One of the nation’s leading actors, Sir John Hurt, has described how he is responding well to cancer treatment as he was knighted by the Queen for a glittering career.

Sir John said he was ‘feeling good’ after completing half a course of chemotherapy for pancreatic cancer, and has continued to work.

The actor was made a knight by the Queen for a distinguished career that has featured a series of mesmerising performances, from the title role in The Elephant Man to the TV portrayal of Quentin Crisp in The Naked Civil Servant.

John Hurt is knighted by the Queen

Sir John Hurt and the Queen (Dominic Lipinski/PA)


He has found new fans with roles in the special 50th anniversary episode of Doctor Who and the Harry Potter series.

Speaking after the Windsor Castle Investiture ceremony he said: “I’m half-way through my chemotherapy and I’ve got a whole load of tests next week.

“I’m not feeling any of the side effects you’re suppose to feel, or at least you can feel, as everybody’s different I’m told.

“It’s extraordinary, I haven’t lost weight or anything and I’m feeling good – it’s crazy.

“My oncologist is extremely optimistic, as indeed I am, so everything is going really well.”

John Hurt and wife Anwen at Windsor Castle

Sir John Hurt attended the Windsor Castle ceremony with wife Anwen (Steve Parsons/PA)


Sir John, 75, arrived at Windsor Castle looking dapper in a three-piece brown linen suit and matching hat, and was joined by his wife, Anwen, for the ceremony.

Speaking about receiving the honour he said: “It’s so unexpected in a sense, I never thought of it when I started out.

“I suppose the only thing I really rather regret is that my parents aren’t alive to see this. I’m sure that’s not a sentiment that’s new by any means, a lot of people say the same. But it does make one inordinately proud.”

The son of a clergyman, Hurt developed an interest in acting at school, but was discouraged by his parents and headteacher, and instead went to art college with an eye to becoming a teacher.

However, he went on to land a scholarship for the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (Rada) and picked up TV and film roles until he had his major breakthrough, appearing in A Man For All Seasons as Richard Rich.

John Hurt

The actor has had a distinguished stage and screen career (Steve Parsons/PA)


Sir John achieved further prominence in the film 10 Rillington Place as Timothy Evans, who was wrongly executed for the crimes of serial killer John Christie (played by Richard Attenborough), and as Caligula in the celebrated BBC drama I, Claudius. Other notable roles include the heart-stopping moment when Sir John met his end in the film Alien, and his role as Winston Smith in 1984.

Asked about his favourite role he replied: “That’s always impossible because it’s like saying ‘who’s your favourite child?’ They all have different qualities, but I suppose something which changes your life in so far as it changes an audience’s perception of you and the business’s perception of you, then I think I’d have to say The Naked Civil Servant, followed by The Elephant Man.

“I look for something that I think I can do something personally with, the difficulty is until you work on something you do not know what you can do with something.”

Despite receiving treatment for cancer Sir John has just finished a BBC Radio 4 version of the Keith Waterhouse play Jeffrey Bernard is Unwell, a production about the infamous Fleet Street reporter he knew well. He is following in the footsteps of Peter O’Toole who gave the definitive stage performance of Bernard.

Sir John said: “Mine will be different because I knew Jeffrey so well – he was part of my life.”