Kenneth Branagh 'Thrilled' at British Independent Film Awards Honour
Kenneth Branagh, the British actor, told of his immense pride after being honoured with a major prize at the British Independent Film Awards (BIFAs)

The Telegraph, 5 December 2011

The actor and director, who turns 51 on Saturday, admitted it was "exciting and thrilling" to receive The Variety Award at Old Billingsgate in central London.

Harry Potter star Ralph Fiennes was also honoured for his outstanding contribution to British film with the Richard Harris award, named after the legendary actor and hellraiser. The pair were honoured at the glittering awarded in front of peers including Vanessa Redgrave, Hayley Atwell and Gemma Arterton.

The Belfast-born actor was given the gong for helping to "focus the international spotlight on the UK". He told the star-studded crowd: "It is very exciting and thrilling. It is very nice to have a prize that has the words 'variety' and 'independence' attached to it because it is what I like to pursue in my work and to be in an atmosphere that people say is the Christmas party for the British film industry."

The star of 'My Week With Marilyn' added it was "very important" to honour independent film.

"These are people who are publishing stories which are very connected with what the British public might be interested in, what society is interested in, what the zeitgeist is about and that is important," he said. "The nation needs to talk about itself and hold a mirror up to nature and these films are doing that and the more they are doing that the better."

Branagh quickly accepted his award at the beginning of the ceremony so that he could dash off to catch a plane to Sweden to continue filming the third series of 'Wallander' on Monday.

He said: "I'm being attacked by a dog tomorrow morning."

Looking back over his film career he revealed he remembered fondly his "Harry Potter experience", after playing Professor Gilderoy Lockhart in the franchise.

He added: "I've just done a film, 'My Week With Marilyn', with Emma Watson, who was this size when I first worked with her, and to see her maturing, and Dan [Daniel Radcliffe] and everyone, that's exacting.

"Lovely to be part of that because it's such a big bit of the British film industry."

The acclaimed director disclosed he was most proud of his big screen adaptation of Hamlet, which he directed and starred in, alongside Kate Winslet as Ophelia. He said: "We shot it on 70mm and we had such a huge international cast and it was such a personal passion project."

'My Week With Marilyn' director Simon Curtis, who attended the awards with his wife, 'Downton Abbey' star Elizabeth McGovern, said it was a "true privilege" working with Branagh.

He added: "Ken is a brilliant actor, a brilliant director and a really brilliant man. I am really, really proud of him."

Fiennes arrived with Redgrave, who won the Best Supporting Actress award for her role in his directorial debut, a big screen adaptation of Shakespeare's 'Coriolanus'. Fiennes said: "I think we're both very happy that we shared making this film. It was extremely challenging to make at a time when no one was rushing forward to make Coriolanus. The fact that we can be here and honoured with nominations it is great."

Redgrave added: "Ralph has worked so hard to raise the money and his co-producers were fantastic. They used every bit of their hunger and longing to make this film, to find a way to get the finance to make it, it is an extraordinary celebration that not only Ralph's Coriolanus but all the other films here tonight."

Michael Fassbender won the Best Actor award for his role in Steve McQueen's 'Shame', co-starring Carey Mulligan. He said: "I feel very humbled and flattered to be among this company."

He also worked with director McQueen on his breakthrough film 'Hunger'. He said: "I love the man. He is great. We seem to have a pretty good shorthand when we're on set. The passion he arouses in all members of the crew, on camera and behind it, that is the really inspiring thing to be around."

Fassbender said there is a "great opportunity" for independent film at the moment. "In the last few years, there has been a lot of independents which have had major awards as well as independent awards. The independent film is where all of the new talent is coming through as well as where all the established talent goes back too."

Paddy Considine's 'Tyrannosaur' was the big winner of the night, scooping Best Film, Best Debut Director and Best Actress for its star Peep Show's Olivia Colman. The dark drama is the 'Dead Man's Shoes' star Considine's first attempt at directing. It has wowed critics and festival audiences with its moving portrayal of domestic violence, and impressive performances from Colman and Eddie Marsan, who was also nominated for Best Supporting Actor.

Considine said: "It's just been a really overwhelming night. I just wasn't expecting it. To get the best film that's the real shocker for me. I think I'd have been really disappointed if Olivia hadn't have won the best actress, I hate to admit because I think it's a phenomenal performance.

"It was a real privilege for me to see her transform and to see her in those scenes in what I think is one of the greatest performances ever. So I was very pleased for her, but to get the film is really a celebration of everybody, so to get the film was great because we could all celebrate the achievement together."

Colman was extremely overwhelmed as she collected her award. She was shaking as she said: "Paddy Considine gave me the most extraordinary opportunity and I will be thankful to him for the rest of my life." Considine wrote the role for Colman.

She said afterwards: "I don't care where it takes me but the fact that I did it will never be like that again for me. Paddy took a punt on me. I can't imagine it will be topped in a very long time. It was sort of spiritual, everybody came together people did it for the right reasons, it was a beautiful script from the amazing recesses of Paddy's mind. And it was am amazing experience the whole thing."

She added: "I would have been an idiot not to have done it, because the part already on the page was the best part I will ever read, directed by the nicest human I have ever met. There is no way I wouldn't have done it."

"I've had an amazing time doing wonderful comedies and I've loved it but a script like that comes through post you're not going to say no to it. I'm a filmgoer too, tell your readers to go and see it. I'm not a comedian, I've always been an actress. There isn't an element of choice in an actor's career, you get given what you're given and you do what you do to the best of your abilities and it's up to someone like Paddy to come and change the depth of what you do. He sees something in you that no one else does and that is rare and beautiful."

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