After making a career out of playing William Shakespeare’s most iconic roles, actor Kenneth Branagh is finally taking on the role of the Bard himself. His new film, All Is True, was released in the United Kingdom back in December and is set for a limited release in the U.S. beginning on Friday.

Branagh sat down with uInterview exclusively to discuss the film. “In June of 1613, the world-famous Globe Theater burns entirely to the ground and William Shakespeare, the most famous writer of the age, decides to quit his life in London and return to his hometown,” Branagh said of the plot-line. The film follows Shakespeare as he’s forced to “face up to the consequences of having been essentially an absentee father and husband for the past twenty years.”

The film, which was written by Ben Elton (Upstart Crow) and is directed by Branagh, also stars Judi Dench as Shakespeare’s wife, Anne Hathaway, and Ian McKellan as the Earl of Southampton.

“Judi Dench was very proprietorial and protective of Anne Hathaway,” said Branagh. “In histories, really, she is voiceless as a woman, but I think that Judi Dench wanted to give a voice to her, to have her register the intelligence, the power, the passion, the charisma that must have lured William Shakespeare and kept him in that marriage right to the end of their lives together.”

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See the full transcript of the interview below:

Q: What is Shakespeare facing at the start of the film?

Branagh: In June of 1613, the world-famous Globe Theater burns entirely to the ground and William Shakespeare, the most famous writer of the age, decides to quit his life in London and return to his hometown, a small market town in the midlands in England, Stratford Upon Avon, and face up to the consequences of having been essentially an absentee father and husband for the past twenty years where he’s become a massive celebrity but where he’s placed in the family has been almost invisible, and he comes back willing to face up to responsibilities, personal and sort of spiritual.

Q: What was Judi Dench like to work with in the film?

Branagh: Judi Dench was very  proprietorial and protective of Anne Hathaway. Anne Hathaway is Shakespeare’s wife, eight years older than him, she could not read or write. In histories, really, she is voiceless as a woman, but I think that Judi Dench wanted to give a voice to her, to have her register the intelligence, the power, the passion, the charisma that must have lured William Shakespeare and kept him in that marriage right to the end of their lives together. And so she 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.

Q: What was it like wearing the prosthetics for the film?

Branagh: It was a piece of sort of ritual magic. Shakespeare loved using magic in his plays, he loved transformations, and so I used to bear that in mind at 5:30 in the morning when I was sitting in the chair and begin the 19 minutes that would give me a bald head and long nose and a straggly beard and long hair. And when I opened my eyes at the end of that process, it was a piece of magic! Because I had disappeared, bar the eyes, and this other man had arrived. And it was always a shock to catch myself in a reflection. But it really felt immersive and it felt like I was safely tucked out of the way and I could go looking for the heart of William Shakespeare.

Q: What was the key scene for you?

Branagh: Well, that’s an interesting question. I enjoyed very much the early parts of the film where, despite what people may imagine about a man who relied so much on words, Shakespeare was very silent. And I loved the fact that the film and the story, this family story, it takes a while to gather its momentum, because in families, silence is so often pertinent and loaded. So I suppose I loved playing the quiet  part of Shakespeare. But I also loved playing the man who turns, the man who also reveals how he could have written those plays in their most extreme moments, because his passion and the depth of his feeling is huge. So I enjoyed the revelation scenes. I loved and felt very privileged to play a great scene that Ben Elton wrote between Shakespeare and the Earl of Southampton, which I had the great honor of doing opposite Ian McKellan. And that was a sort of tremendous thrill.