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Kenneth Branagh

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Also Known As: Kenneth Charles Branagh, Sir Kenneth Branagh Died:
Born: December 10, 1960 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: United Kingdom Profession: director, actor, playwright, producer, screenwriter, author

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

ur film failed to make back even half of its investment.Branagh next collaborated with director Robert Altman, working from an original screenplay by John Grisham on "The Gingerbread Man" (1998). Though its January release was a box-office kiss of death, critics marveled at his dead-on Savannah accent and convincing portrayal of a lawyer who gets in hot water when he tries to protect a woman (Embeth Davidtz) he has just met. He then signed on with another legend and gave a performance that brought to mind the stuttering, neurotic persona of Woody Allen in Allen's "Celebrity" (1998). Unfortunately, most people felt him hopelessly miscast as the messed-up New York magazine writer and that Allen was simply coasting, recycling ideas about infidelity dating back to his 1970s-era pictures. That year also saw Branagh in "Theory of Flight," acting opposite his then-love Helena Bonham Carter, with whom he began a much-publicized relationship after his divorce from Thompson. "Theory of Flight" told the story of an uneasy friendship between a con man trying to construct his own backyard airplane and a motor-neuron disease sufferer who wants to lose her virginity before she dies. The film resolved itself in a...

ur film failed to make back even half of its investment.

Branagh next collaborated with director Robert Altman, working from an original screenplay by John Grisham on "The Gingerbread Man" (1998). Though its January release was a box-office kiss of death, critics marveled at his dead-on Savannah accent and convincing portrayal of a lawyer who gets in hot water when he tries to protect a woman (Embeth Davidtz) he has just met. He then signed on with another legend and gave a performance that brought to mind the stuttering, neurotic persona of Woody Allen in Allen's "Celebrity" (1998). Unfortunately, most people felt him hopelessly miscast as the messed-up New York magazine writer and that Allen was simply coasting, recycling ideas about infidelity dating back to his 1970s-era pictures. That year also saw Branagh in "Theory of Flight," acting opposite his then-love Helena Bonham Carter, with whom he began a much-publicized relationship after his divorce from Thompson. "Theory of Flight" told the story of an uneasy friendship between a con man trying to construct his own backyard airplane and a motor-neuron disease sufferer who wants to lose her virginity before she dies. The film resolved itself in a funny, touching way, with the airplane serving as a metaphor for escape from earthly afflictions.

Returning to dreaded Hollywood, Branagh embarked on his biggest picture to date, portraying the villainous, legless Dr. Arliss Loveless, nemesis to Will Smith and Kevin Kline in "Wild Wild West" (1999). Despite the gargantuan investment, the flick turned out to be an embarrassment; all concept, no content. He reunited with Kline, however, to provide the voices for the leading characters in the animated film "The Road to El Dorado;" then contributed his distinctive vocals as the narrator of the Oscar-nominated animated short "The Periwig-Maker" (2000). In 1998, Branagh had announced plans to film three Shakespeare adaptations under the new banner of the Shakespeare Film Company, established in partnership with Intermedia and Miramax. He delivered the first of these in 2000, recasting "Love's Labour's Lost" as a breezy, 93-minute Hollywood musical, taking out some of the more impenetrable verse and substituting classic songs by George Gershwin, Irving Berlin and Cole Porter. While he clearly had not lost his touch for making Shakespeare accessible and whetted appetites for his "Macbeth" and "As You Like It;" the dismal box-office returns made it unlikely that the other proposed films would appear.

Branagh was well cast as a quick-tempered, chain-smoking playwright in the comedy "How to Kill Your Neighbor's Dog" (2002) and offered a neat cameo as an English bureaucrat in the based-on-fact "Rabbit Proof Fence" (2001), about three Aboriginal girls who walked to freedom in 1930s Australia. On the small screen, Branagh was mesmerizing in an Emmy-winning performance as Reinhard Heydrich, the man who led the notorious Wannsee Conference in the HBO original "Conspiracy" (2001), a role which earned him an Emmy for Outstanding Performance by an Actor in a Miniseries. He portrayed British explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton in a Channel 4/A&E jointly produced miniseries "Shackleton." (2002), another part for which he won much critical praise. Branagh next stepped into the fantasy realm as the vainglorious Defense Against the Dark Arts Professor Gilderoy Lockhart in the much anticipated family feature "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets" (2002).

Branagh made for a convincing Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the HBO telepic "Warm Springs" (2005), which chronicled the president's life from his diagnosis with polio at age 39 through his fruitless quest for a miracle cure before pursing the high office. His compelling performance earned the actor Golden Globe and Emmy nominations. Sticking with the small screen, Branagh managed to bring to life Shakespeare's pastoral comedy "As You Like It" (HBO, 2006), setting the film in the 19th century and starring Kline and a game Bryce Dallas Howard as the beguiling Rosalind. Continuing to enjoy working more behind the camera, Branagh directed the remake of "Sleuth" (2007), a comic game of cat-and-mouse between a brilliant writer and man of society (Michael Caine, assuming the role from Olivier from the 1972 version) seeking revenge on an out-of-work actor (Jude Law, taking over the part originally played by Caine) for stealing his wife.

