the effects of climate change in a series of inter-connected stories.

As for De Niro, the legendary actor will reunite with Scorsese for 'Killers Of The Flower Moon' which has been earmarked for a debut at the Cannes Film Festival next May.