Director Spike Lee has landed a $300,000 (£200,000) reward as the 2013 winner of a prestigious arts honour established in actress Lillian Gish's name.

The Malcolm X moviemaker will pick up the Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize for his "brilliance and unwavering courage in using film to challenge conventional thinking".

Lee admits he was unaware of the Gish prize before he was named an honouree.

He tells the Associated Press, "I hadn't even heard of it. It was a phone call that came completely out of the blue. It was one of the best phone calls I've ever had."

Lee, who follows in the footsteps of previous winners Bob Dylan and Arthur Miller, will be presented with the accolade at a ceremony at New York's Museum of Modern Art on 30 October (13).

The award was established after The Birth of a Nation actress Gish's death in 1993. She left instructions in her will to hand the title and prize money to "a man or woman who has made an outstanding contribution to the beauty of the world and to mankind's enjoyment and understanding of life".