After co-starring alongside Tom Cruise in "Valkyrie" (2008), he starred in and executive-produced three feature-length adaptations of Henning Mankell's best-selling Wallander crime novels for the BBC. The three-part miniseries, "Wallander" (2009), later aired on PBS and earned the esteemed actor another Emmy Award nomination for his portrayal of an existential detective whose empathy for murder victims takes its toll on his already dysfunctional personal life. That same year, he played a conservative government minister intent on shutting down off-shore broadcasting operations in the 1960s set docu-comedy "Pirate Radio" (2009). Branagh then took some time away from the spotlight to focus on his latest directorial effort, the big-budget adaptation of Marvel Comicsâ¿¿ "Thor" (2011). Although some fans of the property initially found Branagh an odd choice to helm the blockbuster, the classically-trained actor-directorâ¿¿s experience with bombastic, stylized period epics proved just the ticket, resulting in huge box-office business. In a bit of serendipity, he returned to screens later that year as the actor he had most often been compared to, Sir Laurence Olivier, in "My Week With Marilyn" (2011), a fictionalized account of Marilyn Monroeâ¿¿s (Michelle Williams) week touring London with a young film assistant (Eddie Redmayne) during the production of 1957â¿¿s "The Prince and the Showgirl." Branagh's performance earned him a number of accolades, including nominations at the Golden Globes and Academy Awards for Best Supporting Actor.

Branagh next served as both director and supporting actor on the action thriller "Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit" (2014), a reboot of the series featuring the CIA agent created by author Tom Clancy. Branagh followed this with the CGI-heavy fairy tale "Cinderella" (2015), starring Lily James and Cate Blanchett.

e hit enhanced his reputation as a canny popularizer of Shakespeare for modern movie audiences, paving the way for such things as Baz Luhrmann's version of "Romeo and Juliet" in 1996 and "Shakespeare in Love" in 1998. He then took on a big budget, special effects, a name producer (Francis Ford Coppola) and a major star (Robert De Niro) in hopes of snaring a potentially wider audience with his "Mary Shelley's Frankenstein" (1994), even transforming himself into a long-haired, muscled hunk for his portrayal of Dr. Victor Frankenstein. Critical and popular responses were brutally unenthusiastic for his indulgent and ham-handed take on the classic novel.

Returning once again to Shakespeare, Branagh won critical acclaim for his turn as Iago to Laurence Fishburne's "Othello" (1995) and also won praise for writing and directing "A Midwinter's Tale" (1995). Filmed in black and white, the latter followed the travails of a troupe of actors attempting to mount a production of "Hamlet" with generally comic results. Branagh appeared as himself in Al Pacino's documentary "Looking for Richard" (1996), which explored the Bard's work through rehearsals for a filmed version of Richard III, then followed with his own big screen version of "Hamlet," setting it in the 19th Century and playing the tortured, over-the-top Dane amidst an all-star cast that included Charlton Heston, Julie Christie, Kate Winslet, Jack Lemmon, Rosemary Harris, Derek Jacobi and many others. For his "Hamlet" â¿¿ the first to use the complete Shakespearean text â¿¿ Branagh won his fourth Oscar nomination (for Best Adapted Screenplay), but unlike the profitable "Much Ado," the four-ho

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

DIRECTOR:

3.
  Cinderella (2015)
5.
  Thor (2011)
6.
  Sleuth (2007)
7.
8.
9.
  Love's Labour's Lost (2000) Director
10.
  Hamlet (1996) Director

CAST: (feature film)

2.
 Dunkirk (2017)
4.
 Stars In Shorts (2012)
5.
 Prodigal (2011)
6.
 Pirate Radio (2009)
9.
 Valkyrie (2008)
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

