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Director Christopher Nolan to be honoured with BFI Fellowship

Film director Christopher Nolan will be honoured with the British Film Institute’s most prestigious accolade, a BFI Fellowship.

Nolan, who holds dual UK-US nationality, is being recognised for his “extraordinary achievements and enormous contribution to cinema”, and for “constantly pushing the limits of what large-scale filmmaking can be whilst retaining a reverence for the history of the medium and the primacy of cinema-going”, the BFI said.

He will be presented with the Fellowship at the BFI Chair’s Dinner on February 14 next year, which is hosted by BFI chairman Tim Richards.

Dunkirk World Premiere – London
Christopher Nolan and Emma Thomas attend the world premiere of Dunkirk at the Odeon Leicester Square in London (PA)

The 53-year-old, whose films include Oppenheimer, the Dark Knight trilogy, The Prestige, Inception, Interstellar, Dunkirk and more, said: “I am thrilled and honoured to be accepting a BFI Fellowship from an organisation so dedicated to preserving both cinema’s history as well as its future.”

Nolan made his directorial debut with 1998’s Following and two years later came Memento, the film that unlocked Hollywood for him.

It stars Guy Pearce as a man with memory loss desperately trying to discover who attacked him and killed his wife.

The film received two Academy Award nominations, for best original screenplay and best film editing, and was also a blockbuster success.

Following the well-received Memento, Nolan directed Insomnia, a psychological thriller starring Al Pacino as a detective on the hunt for a killer in an Alaskan town.

UK premiere of Oppenheimer – London
From left: Emma Thomas, Jefferson Hall, Trond Fausa Aurvag, Ludwig Goransson, Kenneth Branagh, Rami Malek, Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, Florence Pugh, Cillian Murphy, Christopher Nolan, and Robert Downey Jr attend the UK premiere of Oppenheimer (PA)

It was another critical and commercial smash – the beginning of a gilded run for Nolan.

In 2005 he made the first film in the Dark Knight trilogy, with Christian Bale playing the titular role in Batman Begins.

That was followed by drama The Prestige in 2006, which starred Bale and Hugh Jackman as rival magicians in Victorian London.

The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises followed in 2008 and 2012 respectively, with both films grossing more than one billion US dollars worldwide.

In 2010 Nolan directed sci-fi action film Inception, which starred Leonardo DiCaprio as a professional thief who steals ideas from victims’ unconsciousness.

The film was nominated for eight Academy Awards, winning four.

Nolan received his first best director Oscar nomination for 2017’s Dunkirk, which depicts the Allies’ retreat from the beaches and harbour of Dunkirk during the Second World War.

Batman Begins European Premiere – Odeon Leicester Square
Nolan has been described as a ‘blockbuster auteur’ (PA)

In 2019 he collected his CBE from Buckingham Palace, having been recognised for services to film in the New Year Honours.

He said of the honour: “As a passionate advocate of film and the importance of film culturally, it is really thrilling to me that film would be honoured in this way and is considered worthy of this kind of honour.

“I think film is one of the great collective pastimes, one of the great art forms. It is lovely to see it accorded this kind of status.”

Nolan, described as a “blockbuster auteur and champion of cinema”, has also “long advocated for his films to be seen on the medium they were shot on”, the BFI said.

Mr Richards said: “I’m delighted to be honouring and recognising Christopher Nolan with a BFI Fellowship.

“Christopher Nolan is one of the greatest filmmakers of the 21st century, creating hugely popular movies that have grossed over six billion US dollars worldwide.

“His movies are all made for the big screen to challenge and entertain audiences around the world.

“Christopher’s commitment and support of the cinema industry is legendary. He has also been at the forefront of preserving celluloid through his involvement with The Film Foundation and his own support via the Morf Foundation for the BFI’s photochemical work.

“All done to ensure that current and future audiences will be able to continue to enjoy and learn from our incredibly rich history of cinema for many years to come.”

Other BFI fellows include Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa, Thelma Schoonmaker, Martin Scorsese, Orson Welles, Barbara Broccoli, Michael G Wilson and Spike Lee.