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The Kenneth Branagh Bio

The Kenneth Branagh Review –

by Nate Lee

Best Film:

Henry V

As much as any "visiting professor" could contribute to the success of a Harry Potter film, Kenneth Branagh works the egomaniacal Gilderoy Lockhart to the head of the class. But Henry V is Branagh and Branagh's film. It's also a watershed moment, proving that with the right touch, cinematic Shakespeare can reach the hoi polloi.

Great Performances You May Not Have Seen:
Dead Again (an L.A. detective out to find the past life of love Emma Thompson)
Peter's Friends (part of a British Big Chill ensemble)
The Theory of Flight (an inventor, opposite a dying Helena Bonham Carter)
The Gingerbread Man (a lawyer)
Rabbit-Proof Fence (an Australian government minister determined to indoctrinate aborigines)
Warm Springs (FDR)
Five Children & It (Uncle Albert)
How to Kill Your Neighbor's Dog (a washed-up playwright, with Robin Wright Penn)
The Shakespearean Branagh:
Henry V (Oscar-nominated performance as the title king)
Hamlet (Oscar-nominated performance as the title prince)
Othello (SAG-nominated performance as Iago)
Love's Labour's Lost (Berowne, in a '30s musical version, opposite Alicia Silverstone)
Much Ado About Nothing (Benedict, opposite Emma Thompson)
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Gilderoy Lockhart)
Wild Wild West (the bad guy Confederate inventor, Dr. Arliss Loveless)
Valkyrie (one of the conspirators, with Tom Cruise)
Pirate Radio (the minister determined to shut down the stations)
The Real Kenneth Branagh:

Whether it is adapting, directing or acting, on screen or on stage, the real Branagh belongs doing the Bard's work. Even including "Harry Potter," it's by far his best work, and his best is better than anyone else's.
Acting Style:
Though he is uncomfortable with the "new Olivier" mantle as any very talented but realistic actor would be, Branagh deserves at least part of that trophy. He's just not the heroic patrician Brit that Olivier was; in fact, it's his ability to mine that fiery Irish everyman that makes him more accessible a Henry or Hamlet than Sir Laurence. As a director, though, and particularly as a Shakespearean adapter, he certainly rivals the master.

Just as his ex-wife, Emma Thompson, has done for British Victoriana, Branagh has brought us closer to the world's greatest writer. Moreover, his successes have emboldened other actors and directors to adapt the Bard to the screen. Like other great stage actors, Branagh's disinclination to "reign it in" makes for lively over the top characters, particularly his villains. Hopefully, he will continue to mix in film acting with his stage acting, as well as his many directorial ventures.
Bits and Quirks:
He can tighten his face in an evil determined, but not really psychopathic, menacing glower like nobody else. Frenetic bursts of energy. Bursts of fast talk, often at a high whining pitch. An enunciated mumble, at a very soft slow pace. Little boy smile.
Great Scenes:
Harry Potter

> The bookstore, grabbing Harry for a photograph
> messing up in the first class
> turning evil in his classroom when confronted by Harry and Ron
> being forced by them into the dungeon, then Ron's wand backfires

Henry V

> The speech before the battle
> The battle
> The speech after the battle
> The repartee with Emma Thompson at the end

Wild Wild West

> On the giant spider
> The showdown with Will Smith
> In the speech, attracted to Kevin Kline's hypnotically buxom disguise

Much Ado About Nothing

> Listening as Denzel Washington fools him into falling in love with Emma Thompson, and his contemplation afterward
> Composing the poem
> The masquerade
> Challenging Robert Sean Leonard to a duel over his scorning of Hero
> The dance and celebration at the end


> All the famous scenes are done to perfection
> The "to be or not to be" speech is a study in classical acting
If you like Kenneth Branagh You probably didn't like:
Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (the nadir of a stunning career, both in acting and directing)
Go to the... Kenneth Branagh Bio