Sir Ian Mckellen has launched the UK’s largest ever programme of Shakespeare on film to mark the 400th anniversary of the Bard’s death.

The British Film Institute (BFI) has announced an international tour of 18 British films to 110 countries.

William Shakespeare died on 16 April 1616 after penning around 38 plays and 154 sonnets.

McKellen, who is known for his Shakespeare work both on the stage and screen, said: “400 years on, Shakespeare’s plays continue to dominate stages worldwide, mostly of course in translation, challenging actors, directors, designers and audiences.

“The BFI’s “Shakespeare on Film” is more than just timely, it is a glimpse of the matchless collection of brilliant endeavour from world-beating Shakespeare experts like Laurence Olivier, Peter Brook and Kenneth Branagh whose films have popularised Shakespeare over the years.

“Their theatre-roots are evident. They have respect for the text and cut lines with regret.”

As an ambassador for the BFI, McKellen will run a bus tour around London, past locations where he filmed Richard III.

The international programme will include screening adaptations of some of the most famous Shakespeare films in countries including Russia, Cuba and a refugee camp in Iraq.

It also features a Shakespeare silent film festival at the Southbank, new 4K restorations of Franco Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet and Akira Kurosawa’s Ran and the start of a new adult education course on Shakespeare films.

The Secretary of State for Culture Media and Sport, John Whittingdale said: “Shakespeare has influenced and inspired audiences around the world for centuries.

“As the BFI undertakes the most extensive film programme ever to celebrate his work, I’m delighted that even more people will have the opportunity to enjoy the legacy of Shakespeare.

“From new adaptations, to events and a tour through 110 nations, this bold new project will help us remember one the greatest writers of all time.”

The BFI joins a number of major arts organisations celebrating the anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, including Shakespeare’s Globe, who recent announced a wide ranging programme under their new artistic director Emma Rice.

The BFI has announced a comprehensive programme of Shakespeare on film to mark 400 years since he died. For more information, click here.