Sir Kenneth Charles Branagh (//; born 10 December 1960) is a Northern Irish actor, director, film producer and screenwriter. Branagh trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London; in 2015 he succeeded Richard Attenborough as its president. He has both directed and starred in several film adaptations of William Shakespeare's plays, including Henry V (1989) (for which he was nominated for the Academy Awards for Best Actor and Best Director), Much Ado About Nothing (1993), Othello (1995), Hamlet (1996) (for which he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay), Love's Labour's Lost (2000), and As You Like It (2006).
Branagh in 2011
Kenneth Charles Branagh
10 December 1960
|Nationality||British and Irish|
|Alma mater||Royal Academy of Dramatic Art|
|Home town||Reading, Berkshire, England|
|Partner(s)||Helena Bonham Carter |
Branagh has starred in numerous other films and television series including Fortunes of War (1987), Woody Allen's Celebrity (1998), Wild Wild West (1999), as the voice of Miguel in The Road to El Dorado (2000), as SS leader Reinhard Heydrich in Conspiracy (2001), Shackleton (2002), Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002), Warm Springs (2005), as Major General Henning von Tresckow in Valkyrie (2008), The Boat That Rocked (2009), Wallander (2008–2016), My Week with Marilyn (2011) as Sir Laurence Olivier (Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor), and as Royal Navy Commander Bolton in the action-thriller Dunkirk (2017). He has directed such films as Dead Again (1991), in which he also starred, Swan Song (1992) (Academy Award nominated for Best Live Action Short Film), Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1994) in which he also starred, The Magic Flute (2006), Sleuth (2007), the Marvel superhero film Thor (2011), the action thriller Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (2014) in which he also co-stars, the live-action adaptation of Disney's Cinderella (2015), and the mystery drama adaptation of Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express (2017), in which he also starred as Hercule Poirot.
He narrated the series Cold War (1998), the BBC documentary miniseries Walking with Dinosaurs (1999) (as well as The Ballad of Big Al), Walking with Beasts (2001) and Walking with Monsters (2005). Branagh has been nominated for five Academy Awards, five Golden Globe Awards, and has won three BAFTAs, and two Emmy Awards. He was appointed a Knight Bachelor in the 2012 Birthday Honours and was knighted on 9 November 2012. He was made a Freeman of his native city of Belfast in January 2018.
Branagh, the middle of three children, was born in Belfast, the son of working class Protestant parents Frances (née Harper) and William Branagh, a plumber and joiner who ran a company that specialised in fitting partitions and suspended ceilings. He lived in the Tigers Bay area of the city and was educated at Grove Primary School.
At the age of nine, he moved with his family to Reading, Berkshire, England, to escape the Troubles. He was educated at Whiteknights Primary School and Meadway School, a local comprehensive in Tilehurst, where he appeared in school productions such as Toad of Toad Hall and Oh, What a Lovely War!. At school, he acquired Received Pronunciation to avoid bullying. On his identity today he has said, "I feel Irish. I don't think you can take Belfast out of the boy", and he attributes his "love of words" to his Irish heritage. He attended the amateur Reading Cine & Video Society (now called Reading Film & Video Makers) as a member and was a keen member of Progress Theatre of which he is now the patron. After disappointing A'levels results in English, History and Sociology, Branagh nonetheless went on to train at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London. In 1980 the Principal of RADA, Hugh Cruttwell, asked Branagh to perform a soliloquy from Hamlet for Queen Elizabeth II, during one of her visits to the academy.
Branagh achieved some early measure of success in his native Northern Ireland for his role as Billy, the title character in the BBC's Play for Today trilogy known as the Billy Plays (1982–84), written by Graham Reid and set in Belfast.
