Pioneering actor to receive BAFTA’s highest honour.

Sidney Poitier

BAFTA is to honour US actor Sidney Poitier with its Fellowship honour at the EE British Academy Film Awards in London on Feb 14.

Awarded annually, the Fellowship is the highest accolade bestowed by BAFTA upon an individual in recognition of an outstanding and exceptional contribution to film, television or games.

Fellows previously honoured for their work in film include Charlie Chaplin, Alfred Hitchcock, Steven Spielberg, Sean Connery, Elizabeth Taylor, Stanley Kubrick, Anthony Hopkins, Laurence Olivier, Judi Dench, Vanessa Redgrave, Christopher Lee, Martin Scorsese, Alan Parker and Helen Mirren. Mike Leigh received the Fellowship at last year’s Film Awards.

Poitier said: “I am extremely honored to have been chosen to receive the Fellowship and my deep appreciation to the British Academy for the recognition.”

The pioneering actor’s award-winning career includes six BAFTA nominations, including one BAFTA win for The Defiant Ones (1958), and a British Academy Britannia Award for Lifetime Contribution to International Film.

Poitier began his acting career on Broadway in the 1940s before moving to film in 1950, receiving his first credit as Dr Luther Brooks in No Way Out. He was the first African-American to play a wide range of leading roles.

He was BAFTA-nominated for his performances in Edge of the City, A Raisin in the Sun, Lilies of the Field (for which he was the first African-American to win the Oscar for Best Actor in 1964), A Patch of Blue, In the Heat of the Night and The Defiant Ones.

His other acting credits include Blackboard Jungle, To Sir With Love, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, Sneakers, The Jackal and Porgy and Bess.

Poitier was awarded an Honorary Oscar in 2002 “for his extraordinary performances and unique presence on the screen and for representing the industry with dignity, style and intelligence.”

Poitier has also been nominated for seven Golden Globes, winning once, and was presented with the Cecil B. DeMille Award in 1982.

Alongside his acting career, Poitier has directed nine feature films including the Richard Pryor/Gene Wilder comedy Stir Crazy, as well as Buck and the Preacher, Uptown Saturday Night and Fast Forward.

In television, Poitier’s acting credits include Separate but Equal and Children of the Dust as well as portaying Nelson Mandela in Mandela and de Klerk.

Poitier played an active role in the American civil rights campaign and served as Ambassador of the Bahamas to Japan and UNESCO from 1997 to 2007.

In 1974, Queen Elizabeth II conferred a knighthood on Poitier, and in 2009 he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award of the US, by President Obama.