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Kenneth Branagh

Branagh in July 2009
Born Kenneth Charles Branagh
10 December 1960 (1960-12-10) (age 49)
Belfast, Northern Ireland
Occupation Actor/Director
Years active 1981—present
Spouse(s) Emma Thompson (1989-1995)
Lindsay Brunnock (2003-present)

Kenneth Charles Branagh (born 10 December 1960) is a Northern Irish actor and film director. He is known for directing and starring in several adaptations of William Shakespeare's plays on films. In that respect, his career has, at times, been compared to Laurence Olivier.


Early life

Branagh, the second of three children, was born and brought up in Belfast to 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.[1][2] He was educated at Grove Primary School.[3] At the age of nine, he relocated with his family to Reading, Berkshire to escape "the Troubles".[4][5] At school, he affected an English accent 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 Irishness.[6]


Stage work

Branagh achieved some early measure of success in his native Northern Ireland for his role as the title character in the BBC's Play for Today[7] 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, immediately 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. 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 Scottish 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 and is now available on DVD.

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 Emma Thompson 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."[8]

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.

More recently, 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[9] and directed a Broadway production in 2003.[10][11] 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.[12] It won him the Critics' Circle Award for Best Male Performance but did not get him a Laurence Olivier Award nomination, to the surprise of critics.[13]

Film work

Branagh at the Roma Fiction Fest in July 2009, where he was honoured with a Lifetime Achievement Award

Branagh is probably best 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 was sent directly to television in the U.S., where it had its U.S. premiere on HBO in August 2007. Although Branagh played Iago in the 1995 film version of Othello, he did not direct the film; it was directed by Oliver Parker. Othello is the one Shakespeare film that Branagh has appeared in which he was directed by someone else.

Notable non-Shakespeare films that Branagh has appeared in include Dead Again (1991) and Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1994), both of which he also directed, Wild Wild West (1999), Rabbit-Proof Fence (2002) and Valkyrie (2008). He starred as Gilderoy Lockhart in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002). He also recently played the Minister, Dormandy, (a parody of PMG Tony Benn) in the film The Boat That Rocked (2009). From 1989 to 1996 Branagh mostly directed his own films, but the commercial and critical failure of Love's Labour's Lost ended his directorial career for a time. Branagh has returned to directing again in recent years, most recently with the thriller Sleuth (2007), a remake of the 1972 film. At a film promotion for Valkyrie Branagh confirmed he would be directing Thor, a film based on the Marvel superhero.[14] Thor, starring Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston began filming in January 2010 for a May 6, 2011 release.[15]


Branagh has also 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. Though the film received 16 Emmy nominations, winning five (including Best Made-For-Television Film), Branagh did not win the award for his portrayal. He did, though, receive an Emmy for his portryal 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 dramatization of the 1914 Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition's battle for survival, for which he was nominated for a BAFTA award and an Emmy.[16] Branagh also narrated the BBC documentaries Walking With Dinosaurs, Walking With Beasts and Walking With Monsters.

Branagh filmed three feature-length adaptations of Henning Mankell's best-selling Wallander crime novels for the BBC in mid-2008. Branagh plays the eponymous Inspector Kurt Wallander and also serves as the executive producer of the series. The three films were broadcast on BBC One in November and December 2008.[17] 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.[18] The highest accolade though was when he received his first BAFTA TV on 26 April 2009 for the British Academy Television Award for Best Drama Series .[19] 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.[20] The role has also gained him a nomination for Best Actor at the 2009 Crime Thriller Awards.[21]

Other work

Branagh has narrated several audio books, such as The Magician's Nephew by C. S. Lewis.[22]

Personal life

He was married to Emma Thompson from August 20, 1989, until 1995. After he and Thompson divorced, he was in a well-publicised relationship for several years with Helena Bonham Carter, whom he directed and starred with in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. In 2003 he married film art director Lindsay Brunnock,[23] to whom he was introduced by Bonham Carter in 1997.[24]

He speaks Italian and is a lifelong supporter of Belfast football team Linfield, as well as Tottenham Hotspur[25] and Glasgow Rangers.


Branagh has been nominated for four Academy Awards. 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. Branagh has co-starred several times with actress Emma Thompson, to whom he was married from 1989 to 1995. They appeared together in 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.

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.[26]

In 1994, Branagh declined an appointment as a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE).[27]

Branagh was the youngest actor to receive the Golden Quill (also known as the Gielgud Award) in 2000.

