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Birthday Honours 2012: Kenneth Branagh and Kate Winslet lead acting honours

Thor, UK press conference

Feature by Rob Carnevale

ACTOR and director Kenneth Branagh and Oscar-winning actress Kate Winslet have both been honoured by the Queen in her Jubilee year.

Branagh has been knighted in a Queen’s Birthday Honours list that also saw Winslet become a CBE.

Belfast born Branagh told the BBC he was “very happy, very grateful and delighted” to be recognised for services to drama and the community in Northern Ireland, especially in the Jubilee year.

“I feel very humble about it, I feel elated about it,” he said. “It would be an amazing thing at any time. In the Jubilee year, I’m sure anybody else that’s had the good fortune to be recognised would feel as I do. Very, very special.”

He added that it was an honour to be recognised in the same way as many of his acting heroes, including Sir Laurence Olivier, who he recently played in My Week With Marilyn. Ironically, Olivier was knighted at the age of 40, whereas Branagh is now 51.

But royal recognition has long been on the cards for an actor who has captured the nation’s hearts on many an occasion, whether garnering comparisons with the late Olivier for early Shakespeare performances on stage and on-screen, or more recently as world-weary Swedish director Wallander for the BBC.

In a career mostly of highs, Branagh received early Oscar nominations for best actor and best director for his big screen version of Henry V before underlining his versatility in popular films such as Dead Again, Peter’s Friends and Much Ado About Nothing, another Shakespeare adaptation.

In 2002, Branagh won an army of younger fans by playing flamboyant professor Gilderoy Lockhart in Harry Potter & The Chamber of Secrets and has since appealed to comic book fans as the director of Thor.

Earlier this year he received BAFTA, Oscar and Golden Globe nominations for his work in My Week With Marilyn.

Kate Winslet

Kate Winslet in The Reader

Commenting on her honour, Oscar-winning actress Kate Winslet, 36, said she was “both surprised and honoured” to become a CBE for services to drama.

She added that it was an honour to stand alongside those “who have achieved great things for our country”.

Speaking of her pride at being British, she added: “I feel deeply proud to receive this, as a part of an ever expanding community of British actors and film makers who are fortunate enough to be able to contribute to an international industry.”

Winslet shot to fame in the 1997 blockbuster [and multiple Oscar winner] Titanic, which though commercially successful also paved the way for the actress to concentrate on more serious roles.

Since then, she has earned a total of six Oscar nominations and a string of international acting awards, winning the Academy’s top honour as best actress for her performance in 2009’s The Reader.

She also won an Emmy for her performance in acclaimed mini-series Mildred Pierce.

Other acting honours

Other actors honoured include Jenny Agutter, who recently enjoyed a recurring role in popular BBC drama Call The Midwife and whose distinguished career includes key roles in An American Werewolf in London, Spooks and, most recently, Marvel’s Avengers Assemble.

She is appointed OBE for her charity work.

Also appointed OBEs are actor and playwright Kwame Kwei-Armah, whose notable work includes the Olivier award nominated play Elmina’s Kitchen, and Upstairs Downstairs co-creator and star Jean Marsh.

New Tricks star Amanda Redman, who founded the Artists Theatre School, becomes an MBE. She has also enjoyed prominent roles in Sexy Beast on the big screen, the mini-series Little Dorrit and playing Alison Braithwaite in At Home with the Braithwaites.

Actress and campaigner, April Ashley, 77, will become an MBE for services to transgender equality. After being born a boy, she became the first Briton to undergo a sex change operation, in Casablanca in 1960.

She joins Bridget Jones 2 director Beeban Kidron, who is appointed MBE, and Josh Berger, the head of Warner Bros UK, who becomes a CBE.

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