Swansea honours Michael Sheen with degree


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The Independent Culture

A celebrated Welsh-born actor briefly upstaged legendary counterpart Richard Burton last night at a gala event in New York.

Michael Sheen got an unexpected bite of the Big Apple when he received a surprise honorary degree from Swansea University.

Burton and Sheen were born a generation apart but hail from the same south Wales community of Port Talbot.

Another famous thespian from the town is Sir Anthony Hopkins.

Michael Sheen turned out for the American launch of the Richard Burton Diaries today and briefly stole the great man's limelight.

The event to highlight publication of the diaries in America was held at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.

The one volume 704 page diary chronicles Burton's life, offering a unique insight into it, and was published last month in the UK.

Swansea University Vice Chancellor Professor Richard B Davies was on hand in New York to present the degree to the celebrated actor.

"These awards are conferred on individuals in recognition of outstanding achievement and contribution to the University or region," he said.

"Michael Sheen has achieved extraordinary success internationally. But he has never forgotten his roots and has found many ways to give something back to our part of the world. We are therefore delighted to honour him with this award."

The official University citation states that the award is for his "enormous contribution to the cultural life of South Wales and the wider world, and to the good name of Wales across the globe".

Michael Sheen said: "I'm thrilled to receive this Honorary Degree, particularly as it comes from Swansea, the city that I grew up closest to and where I had some of the happiest times of my youth.

"I am so proud to still be involved with so many groups and organisations in the West Glamorgan area and so to be honoured by Swansea University in this way is especially meaningful for me."

The university boss is in New York as part of a drive to forge closer links with America.

Burton himself cracked America and was one of the biggest stars in Hollywood in his heyday.

The diaries themselves were donated to Swansea University by Burton's wife Sally.

Together with other personal papers, known as The Richard Burton Collection, they are a central part of the £1.2 million Richard Burton Archives facility at the University's Library.

They have been edited for publication by Professor Chris Williams.

A similar event will take place later in Los Angeles.