The London Film Critics’ Circle, the U.K.’s largest and most established critics’ body, has tapped Kenneth Branagh to receive their annual Dilys Powell Award for excellence in film. The 54-year-old actor-director will accept the honor at the Circle’s awards ceremony in London on January 17, 2016, when the group’s selections for 2015’s outstanding achievements in film will also be named.
“As a young filmmaker, I had the privilege of meeting Dilys Powell,” Branagh said in a statement, referring to the late Sunday Times critic for whom the award is named. “She was passionate, rigorous, humane. Her criticism was illuminating, thoughtful and bracing. This recognition in her name is a great honour to me personally and very meaningful. My sincere thanks to the Critics’ Circle.”
The award acknowledges the Belfast-born Branagh’s 34-year career before and behind the camera, which began humbly as an uncredited bit player in 1981’s Oscar-winning “Chariots of Fire.” Eight years later, he made his directorial debut with a startling interpretation of Shakespeare’s “Henry V” — earning Oscar nominations as actor and helmer. He has since earned three more nods in a range of disciplines, while career highlights have included “Dead Again,” “Hamlet,” “Othello” and Woody Allen’s “Celebrity.”
In 2011, his witty performance as Laurence Olivier — the man to whom Branagh has routinely been compared throughout his career — in “My Week With Marilyn” earned him his third competitive award from the London critics. Previous wins came for his supporting turn in 2002’s “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” and his production of 1993’s “Much Ado About Nothing.”
More recently, Branagh has brought his tony directing qualifications to bear on a range of studio blockbusters: “Thor,” “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit” and this year’s “Cinderella,” which grossed over $542 million worldwide. It’s been a banner year for Branagh: Balancing that commercial triumph with a nod to his stage roots, he was recently named the new president of his alma mater, the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.
In accepting the Dilys Powell Award, Branagh joins such past honorees as Judi Dench, Gary Oldman, Kristin Scott Thomas, Michael Caine and Mike Leigh. The most recent recipient, Miranda Richardson, accepted the award at a star-studded January event where Richard Linklater and his film “Boyhood” also triumphed.
Nominations for the 36th London Film Critics’ Circle Awards will be announced on December 15. The awards ceremony will be held for the fourth consecutive year at London’s May Fair Hotel, with actor-filmmakers Steve Oram and Alice Lowe (“Sightseers”) returning as hosts.