Billy lands the big yin: Connolly to receive lifetime Bafta

Billy Connolly, CBE
Billy Connolly, CBE
Share this article
Have your say

AFTER six decades in showbusiness Billy Connolly, Scotland’s most famous former welder, is to be honoured with a lifetime achievement award.

The British Academy of Film and Television Arts (Bafta) in Scotland will announce Connolly’s award for outstanding contribution to television and film at a ceremony in Glasgow next month.

However, the Big Yin will not be there to accept it as he has another commitment.
Instead, a recorded message will be broadcast at the event on 18 November.

Yesterday, Bafta Scotland confirmed that Connolly, 69, will take part in a public event in Glasgow in December called A Life in Pictures at which the comedian and actor will discuss his life and career.

Jude MacLaverty, the director of Bafta in Scotland, said that Connolly has been an ­“inspirational figure” to a ­generation of Scots.

“We are thrilled that Billy will be the recipient of an outstanding contribution award this year,” she said. “He is a true master of his craft and continues to be a massive inspiration to a whole new generation of Scottish talent. We look forward to honouring him at the ceremony and to hosting him at the Life in Pictures event.”

Among the actors who have taken part in interviews are Dustin Hoffman, Robert Carlyle, Brian Cox and Cate Blanchett. Previous winners of the Bafta Scotland lifetime award include Sir Sean Connery, ­Brian Cox and Robbie Coltrane.

Martin Compston, the Scottish actor who appeared in the BBC drama, Line Of Duty, and is currently filming an adaptation of Irvine Welsh’s Filth, said he was delighted to hear about Connolly’s award, adding that the star had done more than anyone else to popularise the Glaswegian accent around the world.

“I think it’s fantastic he’s ­receiving this,” Compston said. “I think in any field, you’ve got to be proud when a Scottish person excels. I think he’s the best comedian in the world, and he’s kind of up there with Sean Connery in the Scottish mindset so I’m absolutely delighted for him. I have a collection of his stories on my iPod, and they never get old.

“He helped to popularise the Glasgow accent, and he’s not shy of his roots. I think that comes across, and I think that’s why people love him so much, because he is so proud of where he’s from. He knows our faults as well as our pluses, and he turns them into a ­positive, which is something only great comedians can do.”

Scots film-maker Murray Grigor, who worked with Connolly during the earliest days of his career when he was part of folk act the Humblebums with the late Gerry Rafferty, said his genius lay in his naturalistic performances.

“I think it comes down to him being himself,” he said. “Just as Sean Connery is himself, I think Billy is often himself in his films. Like a lot of really great people, and just like Sean, the two men almost ‘react’, rather than ‘act’. They react in the same way that characters in an American movie do, it’s very effective.

“With Mrs Brown he was just wonderful. He brings a west of Scotland thing to the Highlands, but it doesn’t matter. He’s a very powerful presence, a very intelligent guy and writes well. He’s an all-rounder. It’s great to see him get this sort of recognition.”

Recalling his time working with Connolly, Grigor, who documented the comedian’s act in the 1976 programme Big Banana Feet, said the only ­difficulty lay with the comic’s constant humour. “He made the film crew laugh all the time,” he said.

Connolly began his working life as a welder in the Clyde shipyards, playing in a folk band in his spare time. He went on to become a stand-up comedian, famous for his ­observational humour, liberal use of swear words and uncompromising descriptions of life in the east end of Glasgow.

Globally, Connolly is best known for his film roles. He has appeared in more than 30 films including Indecent Proposal, the Oscar-nominated The Last Samurai, Gulliver’s Travels and Mrs Brown, for which he was nominated for a Bafta in 1997.

More recently, he voiced the character of King Fergus in Pixar’s hugely popular Highland romp, Brave, and appears in Quartet, Dustin Hoffman’s directorial debut, which is scheduled for release in January next year.

He will also play Dáin Ironfoot, the dwarf warrior in
Peter Jackson’s hugely-anticipated three-part production of The Hobbit, the first of which will be released later this year.

During the past year, the
actor, who is married to actress and psychologist Pamela Stephenson, has added two strings to his banjo. In March, he held his first gallery exhibition in London featuring a ­series of drawings, while last month it was announced that he would be the latest high-profile­ ambassador for 2014 Commonwealth Games in