Arise, Sir Sam Mendes and Sir Steve McQueen. The Oscar-winning directors have both received knighthoods in Queen Elizabeth II‘s New Year’s Honours list.
Mendes, who’s directed movies including American Beauty and the upcoming war epic 1917, has been knighted for services to drama, while McQueen, who’s directed movies include 12 Years a Slave and Shame, was knighted for services to film.
Meanwhile, the iconic female star of Grease is now Dame Olivia Newton-John after being recognized for services to charity, cancer research, and entertainment. The British-born Australian actress said she is “extremely excited, honored and grateful beyond words to be included with such an esteemed group of women who have received this distinguished award before me.”
The British honours system, which dates back to the 14th century but has evolved considerably since then, rewards individuals’ personal bravery, achievement, or service to the U.K. and the British Overseas Territories. A list of around 1,350 people receiving honors is published twice a year: at the New Year and ahead of the Queen’s Official Birthday in June. Potential recipients are asked in advance if they’d like to accept an honor, and it’s understood that David Bowie, Jennifer Saunders, Dawn French, John Cleese, and Danny Boyle are among those to have politely declined over the years.
The 2020 New Year’s Honours List also sees Sir Elton John become a Companion of Honour. At any given time, only 65 people can hold this title, which recognizes “a major contribution to the arts, science, medicine, or government lasting over a long period of time.” Sir Elton joins Dame Maggie Smith, Dame Judi Dench, Sir Ian McKellen, Sir Paul McCartney, and J.K. Rowling in this very exclusive “club.”
Meanwhile, Peaky Blinders and Taboo creator Steven Knight is appointed CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire) for services to drama, entertainment, and the community in his home city of Birmingham.
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