Chris Nolan and Cillian Murphy

Source: BFI / Dave Benett

Chris Nolan and Cillian Murphy at the BFI Fellowship event

Christopher Nolan was presented with his BFI Fellowship last night (Feb 14) at the Rosewood London by his Oppenheimer star Cillian Murphy, who introduced the director he has worked with on six films as “the most important bromance of my career” and “one of the greatest directors in the world”.

The visibly moved filmmaker paid tribute to his wife and long-time producer Emma Thomas in front of a packed industry audience.

“I was asked if in all of those years fighting to shoot on film, did you ever feel alone doing that?” said Nolan. “I was able to say I did not because my producer Emma Thomas always saw things the same way I did in terms of the importance of the medium.

“So many people have helped me, so many people have been there for me, in so many different ways. I’m very moved to receive this, very moved by the presentation. This means the world to me.”

Industry guests in the room for the Fellowship dinner and presentation included Barbara Broccoli, NBCUniversal Group Studios Chair Donna Langley, Kenneth Branagh, Michael Caine, Tom Hiddleston, Gurinder Chadha, Film4 chairman Daniel Battsek, Molly Manning Walker and Apple creative director, Europe, Jay Hunt.

Also in the audience were prime minister Rishi Sunak, culture secretary Lucy Frazer and chair of the Culture Select Committee Caroline Dinenage.

Sunak gave a short jokey speech in which he announced plans to lobby Broccoli for the current James Bond vacancy: “If you’re looking for someone with conflict experience, a strong track record of handling evil villains, or indeed someone who is comfortable with the risk of being replaced in a few years, I’m your man.”

Sunak also quipped that he was recently mistaken for Timothee Chalamet. “At least, I think that’s why they were shouting Wonka at me as I walked down the street.”

As well as Murphy’s eloquent presentation, several of Nolan’s current and previous collaborators paid tribute in recorded videos, including Emily Blunt who described the filmmaker as the only person she knows “who drinks more tea than my granny did”, Memento star Guy Pearce, Tenet actor John David Washington and Robert Downey Jr., who is Bafta and Oscar nominated for his role in Oppenheimer.

“The Fellowship award – this is great, Chris, I had no idea you had joined a 12-step group,” quipped Downey Jr. “This makes sense, I was starting to worry about you – you’ve had a very trying several years.”

The night also marked the end of Vue CEO Tim Richards’ time serving on the BFI board of governors including the last five years as BFI Chair, before Jay Hunt takes over the latter role.

In his final words as BFI Chair, Richards praised Nolan’s “unwavering support” for the cinemagoing experience and advocacy for film preservation through his involvement with The Film Foundation and personal support through his Morf Foundation for the BFI National Archive’s work.