Alongside Roberto Benigni, he is one of only two non-American actors to be nominated for Oscars for acting, writing and directing and one of eight actors to have achieved this honour. The other six are Orson Welles, Woody Allen, Warren Beatty, George Clooney, John Huston and John Cassavetes.

On 10 July 2009, Branagh was presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the RomaFictionFest.[28]



Year Film Role Notes
1981 Chariots of Fire Artist Uncredited
1983 To the Lighthouse Charles Tansley TV Series
1985 Coming Through D.H. Lawrence TV
1987 Fortunes of War Guy Pringle TV Series: 7 Episodes
Nominated - British Academy Television Award for Best Actor
A Month in the Country James Moon
High Season Rick
1988 Thompson Various Roles TV Series: 6 Episodes
Strange Interlude Gordan Evans TV
1989 Look Back In Anger Jimmy Porter
Henry V Henry V European Film Award for Best Actor
Nominated - Academy Award for Best Actor
Nominated - BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role
1991 Dead Again Roman Strauss
Mike Church
1992 Peter's Friends Andrew Benson
1993 Much Ado About Nothing Benedick
Swing Kids Herr Knopp, Gestapo Uncredited
1994 Mary Shelley's Frankenstein Victor Frankenstein Nominated - Saturn Award for Best Actor
1995 Othello Iago Nominated - Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role
1996 Hamlet Hamlet San Diego Film Critics Society Award for Best Actor
1998 The Gingerbread Man Rick Magruder
The Theory of Flight Richard
Celebrity Lee Simon
The Proposition Father Michael McKinnon
The Dance of Shiva Col. Evans Short Film
1999 The Periwig-Maker Periwig-maker Short Film
Voice Only
Wild Wild West Dr. Arliss Loveless Nominated – Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Supporting Actor
2000 The Road to El Dorado Miguel Voice Only
Love's Labour's Lost Berowne
2001 Conspiracy Reinhard Heydrich TV
Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor – Miniseries or a Movie
Nominated - British Academy Television Award for Best Actor
Nominated - Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Miniseries or Television Film
Schneider's 2nd Stage Joseph Barnett Short Film
2002 Rabbit-Proof Fence A. O. Neville
How to Kill Your Neighbor's Dog Peter McGowan
Shackleton Ernest Henry Shackleton TV
Nominated - British Academy Television Award for Best Actor
Nominated - Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor – Miniseries or a Movie
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets Professor Gilderoy Lockhart London Film Critics Circle Award for Best British Supporting Actor
Nominated - Phoenix Film Critics Society Award for Best Ensemble Acting
Alien Love Triangle Steve Chesterman Short Film
2004 Five Children and It Uncle Albert
2005 Warm Springs Franklin D. Roosevelt TV
Nominated - Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor – Miniseries or a Movie
Nominated - Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Miniseries or Television Film
Nominated - Satellite Award for Best Actor – Miniseries or Television Film
Nominated - Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Miniseries or Television Movie
2007 Sleuth Other Man on TV Uncredited
2002 Valkyrie Henning von Tresckow
10 Days to War Colonel Tim Collins TV Series: 1 Episode
2008 - Wallander Kurt Wallander TV Series: 6 Episodes
Also Executive Producer
British Academy Television Award for Best Drama Series
Broadcasting Press Guild Award for Best Actor
Nominated - Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor – Miniseries or a Movie
Nominated - Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Miniseries or Television Film
Nominated - Satellite Award for Best Actor – Miniseries or Television Film
2009 The Boat That Rocked Minister Dormandy


Year Film Notes
1989 Henry V Also Writer
BAFTA Award for Best Direction
European Film Award for Best Director
European Film Award for Best Young Film
Evening Standard British Film Award for Best Film
National Board of Review Award for Best Director
New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best New Director
Nominated - Academy Award for Best Director
1991 Dead Again Nominated - Golden Bear
1992 Swan Song Short Film
Nominated - Academy Award for Best Live Action Short Film
Peter's Friends Also Producer
1993 Much Ado About Nothing Also Writer/Producer
London Film Critics Circle Award for Best British Producer
Nominated - Palme d'Or
Nominated - Independent Spirit Award for Best Film
1994 Frankenstein Also Co-Producer
1995 A Midwinter's Tale Also Writer
Golden Osella
Nominated - Golden Lion
1996 Hamlet Also Writer
Evening Standard British Film Award’s Special Jury Award
Nominated - Academy Award for Best Writing (Adapted Screenplay)
2000 Love's Labour's Lost Also Writer/Producer
2003 Listening Short Film
Also Writer
2006 The Magic Flute Also Writer
As You Like It Also Writer/Executive Producer
2007 Sleuth Also Producer
Queer Lion
Nominated - Golden Lion
2011 Thor Filming