He received acclaim in the UK for his stage performances, first winning the 1982 SWET Award for Best Newcomer, for his role as Judd in Julian Mitchell's Another Country, after leaving RADA. Branagh was part of the 'new wave' of actors to emerge from the Academy. Others included Jonathan Pryce, Juliet Stevenson, Alan Rickman, Anton Lesser, Bruce Payne and Fiona Shaw. In 1984 he appeared in the Royal Shakespeare Company production of Henry V, directed by Adrian Noble. The production played to sold-out audiences, especially at the Barbican in the City of London. It was this production that he adapted for the film version of the play in 1989. He and David Parfitt founded the Renaissance Theatre Company in 1987, following success with several productions on the London 'Fringe', including Branagh's full-scale production of Romeo and Juliet at the Lyric Studio, co-starring with Samantha Bond. The first major Renaissance production was Branagh's Christmas 1987 staging of Twelfth Night at Riverside Studios in Hammersmith, starring Richard Briers as Malvolio and Frances Barber as Viola, and with an original score by actor, musician and composer Patrick Doyle, who two years later was to compose the music for Branagh's film adaptation of Henry V. This Twelfth Night was later adapted for television.
Branagh became a major presence in the media and on the British stage when Renaissance collaborated with Birmingham Rep for a 1988 touring season of three Shakespeare plays under the umbrella title of Renaissance Shakespeare on the Road, which also played a repertory season at the Phoenix Theatre in London. It featured directorial debuts for Judi Dench with Much Ado About Nothing (starring Branagh and Samantha Bond as Benedick and Beatrice), Geraldine McEwan with As You Like It, and Derek Jacobi directing Branagh in the title role in Hamlet, with Sophie Thompson as Ophelia. Critic Milton Shulman of the London Evening Standard wrote: "On the positive side Branagh has the vitality of Olivier, the passion of Gielgud, the assurance of Guinness, to mention but three famous actors who have essayed the role. On the negative side, he has not got the magnetism of Olivier, nor the mellifluous voice quality of Gielgud nor the intelligence of Guinness."
A year later in 1989 Branagh co-starred with Emma Thompson in the Renaissance revival of Look Back in Anger. Judi Dench directed both the theatre and television productions, presented first in Belfast then at the London Coliseum and Lyric Theatre.
In 2002, Branagh starred at the Crucible Theatre, Sheffield as Richard III. In 2003 he starred in the Royal National Theatre's production of David Mamet's Edmond. Branagh directed The Play What I Wrote in England in 2001 and directed a Broadway production in 2003. From September to November 2008, Branagh appeared at Wyndham's Theatre as the title character in the Donmar West End revival of Anton Chekhov's Ivanov in a new version by Tom Stoppard. His performance was lauded as the "performance of the year" by several critics. It won him the Critics' Circle Theatre Award for Best Male Performance but did not get him a Laurence Olivier Award nomination, to the surprise of critics.
In July 2013 he co-directed Macbeth at Manchester International Festival with Rob Ashford. With Branagh in the title role, Alex Kingston played Lady Macbeth and Ray Fearon featured as Macduff. The final performance of the completely sold-out run, was broadcast to cinemas on 20 July as part of National Theatre Live. He repeated his performance and directorial duties opposite Ashford and Kingston when the production moved to New York City's Park Avenue Armory in June 2014. The production marked his Broadway stage debut.
In April 2015, Branagh announced his formation of the Kenneth Branagh Theatre Company, in which he would appear as actor-manager. With the company, he announced he would present a season of five shows at London's Garrick Theatre from October 2015 – November 2016. The shows were The Winter's Tale, a double bill of Harlequinade and All On Her Own, Red Velvet, The Painkiller, Romeo and Juliet and The Entertainer. Branagh directed all but The Entertainer, in which he starred. Branagh also starred in The Winter's Tale, Harlequinade and The Painkiller. Kenneth Branagh Theatre Company also includes Judi Dench (The Winter's Tale), Zoë Wanamaker (Harlequinade/All On Her Own), Derek Jacobi, Lily James and Richard Madden (Romeo and Juliet) and Rob Brydon (The Painkiller). In September 2015 was announced that The Winter's Tale, Romeo and Juliet, and The Entertainer would be broadcast in cinemas, in partnership with Picturehouse Entertainment.
