BELFAST-born Hollywood star Kenneth Branagh (pictured) has joined the ranks of the great acting knights and declared: “My heart’s fit to burst.”
The Oscar-nominated actor, director and screenwriter has been recognised for his services to drama and to the community of Northern Ireland.
Branagh, 51, said: “I feel humble, elated, and incredibly lucky.”
Speaking from Pinewood Studios, where he is preparing a major new film for Paramount Pictures, Jack Ryan, he said: “When I was a kid I dreamed of pulling on a shirt for the Northern Ireland football team.
“I could only imagine how proud you might feel. Today it feels like they just gave me the shirt, and my heart’s fit to burst.”
The honour comes months after he won plaudits for his portrayal of Sir Laurence Olivier, to whose career Branagh’s has often been compared.
He was nominated for an Oscar and a Bafta for the role as the late screen and stage star in My Week With Marilyn.
Branagh moved to Reading when he was still in primary school, but has credited his Northern Irish background for his love of language.
He studied at Rada before learning his trade on the stage where he worked with the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC), later going on to form his own theatre company.
The Belfast man shot to fame locally playing the title character in the BBC’s Play for Today trilogy known as the Billy Plays (1982–84).
Branagh’s title role in the 1989 film version of Henry V led to further comparisons with Olivier.
Branagh’s double Oscar nomination for the film was followed by further Shakespeare adaptations, as well as more commercial fare including directing duties with Thor, and a role as Professor Gilderoy Lockhart in one of the Harry Potter films.
Branagh has regularly appeared on the small screen as well. In 1987 he appeared in Fortunes Of War with his future wife Emma Thompson.
The pair split in 1995 and he went on to marry Lindsay Brunnock in 2003.
Branagh has recently been seen in the title role of BBC1’s Wallander – playing the world-weary Swedish detective – in the series based on Henning Mankell’s best-selling crime novels.
He is soon to star in a third series of the TV films.