:
Raised in Belfast, Northern Ireland
1970:
Relocated with his family to Reading, England
1982:
Made West End stage debut in "Another Country"
1982:
Played the lead role in the BBC trilogy "Play for Today"
1984:
Joined the Royal Shakespeare Company at age 23; was the youngest "Henry V" in the company's history
1984:
Made American TV debut in the "Great Performances" presentation of Virginia Woolf's "To the Lighthouse" (PBS)
1985:
Wrote and directed first play, "Tell Me Honestly"
1986:
Played Oswald Alving in the the TV version of Henrik Ibsen's "Ghosts" (aired in the U.S. on BBC America in 1999)
1987:
Formed the Renaissance Theatre Company with David Parfitt
1987:
Directed the Renaissance production of "Twelfth Night"
1987:
Film acting debut in "A Month in the Country"
1987:
Co-starred with future wife Emma Thompson in the BBC production of "Fortunes of War" (aired in the U.S. on PBS' "Masterpiece Theater" in 1988)
1988:
Portrayed Gordan Evans (as an adult) in the three-part "American Playhouse" (PBS) presentation of Eugene O'Neill's epic "Strange Interlude"
1989:
Film directing debut, William Shakespeare's "Henry V"; also adapted and played the title role; earned Best Actor and Best Director Oscar nominations
1989:
Co-starred with Emma Thompson in the Renaissance revival of "Look Back in Anger"; both the theatre and television productions were directed by Judi Dench
1991:
Played dual roles in "Dead Again" as a chirpy private eye and a tortured composer; also directed and co-starred with wife Thompson
1992:
Produced first feature, "Peter's Friends"; also directed and co-starred with an ensemble cast that included wife Thompson
1992:
Received an Oscar nomination for Best Live Action Short Film for "Swan Song"
1993:
Adapted and directed the film version of William Shakespeare's "Much Ado About Nothing"; also co-starred with Emma Thompson
1993:
Reprised role of Jimmy Porter in the telecast of John Osborne's "Look Back in Anger" (Bravo); Thompson co-starred
1994:
Co-produced and directed, "Mary Shelley's Frankenstein"; also co-starred as Victor Frankenstein opposite Robert De Niro's monster; first film with actress Helena Bonham Carter
1994:
Disbanded the Renaissance Theatre Company
1994:
Made off-Broadway debut as director and playwright of "Public Enemy" at the Irish Arts Centre
1995:
Played the villain Iago to Laurence Fishburne's "Othello"
1996:
Played himself in Al Pacino's documentary drama "Looking for Richard"
1996:
Adapted and directed a theatrical film version of William Shakespeare's "Hamlet"; also played the title role; earned an Oscar nomination for Adapted Screenplay
1998:
Played a Southern lawyer in Robert Altman's "The Gingerbread Man"; John Grisham's first original screenplay
1998:
Played the lead in Woody Allen's "Celebrity"
1998:
Co-starred with Helena Bonham Carter in the critically-acclaimed "Theory of Flight"
1999:
Cast as the villainous Dr. Loveless in the feature version of "Wild Wild West"
2000:
Provided the voice of Miguel for the animated "The Road to El Dorado"; also credited as song performer on "It's Tough to be a God"
2000:
Directed a musical film version of "Love's Labour's Lost"; also wrote screen adaptation and starred as Berowne
2000:
Narrated the Oscar-nominated animated short, "The Periwig-Maker"
2000:
Received rave reviews for turn as a curmudgeonly playwright in "How to Kill Your Neighbor's Dog"
2001:
Portrayed SS General Richard Heydrich in the HBO drama, "Conspiracy"
2001:
Had small but pivotal role as the Chief Protector of Aborigines in the Australia film, "Rabbit Proof Fence"
2002:
Played the title role in the A&E biographical drama, "Shackleton"
2002:
Returned to the British stage to play the title role of "Richard III" at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield
2002:
Portrayed Gilderoy Lockhart in "Harry Potter in the Chamber of Secrets"
2003:
Returned to the London stage playing the title role in David Mamet's "Edmond" at the National Theater
2005:
Earned Emmy, Golden Globe and SAG nominations as Franklin D. Roosevelt in the HBO original movie, "Warm Springs"
2007:
Directed Michael Caine and Jude Law in an adaptation of Harold Pinter's Tony Award-winning play "Sleuth"
2008:
Co-starred with Tom Cruise in Bryan Singer's historical thriller, "Valkyrie"
2008:
Cast as a Swedish detective in three feature-length adaptations of Henning Mankell's best-selling "Wallander" crime novels for the BBC; also executive produced; earned Emmy and Golden Globe nominations for Best Actor in a Television Movie
2009:
Played a government minister in Richard Curtis' "Pirate Radio"
2011:
Directed Chris Hemsworth in the title role of "Thor," based on the Marvel superhero
2011:
Played Sir Laurence Olivier in "My Week with Marilyn"
2012:
Knighted by Queen Elizabeth II; title changed to Sir Kenneth Branagh
2014:
Played supporting role of Viktor Cherevin in "Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit"
2015:
Directed and starred in live-action "Cinderella" remake for Disney
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

Royal Academy of Dramatic Art: London , England - 1981

Notes

Branagh received the 1991 William Shakespeare Award for Classical Theatre (the "Will Award") presented by The Shakespeare Theatre in Washington, DC.

In September 2001, Branagh received an honorary degree from the University of Birmingham.