Branagh is known for his film adaptations of William Shakespeare, beginning with Henry V (1989), followed by Much Ado About Nothing (1993), Hamlet (1996), Love's Labour's Lost (2000) and As You Like It (2006). As You Like It premiered in theatres in Europe, but premiered on television in the U.S., where it aired on HBO in August 2007.
Notable non-Shakespeare films in which Branagh has appeared include Dead Again (1991) and Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1994), both of which he also directed, Wild Wild West (1999), provided the voice of Miguel, a con artist in the DreamWorks Animation film The Road to El Dorado (2000), Rabbit-Proof Fence (2002) and as Major General Henning von Tresckow in Valkyrie (2008). He starred as Gilderoy Lockhart in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002). He also played the Minister, Dormandy (a parody of PMG Tony Benn), in the film The Boat That Rocked (2009).
Although he had a notable uncredited role as SS-Sturmbannführer Knopp in director Thomas Carter's 1993 film Swing Kids, between 1989 and 1996 Branagh mostly directed his own films, including Peter's Friends, with a cast including former student friends Emma Thompson, Hugh Laurie, Tony Slattery and Stephen Fry, as well as Imelda Staunton and Rita Rudner; but the commercial and critical failure of Love's Labour's Lost ended his directorial career for a time. In 2006, the same year that Branagh's film version of As You Like It was released, he also directed a film version of Mozart's opera The Magic Flute. Branagh has also directed the thriller Sleuth (2007), a remake of the 1972 film. At a film promotion for Valkyrie in 2008, Branagh confirmed that he would be directing Thor, a film based on the Marvel superhero. Thor, Branagh's return to big-budget directing, was released on 6 May 2011. In 2011, Branagh portrayed Laurence Olivier in My Week with Marilyn, which nabbed him a Best Supporting Actor nomination at the 84th Academy Awards. Branagh directed Disney's live-action adaptation of Cinderella (2015). Branagh played a Royal Navy Commander in Christopher Nolan's 2017 action-thriller Dunkirk, based on the British military evacuation of the French city of Dunkirk in 1940 during World War II.
Branagh directed and starred in a film adaptation of Agatha Christie's detective novel Murder on the Orient Express (2017) as Hercule Poirot. Production began in London in November 2016. Like Branagh's Hamlet in 1996, it is among the very few to use 65mm film cameras since 1970. In 2018, he directed the film All Is True, in which he starred as William Shakespeare. In May 2019, Branagh was cast in Christopher Nolan's Tenet, set for release in July 2020.
Branagh has frequently reused actors, including Brian Blessed, Judi Dench, Robin Williams, Derek Jacobi, Nonso Anozie, Richard Briers, Stellan Skarsgård, Helena Bonham Carter, John Gielgud, Josh Gad, Ian Holm, and Emma Thompson.
Branagh has been involved in several made-for-TV films. Among his most acclaimed portrayals is that of US President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the film Warm Springs (2005), for which he received an Emmy Award nomination. The film received 16 Emmy nominations, winning five (including Outstanding Made for Television Movie); Branagh did not win the award for his portrayal. He received an Emmy for his portrayal of SS leader Reinhard Heydrich in the TV film Conspiracy (2001), a depiction of the Wannsee Conference, where Nazi officials decided on the Final Solution. In 2002 Branagh starred in the two-part television movie Shackleton, a dramatisation of the 1914 Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition's battle for survival, for which he was nominated for a BAFTA award and an Emmy. In 1998 he narrated the 24-episode documentary series Cold War. Branagh also narrated the BBC documentaries Walking with Dinosaurs, World War I in Colour, Walking with Beasts and Walking with Monsters, and the BBC miniseries Great Composers.
