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Director Stephen Frears says knighthood is down to ‘being lucky’

Film director and producer Sir Stephen Frears, whose career includes an impressive body of work spanning five decades, has put his knighthood down to “just being lucky”.

Among his most famous films is The Queen, made in 2006, which won Dame Helen Mirren an Oscar for playing Elizabeth II and Sir Stephen a best director nomination.

He has also been lauded for My Beautiful Laundrette, Dangerous Liaisons, Victoria & Abdul, Philomena and The Grifters, for which he was also Oscar-nominated.

With the King due to be treated in hospital this week for an enlarged prostate, and the Prince and Princess of Wales also away from their regular duties after Kate’s abdominal surgery, the Princess Royal conducted Wednesday’s investiture ceremony at Windsor Castle.

After collecting his honour for services to film and television on Wednesday, Sir Stephen said: “It is a really nice thing. I have no complaints.

“I have been very, very lucky and you still need an enormous amount of luck.

“I have been very, very lucky in my choice of material and the people I have worked with.”

Sir Stephen added: “It has been a nice day and now we will go have tea.”

It seems unlikely he will revisit the Queen or the monarchy for future projects any time soon.

He joked: “Now you cannot make a film in Britain unless it is about the royal family. I have done what I had to do.

“I was being frivolous but there have been an awful lot of films about the monarchy and there weren’t any when I made The Queen.”

Investitures at Windsor Castle
(Andrew Matthews/PA)

Sir Stephen’s work in television includes A Very English Scandal, Quiz and The Deal, about the friendship and rivalry between Sir Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.

Born in Leicester in 1941 and educated at Cambridge, Sir Stephen worked in theatre and at the BBC before making his feature film debut with Gumshoe in 1971.

He first made his mark with the 1985 interracial drama My Beautiful Laundrette, based on a Hanif Kureishi story and starring Sir Daniel Day-Lewis.

Since then his career has been peppered with stories of real people, including Mrs Henderson Presents starring Dame Judi Dench; Victoria & Abdul, in which Dame Judi revives her portrayal of Queen Victoria; The Program, starring Ben Foster as disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong; Florence Foster Jenkins, starring Meryl Streep as the deluded soprano, and Philomena, with Dame Judi this time playing an Irishwoman on a quest to find out what happened to the baby boy taken away from her in the 1950s.

He also made a documentary called Muhammad Ali’s Greatest Fight, about the boxer’s refusal to fight in Vietnam.

But it is The Queen that is arguably one of his most significant and acclaimed work, with Dame Helen playing the late monarch in the days after the death of Diana, Princess of Wales in 1997. It also stars Michael Sheen as Sir Tony Blair, reprising his role from The Deal.

Dame Helen won the best actress Oscar and the film was nominated for best picture, best screenplay and best costumes, while Frears was nominated for his direction.

His film The Lost King, which was released in 2022, told the story of the amateur historian who found King Richard III’s long-missing remains in a Leicester car park.

Sir Stephen said his next project is a drama TV series with Kate Winslet called The Regime, which is airing in March.