David Fisher/REX
Tim Nudd
June 16, 2015 11:55 AM

John Hurt, the veteran British actor known for playing the Elephant Man as well as Mr. Ollivander in the Harry Potter films, has been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer but is “optimistic” about his prognosis.

In a statement to PEOPLE, Hurt, 75, said: “I have always been open about the way in which I conduct my life and in that spirit I would like to make a statement. I have recently been diagnosed with early stage pancreatic cancer. I am undergoing treatment and am more than optimistic about a satisfactory outcome, as indeed is the medical team.”

He added: “I am continuing to focus on my professional commitments and will shortly be recording ‘Jeffrey Bernard Is Unwell’ (one of life’s small ironies!) for BBC Radio 4.”

Hurt, who was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in December, has been twice nominated for an Academy Award – for 1978’s Midnight Express, and for playing the title role of John Merrick in David Lynch’s 1980 biopic The Elephant Man.

“The role stretched me to the limits,” he once told PEOPLE of the latter film.

He has also starred in dozens of other movies, including The Naked Civil Servant and Alien.

Reporting by PHILIP BOUCHER

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