Branagh is the star of the English-language Wallander television series, adaptations of Henning Mankell's best-selling Wallander crime novels. Branagh plays the eponymous Inspector Kurt Wallander and also serves as the executive producer of the series. The first series of three episodes was broadcast on BBC One in November and December 2008. Branagh won the award for best actor at the 35th Broadcasting Press Guild Television and Radio Awards (2009). It was his first major television award win in the UK. He received his first BAFTA TV on 26 April 2009 for the British Academy Television Award for Best Drama Series. For his performance in the episode One Step Behind, he was nominated in the Outstanding Actor, Miniseries or Movie category of the 61st Primetime Emmy Awards. The role also gained him a nomination for Best Actor at the 2009 Crime Thriller Awards. The second Wallander series of three episodes aired initially in January 2010 on the BBC, and the third season aired in July 2012. The fourth and final series was shot from October 2014 to January 2015 and premiered on German TV, dubbed into German, in December 2015; it aired in the UK, with its original English soundtrack, in May and June 2016.
Branagh participated in the 2012 Summer Olympics opening ceremony portraying Isambard Kingdom Brunel during the Industrial Revolution segment, "pandemonium" giving the speech from The Tempest originally read by the character Caliban.
From 1989 to 1995, Branagh was married to actress Emma Thompson. They appeared together in Fortunes of War, Look Back in Anger, Henry V, Much Ado About Nothing, Dead Again, and Peter's Friends. More recently, they both appeared in The Boat That Rocked, though with no shared scenes. During their marriage, and while directing and co-starring with Helena Bonham Carter in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, he began an affair with Bonham Carter. After Thompson divorced him, he and Bonham Carter were in a well-publicised relationship for several years. In 2003, he married film art director Lindsay Brunnock, whom he met during the shooting of Shackleton.
Branagh is a Christian, and noted that he became "much more religious" after listening to Sir Laurence Olivier's dramatic reading of the Bible every morning in preparation for his role as Olivier in My Week With Marilyn.
Branagh has been nominated for five Academy Awards, the first man to be nominated for five different categories. His first two nominations were for Henry V (one each for directing and acting). He also received similar BAFTA Award nominations for his film work, winning one for his direction. His first BAFTA TV award came in April 2009, for Best Drama Series (Wallander). Branagh's two other Academy Award nominations were for the 1992 film short subject Swan Song and for his work on the screenplay of Hamlet in 1996. His most recent is for his portrayal of Lord Laurence Olivier in My Week With Marilyn.
He is Honorary President of NICVA (the Northern Ireland Council for Voluntary Action). He received an honorary Doctorate in Literature from Queen's University of Belfast in 1990. He is also a patron for the charity Over The Wall.
Branagh was the youngest actor to receive the Golden Quill (also known as the Gielgud Award) in 2000. In 2001 he was appointed an honorary Doctor of Literature at the Shakespeare Institute of The University of Birmingham; the Shakespeare Institute Library keeps the archive of his Renaissance Theatre Company and Renaissance Films.
He was appointed a Knight Bachelor in the 2012 Birthday Honours for services to drama and to the community in Northern Ireland. He received the accolade at Buckingham Palace on 9 November 2012; afterwards, Branagh told a BBC reporter that he was "humble, elated, and incredibly lucky" to be knighted.
In October 2015, it was announced that Branagh would be the new President of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA), succeeding the late Lord Attenborough. As the President of RADA and one of the highest profile actors and filmmakers in contemporary British popular culture, Branagh appeared on Debrett's 2017 list of the most influential people in the UK.
In October 2017, it was announced that Branagh would be conferred with the Freedom of the City of Belfast. The honour was officially conferred on him by the Lord Mayor of Belfast, Councillor Nuala McAllister, at a ceremony in the Ulster Hall, Belfast, on 30 January 2018.
Awards and nominations
- Shakespeare's Richard III (complete) for Naxos Audiobooks
- In the Ravine & Other Short Stories by Anton Chekhov (unabridged) for Naxos Audiobooks
- Felix Mendelssohn's incidental music for A Midsummer Night's Dream (speaker) live recording for Sony Classical, conducted by Claudio Abbado
- The Diary of Samuel Pepys 1660–1669 (abridged) for Hodder Headline Audio Classics
- The Magician's Nephew by C.S. Lewis for Harper Books
- Shakespeare's "Sonnet 30" for the 2002 compilation album, When Love Speaks (EMI Classics)
- Mary Shelley's Frankenstein [Abridged]
- Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness for Audible.com.
