Stars line up to pay tribute to Graham Norton as he scoops special NTAs prize

Stars line up to pay tribute to Graham Norton as he scoops special NTAs prize

Stars from Hollywood, British television and the music world paid tribute to Graham Norton as he picked up the National Television Awards special recognition prize for his years of service to broadcasting.

The likes of Dame Helen Mirren, Dame Judi Dench, Mel Giedroyc, Will Smith, Dolly Parton and Ed Sheeran were among those praising Graham in a pre-recorded segment ahead of his receiving the award.

Actor Will, previously a guest on Graham’s popular BBC chat show The Graham Norton Show, said: “It’s not just questions, he’s just magnificent at understanding who is sat in front of him enough to set the table for you to win.”

Graham Norton
Graham Norton (Ian West/PA)

Mel, who appears opposite Graham as a host on new talent show Let It Shine, said: “He just knows how to work a room and keeps a very good control on things, you don’t see the workings of what he does, that’s what’s so clever about him.”

She said that working with Graham is “so much fun, it’s like not really working”.

Dame Judi laughed as she spoke of Graham’s “ghastly” red chair, which sees him throw members of the public off it for telling boring stories.

Will Smith and Dame Helen Mirren
Will Smith and Dame Helen Mirren (Ian West/PA)

She said: “You never quite know what’s going to happen and you’re always waiting for that ghastly red chair. It’s so unfair, gosh it makes me laugh.”

Dame Helen added that he’s “a little bit cruel” but that “it comes with such incredible warmth and humanity that no one ever really feels bad”.

Singer Ed described the Irish comedian, 53, as a “very personable chap”.

Dame Judi Dench
Dame Judi Dench (Jonathan Brady/PA)

Dolly said: “I had the most fun with him when he came to Dollywood. I think of all the people I’ve worked with I have more in common with Graham than with anyone else… I just love him.”

Graham’s mother, Rhoda, said 1990s sitcom Father Ted, his first major TV role, was the platform that gave him his break, and that “he was always trying to make people laugh” as a child.

She added: “I think he’ll be thrilled to win this award, and really shocked.”

BBC’s Director of Content Charlotte Moore said Graham was a “natural fit” to take over the reigns of hosting the Eurovision Song Contest after Sir Terry Wogan stepped down in 2008.

She said: “As soon as we saw Graham doing Eurovision, it felt like a natural fit. Sir Terry was delighted to see Graham fall into that role as a natural successor. He enjoys every minute of it.”

Accepting the award from actor Hugh Bonneville, a teary Graham said: “Look I know, I know, I know, this is a sort of NTAs pity party because it’s the only way I can get one of these over Ant and Dec.

Graham Norton and Hugh Bonneville
Graham Norton and Hugh Bonneville (Ian West/PA)

“I feel so old, I feel like the NTAs have invited me to my own funeral. Turns out it was great – Will Smith and my mother were there and Dolly and Hugh – thank you so much to the NTAs for this, I don’t quite know what to say because legions of people have worked on the show over the years.”

The host of The Graham Norton Show, which has been running for around 20 years, also thanked his management and a close trio of friends for supporting him throughout his career.