Great British actor Brian Cox was honoured with a lifetime achievement award at the 20th Bradford International Film Festival tonight.

Born in Dundee of Irish parents, he began in the theatre as a 14-year-old scene-shifter.

And 53-years later, getting a lifetime award still seemed a little premature, said the star, whose roles have ranged from Hannibal Lecter to King Lear in a wheelchair.

“There’s a lot left to accomplish and I’m just getting into my stride,” said Mr Cox, who arrived in the city at 1am yesterday after performing The Weir at London’s Wyndham’s Theatre.

“I’d done eight shows last week, driven up and as I got to the stairs at the Midland Hotel, there was the memorial to Sir Henry Irving.

“He died on that spot, at my age, after a heavy week of performances.

“Later that night I visualised him, tired out after playing Becket and only getting as far as the stairs.”

He added with a smile: “I probably wouldn’t mind going like that.”

Luckily, Mr Cox is in peak health and believes that rather than draining life, the art of semblance is a great energiser.

“All the adrenaline used in acting actually extends you as a person, gives you life.” he said.

“I was on Broadway when Yul Brynner, dying of cancer, was still performing in the King and I.

“His dresser said he’d shuffle to the wings, the music would start, he’d come alive and dance onto the stage.”

Speaking of his award Mr Cox said he greatly appreciated praise for his total contribution.

And he said it was far more valuable than when actors’ work was judged in competition “like comparing eggs and cucumbers,” as he put it.

“This award is about all your work, the whole body – it’s a culmination and I’ve always been in this for the long haul.

“Even when I was a child I had a vision of staying with it, of it lasting.”

Now living in New York, but with a home also in Edinburgh, Mr Cox has travelled far and has much further to go and do.

“It’s the Celtic imperative – it keeps you moving,” he said emphatically.

Praising the National Media Museum, where tonight's ceremony took place, he said its survival was vital.

“It’s so good that it’s still here. Film is my love, my passion and our movie heritage is so important,” said Mr Cox.