- "Monitor". Entertainment Weekly (1237): 26. 14 December 2012.
- "Birthday Honours: Branagh, Winslet and royal designer Burton on list". BBC News. BBC. 16 June 2012. Retrieved 16 June 2012.
- "Belfast celebrates Branagh's Freedom award – Belfast City Council". www.belfastcity.gov.uk. Retrieved 30 January 2018.
- "Kenneth Branagh Biography". Tiscali.co.uk. Archived from the original on 27 September 2012. Retrieved 7 March 2010.
- "Kenneth Branagh: I left Belfast but it's still my home and I'd love to shoot a movie here". Belfasttelegraph.co.uk. Belfast Telegraph. Retrieved 16 July 2018.
- White, p.2
- "The Kenneth Branagh Compendium: Conspiracy". Branaghcompendium.com. Retrieved 7 March 2010.
- White p.3
- "My best teacher – Kenneth Branagh". TES Connect.
- "Berkshire's BAFTA Branagh". BBC Berkshire.
- "Meadway School Reunion – Staff Memories (Jim Morrison)".
- "KENNETH BRANAGH ARCHIVE" (PDF). Queen's University Belfast. Archived from the original (PDF) on 12 June 2011.
- "Kenneth Branagh – Biography". Talktalk.co.uk. Retrieved 24 August 2012.
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- "RFVM History 1957–2012". Reading Film & Video Makers.
- Branagh, Kenneth (1990). Beginning. W. W. Norton & Company. pp. 31, 49. ISBN 9780393331165.
- "The Times, 20 February 2000". Members.tripod.com. Retrieved 7 March 2010.
- The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (1980) An Entertainment, 19 November 1980 programme, GBS Theatre: London
- White p.17
- Quoted in The London Stage in the 20th Century by Robert Tanitch, Haus (2007)
- Archer, Graeme (24 September 2001). "Branagh ready for the next stage". Telegraph. London. Retrieved 7 March 2010.
- "The Play What I Wrote, a CurtainUp London and New York review". Curtainup.com. Retrieved 7 March 2010.
- "Talkin' Broadway Review: The Play What I Wrote". Talkinbroadway.com. 30 March 2003. Retrieved 7 March 2010.
- Staff writer (18 September 2008). "Rave reviews for Kenneth Branagh's West End return Archived 15 March 2012 at the Wayback Machine", inthenews.co.uk. Retrieved on 18 September 2008.
- Hoyle, Ben (4 February 2009). "David Tennant and Kenneth Branagh miss out on Olivier nominations", The Times, Times Newspapers. Retrieved on 22 February 2009.
- "Kenneth Branagh and Alex Kingston MACBETH Directed by Rob Ashford and Kenneth Branagh". Mif.co.uk. Retrieved 6 August 2014.
- McDermon, Daniel (20 August 2013). "Branagh's 'Macbeth' Coming to New York's Park Avenue Armory in 2014".
- Porteous, Jacob (11 September 2015). "Live Cinema Broadcasts And A First Look At Judi Dench In The Winter's Tale". London Theatre Direct. Retrieved 21 September 2015.
- "EXCLUSIVE: Kenneth Branagh Breaks Silence On 'Thor,' Says Casting Talk Is Premature". Splashpage.mtv.com. Retrieved 7 March 2010.
- "Thor Movie: Principal Photography Starts!". marvel.com. 11 January 2010. Retrieved 11 January 2010.
- "Disney Negotiating With Kenneth Branagh to Direct Cinderella". vulture.com. 31 January 2013. Retrieved 19 November 2014.
- McNary, Dave (11 March 2016). "Harry Styles, Fionn Whitehead to Star in Christopher Nolan WW2 Action-Thriller 'Dunkirk'". Variety.