Discography and audiobooks

Further reading

  • Kenneth Branagh (1990 [1989]) Beginning, London: Chatto and Windus, ISBN 0701133880; New York: W W Norton & Co, ISBN 0393028623
  • Ian Shuttleworth (1994) Ken & Em, London: Headline. ISBN 0-747-24718-8
  • Mark White (2005) Kenneth Branagh, London: Faber and Faber. ISBN 0-571-22068-1
  • Theatre Record and its annual Indexes


  1. ^ "Kenneth Branagh Biography". Retrieved 2010-03-07. 
  2. ^ "Kenneth Branagh Biography (1960-)". Retrieved 2010-03-07. 
  3. ^ White, p.2
  4. ^ "The Kenneth Branagh Compendium: Conspiracy". Retrieved 2010-03-07. 
  5. ^ White p.3
  6. ^ "''The Times'', 20 February, 2000". Retrieved 2010-03-07. 
  7. ^ White p.17
  8. ^ Quoted in The London Stage in the 20th Century by Robert Tanitch, Haus (2007)
  9. ^ "Branagh ready for the next stage". Telegraph. Retrieved 2010-03-07. 
  10. ^ "The Play What I Wrote, a CurtainUp London and New York review". Retrieved 2010-03-07. 
  11. ^ "Talkin' Broadway Review: The Play What I Wrote". 2003-03-30. Retrieved 2010-03-07. 
  12. ^ Staff writer (18 September 2008). "Rave reviews for Kenneth Branagh's West End return", Retrieved on 18 September 2008.
  13. ^ Hoyle, Ben (4 February 2009). "David Tennant and Kenneth Branagh miss out on Olivier nominations", The Times, Times Newspapers. Retrieved on 22 February 2009.
  14. ^ "EXCLUSIVE: Kenneth Branagh Breaks Silence On ‘Thor,’ Says Casting Talk Is Premature". Retrieved 2010-03-07. 
  15. ^ "Thor Movie: Principal Photography Starts!". 2010-01-11. Retrieved 2010-01-11. 
  16. ^ "Shackleton" awards
  17. ^ "Killing time". Retrieved 2010-03-07. 
  18. ^ Douglas, Torin (27 March 2009). "Winners - 35th BPG Television and Radio Awards". Broadcasting Press Guild. Retrieved on 27 March 2009.
  19. ^ "Television Awards Nominations 2009". British Academy of Film and Television Arts. Retrieved on 24 March 2009.
  20. ^ Martin, Lara (16 July 2009). "Emmys Awards 2009: The nominees". Digital Spy. Retrieved on 16 July 2009.
  21. ^ Allen, Kate (7 September 2009). "Coben, Cole, Atkinson vie for crime awards". The Bookseller. Retrieved 7 September 2009. 
  22. ^ "Kenneth Branagh Book Search". Retrieved 2007-01-15. 
  23. ^ White p.271
  24. ^ "Kenneth Branagh Biography". Tiscali UK. Retrieved 2007-01-17. 
  25. ^ "Kenneth Branagh on Tottenham Hotspur". Guardian Unlimited. May 23, 2000.,,798919,00.html. Retrieved 2007-01-11. 
  26. ^ Over The Wall official website
  27. ^ " — No Sir! Stars who refused honors — Dec. 21, 2003". 2003-12-21. Retrieved 2010-03-07. 
  28. ^ Lyman, Eric J. (12 June 2009). "Rome fest to honor Kenneth Branagh". The Hollywood Reporter (Nielsen Business Media). Retrieved 13 June 2009. 

External links

Simple English

Kenneth Branagh
Born Kenneth Charles Branagh
December 10, 1960 (1960-12-10) (age 50)
Belfast, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom
Spouse Lindsay Brunnock (2003-present)
Emma Thompson (1989-1995)

Kenneth Branagh (born December 10, 1960) is an Northern Ireland born British actor. He played Hamlet. He is famous for directing and starring in numerous Shakespeare adaptations. In past films, he has starred alongside popular actors such as Emma Thompson, Keanu Reeves, Michael Keaton, Maggie Smith, Alan Rickman, and countless others.

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