Kenneth Branagh

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Sir Kenneth Branagh
Branagh at a press conference for Thor
BornKenneth Charles Branagh
(1960-12-10) 10 December 1960 (age 53)
Belfast, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom
OccupationActor, director, producer, screenwriter
Years active1981–present
Spouse(s)Emma Thompson
Lindsay Brunnock
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Sir Kenneth Branagh
Branagh at a press conference for Thor
BornKenneth Charles Branagh
(1960-12-10) 10 December 1960 (age 53)
Belfast, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom
OccupationActor, director, producer, screenwriter
Years active1981–present
Spouse(s)Emma Thompson
Lindsay Brunnock

Sir Kenneth Charles Branagh, Kt. (/ˈbrænə/ BRAN; born 10 December 1960)[1] is a British actor, director, producer and screenwriter from Northern Ireland. He has directed or 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).

He has also starred in numerous other films and television series including Fortunes of War (1987), Wild Wild West (1999), The Road to El Dorado (2000), Conspiracy (2001), Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002), Warm Springs (2005), Valkyrie (2008), Wallander (2008–present), and My Week with Marilyn (2011) as Sir Laurence Olivier (Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor). He has directed such notable 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 blockbuster superhero film Thor (2011) and the action thriller Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (2014) in which he also co-stars.

He also narrated the BBC documentary miniseries' Walking with Dinosaurs (starred1999) (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 Globes, and has won an Emmy and three BAFTAs. He was appointed a knight bachelor in the 2012 Birthday Honours and was knighted on 9 November 2012.[2]

Early life[edit]

Branagh, the middle of three children, was born and raised in Belfast, the son of an Anglo-Irish 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.[3] At the age of nine, he relocated with his family to Reading, Berkshire, to escape the Troubles.[4][5] He was educated at Grove Primary School,[6] Whiteknights Primary School, then Meadway School, Tilehurst,[7][8] where he appeared in school productions such as Toad of Toad Hall[9] and Oh, What a Lovely War!.[10] At school, he acquired 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 Irish heritage.[11][12] He is known to have attended the (amateur) Reading Cine & Video Society (now called Reading Film & Video Makers)[13] as a member and was a keen member of Progress Theatre for whom he is now the patron.

Branagh went on to train at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.[14]


Stage work[edit]

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[15] 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. In 1984 he appeared in the Royal Shakespeare Company production of Henry V, directed by Adrian Noble. The production played to full houses, especially at the Barbican in 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."[16]

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[17] and directed a Broadway production in 2003.[18][19] 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.[20] 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.[21]

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.[22] 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 New York stage debut.[23]

Film work[edit]

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 was sent directly to television in the U.S., where it aired on HBO in August 2007. He was rumored to have been under consideration for the role of Obi-Wan Kenobi in the Star Wars prequels.

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), Rabbit-Proof Fence (2002) and 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).

From 1989 to 1996, Branagh mostly directed his own films, including Peter's Friends with an outstanding cast including former schoolmates 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, which has yet to be released in the U.S., where it has not even been shown on cable television or released on a Region 1 DVD. 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.[24] Thor, Branagh's return to big-budget directing, released on 6 May 2011.[25] In 2011, Branagh portrayed Sir Laurence Olivier in My Week with Marilyn.


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 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 dramatization of the 1914 Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition's battle for survival, for which he was nominated for a BAFTA award and an Emmy.[26] Branagh also narrated the BBC documentaries Walking with Dinosaurs, World War 1 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 were broadcast on BBC One in November and December 2008.[27] 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.[28] He received his first BAFTA TV on 26 April 2009 for the British Academy Television Award for Best Drama Series.[29] 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.[30] The role also gained him a nomination for Best Actor at the 2009 Crime Thriller Awards.[31] The second Wallander series of three episodes aired initially in January 2010 on the BBC, and the third season aired in July 2012.[32]


Branagh has also played the title role in BBC radio broadcasts of Hamlet and Cyrano de Bergerac, and the role of Edmund in King Lear.[33]

Other work[edit]

Branagh has narrated several audio books, such as The Magician's Nephew by C. S. Lewis.[34]

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

Branagh participated in the 2012 Summer Olympics Opening Ceremony portraying Isambard Kingdom Brunel during the Industrial Revolution segment, giving the speech from The Tempest originally read by the character Caliban.[35][36]

Personal life[edit]

Branagh was married from 20 August 1989 until 1995 to actress Emma Thompson, with whom he starred in Fortunes of War among other projects. During their marriage, he began an affair with co-star Helena Bonham-Carter. After Thompson divorced him, he was in a well-publicised relationship for several years with Bonham-Carter, whom he directed and starred with in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. In 2003, he married film art director Lindsay Brunnock,[37] whom he met during the shooting of Shackleton.[38]

His distant relative Glenn Branagh, who was a UYM member, died while handling a pipe bomb in 2001.[39]

He is a fan of English football club Tottenham Hotspur and Scottish football club Rangers F.C.[40][41]


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. 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.[42]

In 1994, Branagh declined an appointment as a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE).[43]

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 Literarure at the Shakespeare Institute of The University of Birmingham; the Shakespeare Institute Library keeps the archive of his Renaissance Theatre Company and Renaissance Films.