- "Daisy Ridley and Dame Judi Dench on board for Murder on the Orient Expres". BBC News. 30 September 2016.
- McGavin, Patrick (17 August 2012). "The Master Rules in Chicago: 70 mm Screening Of Anderson Film Recalls Welles' The Lady From Shanghai". Movieline.com. Movieline. Retrieved 21 August 2012.
- "'Murder on the Orient Express': Film Review".
- Hipes, Patrick (22 May 2019). "Christopher Nolan's New Movie Gets A Title, Final Cast As Shooting Begins". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 22 May 2019.
- "Shackleton" awards.
- "CNN – Cold War". 10 December 2008. Archived from the original on 10 December 2008.
- "Killing time". Bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 7 March 2010.
- Douglas, Torin (27 March 2009). "Winners – 35th BPG Television and Radio Awards". Broadcasting Press Guild. Retrieved on 27 March 2009.
- "Television Awards Nominations 2009 Archived 27 March 2009 at the Wayback Machine". British Academy of Film and Television Arts. Retrieved on 24 March 2009.
- Martin, Lara (16 July 2009). "Emmys Awards 2009: The nominees". Digital Spy. Retrieved on 16 July 2009.
- Allen, Kate (7 September 2009). "Coben, Cole, Atkinson vie for crime awards". The Bookseller. Archived from the original on 10 September 2009. Retrieved 7 September 2009.
- "BBC One – Wallander, Series 3". BBC. 22 July 2012. Retrieved 15 March 2013.
- "Shakespeare on Audio". Watershade.net. Retrieved 6 August 2014.
- "Kenneth Branagh Book Search". AddALL.com. Retrieved 15 January 2007.
- Boyle, Danny (28 July 2012). "Danny Boyle Welcomes The World To London". The Descrier. Retrieved 28 July 2012.
- "London 2012 Olympic Games Opening Ceremony Media guide" (PDF). Retrieved 16 August 2013.
- White p.271
- "Kenneth Branagh Biography". Tiscali UK. Archived from the original on 13 July 2007. Retrieved 17 January 2007.
- "Kenneth Branagh on Tottenham Hotspur | Film | The Observer". The Guardian. Theguardian.com. 23 May 2000. Retrieved 6 August 2014.
- "606 – - A62848155 – Kenneth Branagh and Famous Fans". BBC. 5 February 2010. Retrieved 6 August 2014.
- Over The Wall official website
- Lyman, Eric J. (12 June 2009). "Rome fest to honor Kenneth Branagh". The Hollywood Reporter. Nielsen Business Media. Archived from the original on 9 January 2014. Retrieved 27 September 2015.
- "No. 60173". The London Gazette (Supplement). 16 June 2012. p. 1.
- Furness, Hannah (3 October 2015). "Sir Kenneth Branagh made president of RADA to upstage the posh brigade". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 3 October 2015.
- "Debrett's 500 List: Stage & Screen". The Daily Telegraph. 21 January 2017.
- "Sir Kenneth Branagh to receive Belfast's highest honour – Belfast City Council". www.belfastcity.gov.uk. Retrieved 29 January 2018.
- Kenneth Branagh (1990 ) Beginning, London: Chatto and Windus, ISBN 0-7011-3388-0; New York: W. W. Norton & Co, ISBN 0-393-02862-3.
- Ian Shuttleworth (1994) Ken & Em, London: Headline. ISBN 0-7472-4718-8.
- Mark White (2005) Kenneth Branagh, London: Faber and Faber. ISBN 0-571-22068-1.
- Theatre Record and its annual Indexes
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Kenneth Branagh.|
- Kenneth Branagh on IMDb
- Biography on Tiscali film section
- Kenneth Branagh interview from Premiere (1996)
- Branagh Collection at Queen's University, Belfast
- Renaissance Theatre Company Archive, Shakespeare Institute, University of Birmingham
- Branagh's Wallander – Website relating to the BBC's English-language Wallander starring Kenneth Branagh
The Lord Attenborough
| President of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art