Kenneth Charles Branagh

Kenneth Branagh is an Irish born writer, director, actor, producer. He is largely responsible for the current popularity of Shakespeare on film.

Kenneth Branagh is almost single handedly responsible for the current Shakespeare renaissance in film. Not since Laurence Olivier has one actor/director done so much for the popularity of Shakespeare. His first film as director, "Henry V", was extremely successful and garnered him an Oscar nomination for best actor. He continues to film Shakespeare and to take chances. His version of "Hamlet" was over 4 hours long; his latest, "Love's Labour's Lost", was converted into a 40's-style musical featuring the music of Cole Porter, Jerome Kern and Irving Berlin.

Kenneth Charles Branagh was born on December 10, 1960 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. His family moved to Reading, England in 1969 to escape "the troubles". Branagh says he was very self conscious about his accent so he developed an English accent in a hurry. When he was a teenager, Branagh saw "Hamlet" on stage starring Derek Jacobi. From that moment on he decided to become an actor.

He attended the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts (RADA) and upon graduation worked with the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC). He was the youngest actor ever to play Henry V at Stratford. This perfomance was roundly praised and the young actor was on his way.

In 1986, Branagh and his partner, David Parfitt, formed The Renaissance Theatre Company. The company produced a number of Shakespeare plays. In 1987, Branagh filmed "The Fortunes of War", where he met his future wife, Emma Thompson. In 1989, Branagh and Parfitt decided to go into the film business with "Henry V". During the same year, he and Emma Thompson were married.

"Henry V" was produced on a shoe-string budget of 80,000 British pounds. It was successful both in Britain and North America and was nominated for many awards.

In 1990, The Renaissance Theatre Company went on tour to North America. They presented the plays, "A Midsummer Night's Dream" and "King Lear". Branagh had small roles in both and directed the plays. Emma Thompson also appeared in both plays.

After "Henry V", Branagh has gone on to direct and star in "Much Ado About Nothing", "Hamlet" and "Love's Labour's Lost". In addition, he played Iago in "Othello". He wrote and directed, but didn't star in, a black and white comedy originally called "In The Bleak Midwinter", this title was changed to "A Midwinter's Tale".

In 1995, Branagh and his wife separated. Many fans were shocked because they seemed like the perfect couple. It is not surprising that Thompson has referred to Branagh as being a workaholic.

There are very differing views about Branagh. Some see him as being an insufferable ego maniac. However, anyone he has ever worked with has nothing but praise for the 39 year-old actor. He certainly has many loyal friends who will drop anything to work with him.

Branagh has signed a deal to produce three Shakespeare films. "Love's Labour's Lost" was the first one and the next film will probably be "Macbeth".

Kenneth Branagh has accomplished a lot in his almost 40 years. There is still a lot of Shakespeare out there to do and we can only hope we will get to see Branagh play all of the great roles.

© High Speed Ventures 2011