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.[44]

He was appointed a knight bachelor in the 2012 Birthday Honours for services to drama and to the community in Northern Ireland.[2][45] 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.[2]


Awards and nominations[edit]

Academy Awards1989Henry VBest Actor in a Leading RoleNominated
Best DirectorNominated
1992Swan SongBest Live Action Short FilmNominated
1996HamletBest Adapted ScreenplayNominated
2011My Week with MarilynBest Actor in a Supporting RoleNominated
BAFTA Awards1987Fortunes of WarBest Actor – TelevisionNominated
1989Henry VBest Actor in a Leading Role – FilmNominated
Best Direction – FilmWon
2001ConspiracyBest Actor – TelevisionNominated
ShackletonBest Actor – TelevisionNominated
2008Wallander: One Step BehindBest Drama Series – TelevisionWon
2009Best Actor – TelevisionWon
2011My Week with MarilynBest Actor in a Supporting Role – FilmNominated
Broadcast Film Critics Association Awards2011My Week with MarilynBest Supporting ActorNominated
Broadcasting Press Guild2008Wallander: One Step BehindBest ActorWon
Cannes Film Festival1993Much Ado About NothingPalme d'OrNominated
Capri Award2011My Week with MarilynBest Ensemble CastWon
Chicago Film Critics Association Awards1989Henry VBest ActorNominated
1996HamletBest ActorNominated
Detroit Film Critics Society2011My Week with MarilynBest Supporting ActorNominated
Emmy Awards2001ConspiracyOutstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or a MovieWon
2002ShackletonOutstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or a MovieNominated
2005Warm SpringsOutstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or a MovieNominated
2009Wallander: One Step BehindOutstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or a MovieNominated
European Film Awards1990Henry VEuropean Actor of the YearWon
Best DirectorWon
Young European Film of the YearWon
Golden Globe Awards1993Much Ado About NothingBest Motion Picture – Musical or ComedyNominated
2001ConspiracyBest Actor – Miniseries or Television FilmNominated
2005Warm SpringsBest Actor – Miniseries or Television FilmNominated
2009Wallander: One Step BehindBest Actor – Miniseries or Television FilmNominated
2011My Week with MarilynBest Supporting Actor – Motion PictureNominated
Golden Raspberry Award1999Wild Wild WestWorst Supporting ActorNominated
Independent Spirit Awards1993Much Ado About NothingBest FilmNominated
London Film Critics' Circle1993Much Ado About NothingBritish Producer of the YearWon
2002Harry Potter and the Chamber of SecretsBritish Supporting Actor of the YearWon
2011My Week with MarilynSupporting Actor of the YearWon
Phoenix Film Critics Society Award2011My Week with MarilynBest Supporting ActorNominated
San Diego Film Critics Society Award1996HamletBest ActorWon
Sant Jordi Award1989Henry VBest Foreign ActorWon
Satellite Awards2005Warm SpringsBest Actor – Miniseries or Television FilmNominated
2009Wallander: One Step BehindBest Actor – Miniseries or Television FilmNominated
2011My Week with MarilynBest Supporting Actor – Motion PictureNominated
Saturn Awards1994FrankensteinBest ActorNominated
Screen Actors Guild Awards1995OthelloOutstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting RoleNominated
2005Warm SpringsOutstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Miniseries or Television MovieNominated
2011My Week with MarilynOutstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting RoleNominated
Vancouver Film Critics Circle Award2011My Week with MarilynBest Supporting ActorNominated
Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association Award2011My Week with MarilynBest Supporting ActorNominated


Branagh frequently collaborates with certain actors on multiple films, most notably Brian Blessed, the late Richard Briers, Patrick Doyle, Derek Jacobi, Emma Thompson, and Jimmy Yuill.

1Although Doyle has composed music for many of Branagh's films, he is listed in the above table for his appearances as an actor.
2Although Yuill has also composed music for multiple Branagh films, he is listed in the above table for his appearances as an actor.

