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Kenneth Charles Branagh (born 10 December, 1960) is a Northern Irishmarker actor and film director.

Early life

Branagh, the second of three children, was born and brought up in Belfastmarker 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. He was educated at Grove Primary Schoolmarker. At the age of nine, he relocated with his family to Reading, Berkshiremarker to escape "the Troubles". 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.


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 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 Studiosmarker 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 Repmarker 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."

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 Belfastmarker then at the London Coliseummarker and Lyric Theatre.

More recently, in 2002, Branagh starred at the Crucible Theatremarker, Sheffieldmarker as Richard III. In 2003 he starred in the Royal National Theatremarker's production of David Mamet's Edmond. Branagh directed The Play What I Wrote in England in 2001 and directed a Broadwaymarker production in 2003. From September to November 2008, Branagh appeared at Wyndham's Theatremarker as the title character in the Donmar West Endmarker 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 Award for Best Male Performance but did not get him a Laurence Olivier Award nomination, to the surprise of critics.

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 Marvel superhero. Thor, starring Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston is tentatively set to start filming in January 2010 for a 2011 release.

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


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 SSmarker leader Reinhard Heydrich in the TV film Conspiracy (2001), a depiction of the Wannsee Conferencemarker, 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. 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. 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. 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 . 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 has also gained him a nomination for Best Actor at the 2009 Crime Thriller Awards.

He is set to star as Matthew Shardlake in a BBC commissioned adaptation of C.J. Sansoms' Tudor crime novel 'Dissolution', which is in the final stages of negotiation.

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, to whom he was introduced by Bonham Carter in 1997.

He speaks Italian and is a lifelong supporter of Belfast football team Linfield, as well as Tottenham Hotspur 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.

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 Belfastmarker in 1990. He is also a patron for the charity Over The Wall.

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

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

He remains, up until this date, the only British or non-American actor nominated for Oscars for acting, writing and directing and one of seven 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.





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
  2. Kenneth Branagh Biography (1960-)
  3. White, p.2
  4. The Kenneth Branagh Compendium: Conspiracy
  5. White p.3
  6. The Times, 20 February, 2000
  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
  10. The Play What I Wrote, a CurtainUp London and New York review
  11. Talkin' Broadway Review: The Play What I Wrote
  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.
  15. IMDb entry for Thor
  16. "Shackleton" awards
  17. Killing time
  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. White p.271
  22. Over The Wall official website

External links

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