Director Terry Gilliam is to be made a fellow of the British Academy of Film and Television during the Baftas on Sunday.

The former Monty Python star will be given the Fellowship for his contribution to film, joining the likes of Alfred Hitchcock and Steven Spielberg.

The 12 Monkeys director said being awarded the academy's highest honour was "quite a surprise".

"Awards and honours I've kind of shied away from, but this one I'm happy to take," he told the BBC.

"I keep asking myself, why me? It was quite a surprise when they said we'll give you the Fellowship, as I don't expect these kinds of things. I just get on and do what I do."

The Oscar-nominee, who also directed Brazil, The Fisher King and Time Bandits, admitted: "I'm recognised more as a Python than I am a filmmaker I suppose. And it'll probably be the thing that goes on the grave stone."

He added: "I hope I surprised a few people, made a few people laugh, shocked a few people, emptied a few cinemas."

Announcing Gilliam's fellowship, BAFTA's Finola Dwyer said he was "one of the most original, imaginative and innovative directors working in the industry today".

Gilliam directed the late Heath Ledger in his final film The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, due for release in June.

After the Australian actor's tragic death in January 2008, Gilliam enlisted the help of Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell and Jude Law to play Ledger's title character in different sections of the film.

03/02/2009 13:59:33