Discography and audiobooks[edit]

Further reading[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Monitor". Entertainment Weekly (1237): 26. 14 December 2012. 
  2. ^ a b c "Birthday Honours: Branagh, Winslet and royal designer Burton on list". BBC News (BBC). 16 June 2012. Retrieved 16 June 2012. 
  3. ^ "Kenneth Branagh Biography". Retrieved 7 March 2010. 
  4. ^ "The Kenneth Branagh Compendium: Conspiracy". Retrieved 7 March 2010. 
  5. ^ White p.3
  6. ^ White, p.2
  7. ^ "My best teacher – Kenneth Branagh". TES Connect. 
  8. ^ "Berkshire's BAFTA Branagh". BBC Berkshire. 
  9. ^ "Meadway School Reunion – Staff Memories (Jim Morrison)". 
  10. ^ "KENNETH BRANAGH ARCHIVE". Queen's University Belfast. 
  11. ^ "Kenneth Branagh - Biography". Retrieved 24 August 2012. 
  12. ^ "Kenneth Branagh". 27 February 2007. Retrieved 24 August 2012. 
  13. ^ "RFVM History 1957–2012". Reading Film & Video Makers. 
  14. ^ "''The Times'', 20 February 2000". Retrieved 7 March 2010. 
  15. ^ White p.17
  16. ^ Quoted in The London Stage in the 20th Century by Robert Tanitch, Haus (2007)
  17. ^ Archer, Graeme (24 September 2001). "Branagh ready for the next stage". London: Telegraph. Retrieved 7 March 2010. 
  18. ^ "The Play What I Wrote, a CurtainUp London and New York review". Retrieved 7 March 2010. 
  19. ^ "Talkin' Broadway Review: The Play What I Wrote". 30 March 2003. Retrieved 7 March 2010. 
  20. ^ Staff writer (18 September 2008). "Rave reviews for Kenneth Branagh's West End return", Retrieved on 18 September 2008.
  21. ^ Hoyle, Ben (4 February 2009). "David Tennant and Kenneth Branagh miss out on Olivier nominations", The Times, Times Newspapers. Retrieved on 22 February 2009.
  22. ^ "Kenneth Branagh and Alex Kingston MACBETH Directed by Rob Ashford and Kenneth Branagh". Retrieved 2014-08-06. 
  23. ^
  24. ^ "EXCLUSIVE: Kenneth Branagh Breaks Silence On ‘Thor,’ Says Casting Talk Is Premature". Retrieved 7 March 2010. 
  25. ^ "Thor Movie: Principal Photography Starts!". 11 January 2010. Retrieved 11 January 2010. 
  26. ^ "Shackleton" awards.
  27. ^ "Killing time". Retrieved 7 March 2010. 
  28. ^ Douglas, Torin (27 March 2009). "Winners – 35th BPG Television and Radio Awards". Broadcasting Press Guild. Retrieved on 27 March 2009.
  29. ^ "Television Awards Nominations 2009". British Academy of Film and Television Arts. Retrieved on 24 March 2009.
  30. ^ Martin, Lara (16 July 2009). "Emmys Awards 2009: The nominees". Digital Spy. Retrieved on 16 July 2009.
  31. ^ Allen, Kate (7 September 2009). "Coben, Cole, Atkinson vie for crime awards". The Bookseller. Retrieved 7 September 2009. 
  32. ^ "BBC One - Wallander, Series 3". BBC. 22 July 2012. Retrieved 15 March 2013. 
  33. ^ "Shakespeare on Audio". Retrieved 2014-08-06. 
  34. ^ "Kenneth Branagh Book Search". Retrieved 15 January 2007. 
  35. ^ Boyle, Danny (28 July 2012). "Danny Boyle Welcomes The World To London". The Descrier. Retrieved 28 July 2012. 
  36. ^ "London 2012 Olympic Games Opening Ceremony Media guide". Retrieved 16 August 2013. 
  37. ^ White p.271
  38. ^ "Kenneth Branagh Biography". Tiscali UK. Retrieved 17 January 2007. 
  39. ^ David McKittrick et al. Lost Lives page 1501-1502
  40. ^ "Kenneth Branagh on Tottenham Hotspur | Film | The Observer". Retrieved 2014-08-06. 
  41. ^ "606 - - A62848155 - Kenneth Branagh and Famous Fans". BBC. 2010-02-05. Retrieved 2014-08-06. 
  42. ^ Over The Wall official website
  43. ^ "No Sir! Stars who refused honors". CNN. 21 December 2003. Retrieved 7 March 2010. 
  44. ^ Lyman, Eric J. (12 June 2009). "Rome fest to honor Kenneth Branagh". The Hollywood Reporter (Nielsen Business Media). Retrieved 13 June 2009. [dead link]
  45. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 60173. p. 1. 16 June 2012.

External links[edit]