The movie stars who snubbed Royal honours

Mark Lankester
Yahoo UK Movies Features
28 March 2013

You’d think in the flamboyant world of movies, being the centre of attention for one extra day would be something to grab with both hands. That is unless that admiration happens to be coming from an 86-year-old woman with a penchant for jazzy hats – or the Queen, as she likes to be called.

[Related story: Boyle: I turned down knighthood]
[Related story: Hypnotic new redband Trance trailer]

With Danny Boyle’s swish psycho-thriller ‘Trance’ hitting cinemas this week, we’re reminded just what a talented chap he is. So talented in fact, that said Queen offered the ‘Trainspotting’ director a knighthood - for his masterminding of the London 2012 Olympic opening ceremony. Only Danny turned it down.

“It’s just not me,” Boyle recently admitted, “I thought it was wrong, actually.”

The 56-year-old would-be Sir didn’t want to be seen to take full credit for the event: “You can make these speeches about 'this is everybody's work, blah blah blah'. And you've got to mean it, and I did mean it.”

But Boyle’s not the first of his kind to go all noble when dealing with the nobles. Here are some more reluctant movie stars, and their reasons for snubbing a Royal honour:

John Cleese
In 1999 comedy legend Cleese was offered a Life Peerage, and a seat in the House Of Lords, for his services to The Liberal Democrats. However Cleese declined the honour, and the bonus title of “Baron”, telling the Sunday Telegraph in 2011 “I realised this would involve being in England in the winter and I thought that was too much of a price to pay.” Well, it’s as good a reason as any. Cleese had previously turned down a CBE in 1996, stating “I think they’re silly.”

Albert Finney
Acting veteran Finney, who we recently saw keeping the British end up in ‘Skyfall’, declined a CBE in 1980, and a knighthood in 2000. In a scathing attack on the honours system, ‘Bourne’ and ‘Big Fish’ star Finney described the idea of knighting people as a disease, adding that it “perpetuates snobbery.”

Jim Broadbent
Ever loveable Jim turned down an OBE in 2002, humbly stating that he wasn’t comfortable with actors receiving Royal recognition. “I think [honours] ought to go to those who really help others,” he told the Telegraph. “Besides, I like the idea of actors not being part of the Establishment. We’re vagabonds and rogues.” Broadbent then went on to take issue with the system’s subtext, saying: “I don't think the British Empire is something that I particularly want to celebrate.”

Michael Winner
In 2006 it emerged cult director Winner had been offered an OBE for his dedicated campaigning for the Police Memorial Trust, and not his once controversial movies. Winner declined, telling the Sunday Times: “An OBE is what you get if you clean the toilets well at King’s Cross Station.” Ever the charmer, Winner then mocked the “rubbish” who accepted honours: “When you look at the absolute non-service they have given to the nation other than financing or working for political parties, you say, 'What company am I in?' Adding: “At least if you go straight to the House of Lords you can wear fancy dress and have a giggle.”

Honor Blackman
There’s more to Blackman than Pussy Galore. The iconic Bond girl is a vocal supporter of Republic, the campaign for an elected head of state in the UK – so it’s hardly surprising that she turned down a CBE from her never-to-be-best-mate monarch in 2002. Blackman has also publicly criticised fellow Bond star Sir Sean Connery for his tax evading habits. “I don’t think you should accept a title from a country and then pay absolutely no tax towards it,” she said in 2012, “I don’t think his principles are very high.”

Ken Loach

Literally the least likely person to accept a Royal honour, it’s surprising outspoken socialist Loach was ever offered one in the first place. The proudly left-wing director turned down an OBE in 1997, later explaining his reasons in a 2001 interview. “It's all the things I think are despicable,” he told the Radio Times, “Patronage, deferring to the monarchy and the name of the British Empire, which is a monument of exploitation and conquest.” Loach cheerfully described the honour as “not a club you want to join when you look at the villains who've got it”.

Other movie types that turned down British Honours include: Trevor Howard, Alan Rickman, Malcolm McDowell, Hattie Jacques, Paul Scofield, Ian McDiarmid and Bill Nighy.

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