Veteran British actor John Hurt, who died Wednesday at age 77, had a career spanning nearly six decades. It’s one he was especially grateful for, as he expressed when accepting the BAFTA Film Award for Outstanding British Contribution to Cinema in 2012.

After an extended standing ovation at the ceremony by many of Hollywood’s most accomplished names, including Meryl Streep, Brad Pitt, and Martin Scorsese, Hurt revealed he had written a speech, but upon hearing it, his wife had one piece of advice for him: “Don’t.” Instead, she urged him to go onstage in front of his peers and simply thank them. “I have taken her advice,” he said.

“And I am saying to all of you, indirectly and directly, thank you,” continued Hurt. “Particularly, however, to all those directors who have given me the opportunity to play some of the most wonderful parts that I would never in a million years have thought of for myself. And it is the reason that I am standing here is because I am the addition, basically of their imaginations. So I thank them all from the bottom of my heart.”

Hurt has starred in some of the most memorable films of all time, including Alien and the Harry Potter series. For his work, he scored two Academy Award nominations, one Golden Globe victory, and three other BAFTAs.

Watch the full speech above.