Judi Dench with her Donostia Photo: Courtesy of San Sebastian Film Festival/Pablo Gomez
The 83-year-old star - whose latest film Red Joan is screening at the festival - looked thrilled as she received a lengthy standing ovation at the city's Kursaal theatre from Alexander Payne. The director, who spoke in Spanish, said it was a "great honour" to be able to present the award.
Dench told the auditorium: "I must apologise to you that don't speak your language - we're very, very lazy in Britain. I came first to San Sebastian, I think, when I was 15. My parents brought me and we went to Biarritz and came to San Sebastian.
"Never for a scond did I realise at that time that I would, A. Be and actress, and B. That I would be standing here and receiving such an incredible award.
"I'm so grateful to everyone working at the festival. I appreciate it very much and, when I get home, I shall boast about it to everyone."