Great British actor Brian Cox was honoured with a lifetime achievement award at the 20th Bradford International Film Festival tonight.
Born in Dundee of Irish parents, he began in the theatre as a 14-year-old scene-shifter.
And 53-years later, getting a lifetime award still seemed a little premature, said the star, whose roles have ranged from Hannibal Lecter to King Lear in a wheelchair.
“There’s a lot left to accomplish and I’m just getting into my stride,” said Mr Cox, who arrived in the city at 1am yesterday after performing The Weir at London’s Wyndham’s Theatre.
“I’d done eight shows last week, driven up and as I got to the stairs at the Midland Hotel, there was the memorial to Sir Henry Irving.
“He died on that spot, at my age, after a heavy week of performances.
“Later that night I visualised him, tired out after playing Becket and only getting as far as the stairs.”
He added with a smile: “I probably wouldn’t mind going like that.”
“All the adrenaline used in acting actually extends you as a person, gives you life.” he said.
“I was on Broadwaywhen Yul Brynner, dying of cancer, was still performing in the King and I.
“His dresser said he’d shuffle to the wings, the music would start, he’d come alive and dance onto the stage.”
Speaking of his award Mr Cox said he greatly appreciated praise for his total contribution.
And he said it was far more valuable than when actors’ work was judged in competition “like comparing eggs and cucumbers,” as he put it.
“This award is about all your work, the whole body – it’s a culmination and I’ve always been in this for the long haul.
“Even when I was a child I had a vision of staying with it, of it lasting.”
Now living in New York, but with a home also in Edinburgh, Mr Cox has travelled far and has much further to go and do.
“It’s the Celtic imperative – it keeps you moving,” he said emphatically.
Praising the National Media Museum, where tonight’s ceremony took place, he said its survival was vital.
“It’s so good that it’s still here. Film is my love, my passion and our movie heritage is so important,” said Mr Cox.
Lifetime Achievement Award: Brian Cox 2014
This year’s recipient of the BIFF Lifetime Achievement Award is truly a titan of the acting profession. Brian Cox has excelled consistently in distinctive, scene stealing roles in cinema, on stage and television, and in a professional career that spans half a century. Renowned for his Stakhanovite workrate and his unwavering commitment to excellence in his chosen craft, the Dundee-born Cox is the ‘actor’s actor’ and in his dozens of films has established himself both as a character player par excellence and a leading-man of compelling stature.
Until the 1990s Cox was – despite the occasional foray onto screens big and small – primarily known for his stage work: spells at the Royal Shakespeare Company and the National Theatre included 1987’s Titus Andronicus for Deborah Warner, a performance which remains widely regarded as definitive. The year before he’d played an urbane psychopath named Hannibal Lecktor in Michael Mann’s Manhunter – a film which was widely overlooked at the time but is now firmly established in the modern cinematic canon.
Barnstorming turns in Braveheart and Rob Roy – both 1995 – brought the proud Scot to Hollywood’s attention and in the ensuing two decades he’s added class and gravitas to productions ranging from blockbusters (X-Men 2, The Bourne Supremacy) to high class auteur-driven fare (Adaptation, Zodiac, 25th Hour, Rushmore, Match Point) to edgy indies like L.I.E. , which earned him several awards. Winner of an Emmy for 2000’s Nuremberg, his TV outings include his BAFTA honoured work in The Lost Language of Cranes, plus series such as Doctor Who, Deadwood and The Take.
This is by any measure one of the great careers in British show business, which we proudly salute this year at the Bradford International Film Festival.
2013 Tom Courtenay
2012 Barbara Windsor
2011 Claire Bloom
2010 John Hurt
2009 Virginia McKenna
2008 Michael Palin
2007 Ken Loach
2006 Malcolm McDowell
2005 Jenny Agutter
2004 Ian Carmichael
2003 Jean Simmons
2002 Jack Cardiff
2001 Richard Attenborough