Sir Kenneth Charles Branagh is a Northern Irish actor, writer and director. He is most noted for his film adaptations of Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Henry V, among many other highly acclaimed movies, live-action plays and television series. In this biography, Branagh tells his story in his own words.

Kenneth Branagh Bio: Age, Early Life, and Education

Branagh was born on December 10, 1960 (Kenneth Branagh age: 58) to parents William Branagh and Frances Harper. He lived in Belfast, Northern Ireland, for nine years with his older brother William, Jr. and younger sister Joyce. In 1969, the family moved to Reading, Berkshire, England to escape the Northern Irish political conflicts known as “The Troubles.”

Branagh first took up acting at the Meadway Comprehensive School, where he starred in a handful of small productions. He pursued his craft more intensely at London’s Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, graduating in 1981 with limited professional experience already under his belt.

Kenneth Branagh Bio: Exclusive Interview on His Path to Stardom

In May 2019, Branagh sat down with uInterview to discuss his extensive career in acting, writing and directing. He traced these passions back to his early childhood, telling uInterview exclusively, “I used to watch the television and see what I later understood to be credits going up at the end of the . . . piece, and I used to wander around to the back of the television and try and sort of open it and see where all those people were. Where did they go to?”

Branagh revealed more about his young interest in movie-making: “[W]hen I saw exotic names like ‘Pinewood Studios’ or . . . ‘Warner Brothers Burbank,’ or the places where these things seemed to have been made . . . it made me want to travel. It made me want to jump into that television screen or that cinema screen and go to the places where these things were made.”

After nearly four decades of acting and directing, the allure of film hasn’t worn off for Branagh. “It was always . . . the magic of what they teased you with at the end,” he told uInterview. “I guess I’ve been trying to find that magic place ever since.”

Kenneth Branagh Bio: Early Acting Career

Branagh’s acting career began with stints on British television and at West End Theatre, starting just six weeks after his graduation from RADA. At the age of 23, Branagh joined the prestigious Royal Shakespeare Company in London, where he starred in Henry V and became the youngest Hamlet lead in RSC’s history.

Branagh left the organization in 1987 to co-found the Renaissance Theatre Company with fellow actor David Parfitt. He played significant acting and directing roles in RTC productions such as Twelfth Night, King Lear and his original work Public Enemy. In 1988, Branagh founded the film production company Renaissance Films PLC, where he first directed and starred in Henry V (1989). His efforts earned him Oscar nominations for both Best Actor and Best Director.

In addition to his films, Branagh frequently appeared in televised productions throughout the 80s, such as Fortunes of War (1987) and Look Back in Anger (1989). Branagh’s film success prevailed in 1993 with his adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing, starring Keanu Reeves and Denzel Washington. Three years later, he directed and starred in a critically acclaimed adaptation of Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

In 2002, Branagh appeared in the movies Rabbit-Proof Fence and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, in addition to two miniseries entitled Shackleton and Warm Springs. Branagh went on to direct the films Sleuth and Thor in 2007 and 2011, respectively. In My Week with Marilyn (2011), he acted as Sir Laurence Olivier, earning an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor.

Kenneth Branagh Bio: Exclusive Interview on ‘My Week with Marilyn’

In an exclusive interview with uInterview, Branagh discussed My Week with Marilyn and its importance to celebrity history. “I’d love to have known what he thought was the secret of Marilyn Monroe and what did he feel about his own performance,” Branagh told uInterview in an exclusive video interview. “I guess I would have said, ‘Sir, you have an opportunity to vent now. Please vent without end anything you need to about this entire experience and I shall make notes.’”

More specifically, Branagh wanted to know where Marilyn Monroe stood in Olivier’s mind throughout their relationship: “‘Were you in love with her? Did you hate her all the way through? Did you come to hate her? Did you never hate her?’”

Watch the full autobiographical interview to hear more of Branagh’s thoughts on My Week with Marilyn and on Olivier’s hallmark performance in Hamlet (1948).

Kenneth Branagh Bio: Later Acting Career

Branagh acted in and directed Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (2014), followed by a 2015 film adaptation of Cinderella. Between 2008 and 2016, Branagh remained prevalent on TV as the star of Wallander, a crime show adapted from Henning Mankell’s bestselling novels. In 2017, Branagh directed and starred in Murder on the Orient Express, acting concurrently with Harry Styles in the war drama Dunkirk.

Most recently, Branagh returned to his Shakespearean roots by directing and starring in the 2019 film All Is True. In May 2019, Branagh discussed his new film exclusively with uInterview. In Branagh’s plotline summary, Shakespeare abandons the London celebrity life to “face up to the consequences of having been essentially an absentee father and husband for the past twenty years.” Branagh called the movie “personal and sort of spiritual,” claiming it allowed him to “go looking for the heart of William Shakespeare.”

He also shared what it was like to film with award-winning costar Judi Dench. Branagh labeled Dench as “proprietorial and protective” of her character, Anne Hathaway, who he believes was given a much stronger presence in the movie than in history. According to Branagh, Dench was “like a kind of lion in this part. She was always on set ahead of me; you could see that she loved being Anne Hathaway and wanted to speak for her and have that voice be heard.”

Kenneth Branagh Bio: Exclusive Interview on ‘All Is True’

Watch the full interview to learn about Branagh’s experience with on-set prosthetics and which scenes of All Is True he considers his favorites.

Kenneth Branagh Bio: Personal Life, Wives, Quotes

In 1989, Branagh married actress Emma Thompson, who acted alongside him in Hamlet and a number of other productions. In the midst of directing Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1994), Branagh entered an affair with his costar Helena Bonham Carter. Their scandalous relationship caused Thompson to divorce Branagh in 1995 but continued for multiple years thereafter. Branagh has been married to his current wife, Lindsay Brunnock, since May 24, 2003.

Branagh has written multiple books about life behind the scenes of filmmaking, including his autobiography Beginning (1989). On November 9, 2012, he was knighted by the British crown for his contributions to the drama community. Branagh takes great pride in his Irish and Protestant identities and strengthened his religious convictions by listening to Sir Laurence Olivier read the Bible prior to filming My Week With Marilyn in 2011.

There is some mysterious thing that goes on whereby, in the process of playing Shakespeare continuously, actors are surprised by the way the language actually acts on them.”

“I think the best actors are the most generous, the kindest, the greatest people and at their worst they are vain, greedy and insecure.”

“I feel more Irish than English. I feel freer than British, more visceral, with a love of language. Shot through with fire in some way. That’s why I resist being appropriated as the current repository of Shakespeare on the planet. That would mean I’m part of the English cultural elite, and I am utterly ill-fitted to be.”

“Variety is very, very good. Going from medium to medium – if you get the chance to do it – from theater to television to film, which are all distinctly different, keeps me sharp. What works in one doesn’t work in the other, and you have to be looking for the truth of the performance, whatever way that medium might demand.”

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