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Sunday, 16 January, 2000, 23:35 GMT
Shakespeare honour for Branagh

Branagh has brought Shakespeare to the masses


Actor and director Kenneth Branagh has become the youngest recipient of the Gielgud Award in recognition of his theatrical achievements.

He was presented with the accolade by last year's winner, Dame Judi Dench, at a ceremony in London's Middle Temple Hall.

It was the first time the Washington DC-based Shakespeare Guild had presented the award in the UK.

In his acceptance speech, Branagh, who was born in Northern Ireland, said: "I've had a professional life of such supernatural good fortune, but I'm delighted to be here and deeply honoured."

A company of fellow actors, including Geraldine McEwan, Bob Hoskins, Richard Briers, Ben Elton and Stephen Fry paid tribute to Branagh, 39, in front of a 450-strong audience.

And the American ambassador, Philip Lader, brought a message of greeting from the White House.

'Prodigious talent'

Other stars who sent messages included Robin Williams, Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, Joan Collins, John Cleese, Kevin Kline, Richard Attenborough, Billy Crystal and Martin Scorsese.

Sir John Gielgud also sent a message of congratulation, describing Branagh as a "prodigious talent".

Past recipients of the award, known as the Golden Quill, which is given for extending and enhancing Shakespeare's legacy, have included Sir Ian McKellen and Sir Derek Jacobi.

Branagh's latest Shakespeare adaptation, Love's Labours Lost, which turns the play into a musical set in the 1930s featuring Clueless star Alicia Silverstone, opens in March.

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