The Prince of Wales has opened up on his favourite films at an event where Hollywood actor Tom Hiddleston described the works of directing greats like Alfred Hitchcock and Sir David Lean as part of Britain’s ‘national heritage’.

Hiddleston, the star of The Night Manager, made his comments during a British Film Institute (BFI) event marking the 40th anniversary of Charles’s patronage of the organisation.

Charles was joined at the celebration by actor David Oyelowo, famed for his role as Dr Martin Luther King in Selma, who spoke out in favour of the BFI’s work nurturing some of the next generation of filmmakers under its academy scheme.

After being shown some of the BFI’s Peter Sellers collection featuring photographs from the Pink Panther movies, the heir to the throne confessed: ‘I have to say whenever I put one of these on it always raises my spirits.’

Hiddleston chatted to Charles and said the prince told him he had enjoyed the BBC drama The Night Manager ‘very much’.

The star, famed for his role as Loki in the Marvel superhero films, added: ‘The reason I believe in the BFI is because I believe in film as an art form.

‘It began as a physical art form, it’s a chemical process, it’s capturing life with light.’

The BFI has an important collection of Victorian films it has restored and digitised and will make available free online next year, and is home to archives of films, movie scripts, posters and other material central to the history of British cinema.

Hiddleston added: ‘The prints of early film work that have enabled the art form to become what it’s become, light, sound, movement, are preserved by the BFI and without it we would lose it.

‘So the silent Hitchcocks, the prints of Lawrence of Arabia, Brief Encounter (by) David Lean, all British film is standing on the shoulders of those titans so the preservation of that material is as important as preserving the work of the National Portrait Gallery and the Tate, it’s part of our national heritage.’

During the visit Charles indulged his passion for the Pink Panther films starring Peter Sellers who was a member of the royal’s beloved Goons.

He was shown Sellers’ script from the Pink Panther Strikes Again with handwritten notes by the comic actor, and promotional material from the movies like photographs and lobby posters.

Charles told Nathalie Morris, who oversees the BFI’s collection of filmmaker’s material, that he had been on the set of one of the Pink Panther films and how the actors had to do ’18 takes’ as the crew broke down in ‘hysterics’ they ‘all just dissolved into hysteria’.

The prince also met young filmmakers who have trained with the BFI Academy which has sent aspiring camera operators and directors on apprenticeships with Lucasfilm which makes the latest instalments of the Star Wars movies.

After meeting Charles at the reception, Oyelowo said about the help given to young people trying to break into the film industry: ‘You need support, you need someone to say ‘you’re good enough’, you need someone to say ‘go for it’ and you need someone to actually support you to do it and those are all things I think the BFI recognise and are doing.’  

While Charles carried out engagements south of the river on Thursday, Camilla invited children from two of the charities she supports to help her decorate the tree at the couple’s London residence.  

Charles, who recently celebrated his 70th birthday, arrived in a chauffeured vehicle, suited and booted in a navy two-piece.

As part of his visit today, he viewed rare archive footage of his great-great-great grandmother Queen Victoria’s final public appearance before her death in 1901. 

The prince looked engrossed as he surveyed the archive films as well as more recent material from actor Peter Sellers.

He also met with BFI Film Academy students and viewed the newly developed BFI Riverfront during his visit on Thursday.  

He viewed one of the UK’s few remaining 35mm projection boxes and attended a reception on the recently opened BFI Riverfront terrace with actors Hayley Atwell, David Oyelowo OBE and Tom Hiddleston.

The BFI is the UK’s lead organisation for film, TV and the moving image and a charity governed by Royal Charter.

BFI Southbank is the UK’s national cinematheque and presents a diverse programme of British and World cinema, including film and TV seasons, new releases and classic cinema, events and debates, premieres and festivals. 

BFI Film Academy is in its seventh year and runs 52 academies across the UK giving 16-19 year olds an opportunity to learn about filmmaking. 

The Prince is set for a busy few weeks before heading to Sandringham for a traditional Christmas with the Queen later this month.

With three grandchildren, and a fourth on the way, Charles is expected to stay just a stone’s throw from his two sons, and their respective families, who are rumoured to be staying at Anmer Hall in Norfolk.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are said to have enjoyed staying with the Cambridges at Anmer Hall last year, and in particular ‘spending quality time with Prince George and Princess Charlotte’. 

It is unclear whether Meghan’s mother Doria Ragland, who is believed to have been invited to spend Christmas with the royals at Sandringham, will also be at Anmer Hall – which is a short drive from the Queen’s Norfolk estate where the main festivities will be taking place.

Rumours of a rift between the Cambridges and Sussexes have swirled since the news that Harry and Meghan will be moving to Frogmore Cottage in Windsor next year, ahead of the arrival of the first child together next spring.