Kenneth Branagh Q&A


You’re going to play Doctor Frankenstein.
“It’s early days. We’re in development. The original Shelley story hasn’t been done yet, which I know is what everyone says. Potentially, it’s a great yarn.”

How would you sell the idea of going to see ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ ?
“It’s a great, sexy comedy. A lot of irony and fun and genuine madness – real absurdity. It’s a really rich mix. Denzel and Michael Keaton are brilliant in it, and Keanu’s a terrific actor.”

What did you think of Mel Gibson’s Hamlet ?
“He was excellent. He acquitted himself in first class fashion. He’s a good and important actor.”

If De Niro, Nicholson or Arnie wanted to do a Shakespeare, who would you cast them as ?
“De Niro would make a great Iago or Macbeth. So would Nicholson. I don’t know about Arnold. I don’t know where his interests lie. He’s got a great screen personality. When you’ve got one of those, you can do lots of things with it.”

What does Hollywood make of Shakespeare ?
“I got a lot of film offers with rain-soaked battles in them and about 18 Lives of Shakespeare, usually beginning with him sweating over a hot playscript, saying ‘what shall I call it ? ‘Himlet’ ? ‘Humlet’ ? ‘Omelette’ ? Anything in Hollywood is possible, especially ‘How can we fix the story ?’ ‘Can someone blow up in the first reel ?’”

What have you turned down ?
“Lots of things I didn’t want to see and things I feel have been done better already. For some reason I’ve been offered a lot of serial killer projects.”

What would you like for your birthday ?
“A laser disc player. I get frustrated at not watching films at the best quality.”

Where do you live ?
“I live in North London.”

What car do you drive ?
“I don’t drive actually. I mean I do drive, but my wife’s the one who’s got the car. I seldom drive it. I take the subway. Emma (Thompson) drives an MG.”

Can’t you afford a car each ?
“Well to be perfectly honest, I’ve never been crazy about driving. I have no interest in cars. I don’t find them aesthetically interesting. I used to drive a Volkswagen Passat, which is a pretty nondescript thing.”

What’s your favourite possession ?
“I don’t know that I have one really. I have an old guitar that I got when I was 16. I’ve bought another guitar since but have never had quite the same connection with it. I bought it out of a catalogue.”

Like your clothes, as someone said recently.
“To be perfectly honest, I’m not incredibly interested in clothes. Malcolm Levine in London. Or Melrose in Los Angeles.”

What’s your favourite group ?
“Well it used to be the Beatles and now I don’t really have one.”

Have you ever been hypnotized ?
“I haven’t actually. I rather bottled out of that. There was lots of pressure on me on ‘Dead Again’, as “research”.”

How do you feel about method acting ?
“It’s a tool, not an end in itself. A level of background reading or research is very important. But if you’re preparing to play a murderer, you don’t have to murder someone. Acting is endlessly mysterious. It’s about being as truthful as possible.”

Why was ‘Dead Again’ an anti-smoking movie ?
“The writer, Scott Frank, saw a guy in a restaurant who’d had a tracheotomy who picked up a cigarette and smoked it through his neck, and it struck a chord. Originally, my character was a regular full-time smoker, but I can’t smoke convincingly. If I inhale, it just results in a coughing fit of mammoth proportions.”

‘Peter’s Friends’ was dubbed ‘Ken’s Friends’, what do you say to charges of megalomania and nepotism ?
“People said that I made it with people I know. In fact, I haven’t worked with most of them before. Anyway, Scorsese, Coppola, Woody Allen all do it. I don’t work with anybody I don’t think is talented.”

A lot of people disliked you for doing your autobiography at such a young and tender age.
“They offered me a lot of money, which I used to get my production company going. I don’t regret it. In this life I tend to think you don’t regret the things you do, you regret the things that you don’t do.”

Emma Thompson must have the same rolling pin as Mia Farrow. After four films, won’t any leading roles always have to go to the wife now ?
“Well, she’s much sought after, so I wouldn’t necessarily get her. I wouldn’t cast her for something she wasn’t right for. We’re not a package deal.”

Aren’t you secretly longing to do a slasher movie or an android film – something Ken Branagh shouldn’t do ?
“Well, Frankenstein deals with a lot of the bigger themes about violence and life. It’s about a man trying to conquer evil who pays a price for a certain kind of knowledge. A good old-fashioned yarn. If something really excites me, I’ll do it. I read everything and value it case-by-case.”

You must be fed up always being seen as such a nice guy, maybe you’d like to talk about your vices ?
“Drinking I guess. I drink Rolling Rock. Guilt. I can feel guilty about ridiculous things – not answering letters, not doing the right thing.”

Drinking Rolling Rock is not exactly a major vice. Is that the best you can do ?
“Well, I’m not going to say I’m fucking snorting fucking six fucking tons of cocaine every night, am I ? Hahaha.”

You have no secret desire to start behaving like Nicolas Cage then ?
“No, No. I’m a secret lemonade drinker though.”

Have you ever been arrested ?
“Not yet, no.”

If you were given carte blanche by Hollywood, what would you make ?
“Long-term, there are a couple of projects. One huge historical epic about Cecil Rhodes who founded Rhodesia, and was an extraordinary, corrupt figure.”

Who was Shakespeare’s hottest chick ?
“Um, Cleopatra. She is one of the few female characters who live beyond the male hero, who carries the last act of the play. An extraordinary part – rich, intelligent, passionate.”

Tell me a good love-line.
“A good, rather bitter, one in ‘Much Ado’ is “Friendship is constant in all other things save in the office and affairs of love.”

Anything more seductive ?
“In ‘Love’s Labours Lost’ there’s a long speech about love, by Barone: “A lover’s eye will gaze an eagle blind, a lover’s ear will hear the lowest sound, when love speaks, all the gods make heaven drowsy with harmony…” Girls are just terrifically good at being in love.”

What do you dread most when you open your eyes in the morning ?
“Just having to get up. I’m not crazy about the phone ringing.”

Do you have any phobias ?
“I discovered doing ‘Much Ado’ I’m not brilliant at heights.”

If you could only see one film again, what would it be ?
“Marcel Carne’s ‘Les Enfants du Paradis’ or ‘Raging Bull’.”

What’s your greatest extravagance ?
“I spent 3 months in Italy this summer and didn’t buy anything. I like taking lots of people going out for a meal. I’m not a very extravagant person.”