On his band The Fishmongers: " ... we're literally a garage band, that's where we play. It's fantastic relaxation--there's about seven of us in the group now and we're always having guest people in; it's a case of if you play the triangle, you're in The Fishmongers." --Kenneth Branagh quoted in Empire, May 2000.

"I feel more Irish than English. I feel freer than British, more visceral, with a love of language. Shot through with fire in some way. That's why I resist being appropriated as the current repository of Shakespeare on the planet. That would mean I'm part of the English cultural elite, and I am utterly ill-fitted to be." --Branagh in The New York Times, November 9, 1994.

About working with Branagh on "Othello": "I haven't met that many people who are as talented as Ken and still manage to be really humble. I was freaking out about one of the speeches I had to do and saying, 'Maybe you should cut it out. Do we really need it?' And Ken looked at me and said, 'Look, man, I'm a pug Irish kid from Belfast, and I'm not supposed to be able to do this stuff either.' That kind of generosity, that kind of humility--that's who Ken Branagh is." --Laurence Fishburne to The Advocate, February 20, 1996.

On the breakup of his marriage to Emma Thompson: "Unhappiness, like gray hair, is part of life. And there's definitely a period [after divorce] where you pause for thought and deal with the sadness.

"The whole thing is still immensely sad and painful, but I'm truly grateful for the time we had together.

"Later on, you lose the sharper pains of a break up, realizing that the wonderful times can't be diminished. So, for me, to have a record of our most wonderful time--'Much Ado'--is a rather marvelous thing." --Branagh to the New York Post, November 18, 1998.

Regarding his variation on Woody Allen's screen alter ego in Allen's "Celebrity": "There was no question that it read like Woody on the page, complete with his classic hesitations and stutters, but I didn't want to do an impersonation.

"There was actually a telling moment in a debate about whether my character would wear jeans. I said this guy might wear them with a jacket, and Woody immediately said, 'But I would never wear jeans.' So I had my answer." --Branagh quoted in New York Post, November 18, 1998.

"People assume that anyone who'd do a four-hour film of 'Hamlet' must be a heavyweight intellectual, incapable of enjoying life. In fact, the thing I showed the greatest facility for in drama school was comedy, and when I left school I felt unless I made an effort, I'd spend the rest of my life in sitcoms." --Branagh to Los Angeles Times, February 8, 1998

"Bottom line, we made a film ["Mary Shelley's Frankenstein"] that a lot of people didn't like. And sometimes when critics don't like things, it gives them access to a fantastic eloquence because of the intensity of their feeling. At least they had some passion about it.

"'Wild Wild West' has been enormous fun, and I think it's very hard to do something brilliantly silly brilliantly--in a way, much harder than the already faintly intimidated respect you might get for doing a Shakespeare play, which you might do terribly. I don't want to be a movie star, but I love the choice of work that I have so far been able to maintain. I don't want to make Shakespeare films for a small coterie or group of my friends. I want them to be utterly available. I want to get Barry Sonnefeld's audience for 'Wild Wild West' into 'Love's Labour's Lost'. And I'm not suggesting that one's better than another." --Branagh in The New York Times, November 15, 1998.

"I hear actors talk about hard times, but I am loathe to complain ... I think I've had a very pleasant, priveleged time. My notion of hard times would make many people laugh. So prefaced with that, I would say my toughest time was in the wake of making 'Henry V'. I felt I arrived at a position in the business where there was a level of attention that I had not remotely anticipated.

"The years that followed were hard. It was not like it was any kind of burning tragic part of me, but I found it difficult to adjust myself to what seemed to be expected of me. Honestly, I did not feel myself worthy of the attention or the praise.

" ... now the fame sits much easier with me. At first, I thought this is ridiculous that I'm the subject of this much attention, having made one film. I thought people who are regarded as proper artists, well, this must be driving them mad. I was a slip of a boy when I made 'Henry V' ..." --Branagh to Chicago Sun-Times, January 17, 1999.

Companions close complete companion listing

wife:
Emma Thompson. Actor. Married in August 1989; announced separation in October 1995; divorced; frequently acted together on TV, stage and in films durnig their marriage.
companion:
Helena Bonham Carter. Actor. Together from c. 1994 to summer 1999; acted together in "Mary Shelley's Frankenstein" (1994) and "Theory of Flight" (1998).

Family close complete family listing

father:
William Branagh. Carpenter. Born in 1930; working-class Protestant.
mother:
Frances Branagh. Civil servant. Born on September 6, 1930 in Belfast; married Branagh's father on August 28, 1954 in Belfast; working-class Protestant.
brother:
William Branagh Jr. Born in 1955 in Belfast.
sister:
Joyce Branagh. Born in 1970 in Reading, England.
VIEW COMPLETE FAMILY LISTING

Bibliography close complete biography

"Beginning" W.W. Norton & Co.

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