This year, BAFTA’s highest accolade, the Academy Fellowship, was presented to Dame Helen Mirren, in recognition of her exceptional contribution to film. John Willis, Chairman of BAFTA, described Mirren as “one of the most outstanding actresses of her generation” and exuded that her incredibly successful career is testament to the determination, dedication and skill she brings to each of her roles. Upon hearing the news, Mirren herself said; “This is the greatest professional honour I can imagine, certainly one I never dreamt of as a schoolgirl in Westcliff-on-Sea, Essex. To join that list of legendary names is overwhelming.” The award was presented by Prince William, who said “The recipient of this year’s Fellowship is an extremely talented British actress, whom I should probably call granny”, and by Helen’s co-star Jeremy Irons. Here’s Helen’s acceptance speech:
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you so much. Thank you. I just want to just quickly blow a kiss to my husband who can’t be here tonight and he is such a great supporter. Taylor (blows kiss), got it? My journey to this place right here right now began with a great teacher, Alice Welding, who died just two weeks ago at the age of 102. She revealed to me the power of literature and she recognised my need to live in that world of imagination, that world of poetry. She alone was the person who encouraged me to become an actor. So I am standing up here thanking Mrs Welding and all the great teachers who have inspired the many creative people sitting here in this beautiful room. In fact, how many of you remember a great teacher who inspired you and opened the gate to the path that led you here? I want you all to put your hands up. That is a lot of teachers. So let’s right now thank those teachers, all of us together.
So my teachers in film have, of course, included directors — several of whom are here today – producers, ADs, costumiers, make up artists, caterers, grips, cinematographers, focus pullers, clapper loaders, writers, drivers, drivers, drivers especially of that honey wagon, you know, without whom we would all be squatting in the bushes. In fact I did squat in the bushes quite often. All the incredible carnival of characters who make up the brilliant and the astoundingly hard working army that march into battle on any film. I thank you all, all of you, in my past. It has been an amazing journey up to now.
I am going to finish with the words of a great writer. I think the words are kind of, in a way, apt. So, as I foretold you, our revels now are ended and these are actors, as I foretold you, were all spirits and are melted into air, into thin air, and like the baseless fabric of this vision the cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces, the solemn temples, the great globe itself. Yea, all which it inherit shall dissolve. And, like this insubstantial pageant faded, leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded with a sleep. My little life is rounded with this honour. Thank you very much indeed.