-> ''"I first encountered [[Creator/WilliamShakespeare Shakespeare]] when I was about fourteen years old, and it really made no sense. I then went to see a play when I was fifteen years old, and it changed my life."''

Sir Kenneth Charles Branagh (born December 10, 1960) is a British actor and director.

He was born in Belfast, UsefulNotes/NorthernIreland, the son of Irish Protestants. In his early 20s he began to make a name for himself in British theater. He spent much of the 1980s appearing in several well-received [[Creator/WilliamShakespeare Shakespeare]] productions, as well as a 1989 production of ''Theatre/LookBackInAnger'' co-starring Creator/EmmaThompson.

In 1989 he made himself an international star by directing and starring in a spectacularly successful film adaptation of ''Henry V''. From 1989 to 1996 he appeared mostly in films he directed himself, such as another hit Shakespeare adaptation, 1993's ''Much Ado About Nothing'', yet another Shakespeare adaptation with a four-hour ''Hamlet'' in 1996, as well as the thriller ''Dead Again'' and ''Mary Shelley's Frankenstein''. Most of these films also co-starred Emma Thompson; the two were married from 1989 to 1995.

The box-office failure of his return to Shakespeare with ''Love's Labours Lost'' in 2000 sent his directing career into the doldrums for several years. He continued to act, however, taking LargeHam UpToEleven with his portrayal of Gilderoy Lockhart in ''Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets'', and playing occasional BritishNazis (''Conspiracy'', ''Valkyrie''). In 2011 he got a CastingGag role as Creator/LaurenceOlivier in ''My Week with Marilyn''--Branagh has often been compared to Oliver, as both of them directed themselves in filmed versions of ''Henry V'' and ''Hamlet''. He got a gig directing the 2011 film ''Thor'', his biggest directing project since ''Hamlet'', and has directed several more films in the years since, including a live-action remake of Creator/{{Disney}}'s beloved ''[[Film/Cinderella2015 Cinderella]]'' and an AllStarCast adaptation of ''Literature/MurderOnTheOrientExpress'' in which he stars as Hercule Poirot.

His television credits include an [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wallander_%28British_TV_series%29#Awards award-winning performance]] as Kurt Wallander in the ''Series/{{Wallander}}'' series (2008-2012) based on the novels of Henning Mankell, as well as the TV-movie ''Film/{{Shackleton}}'' about Ernest Shackleton and the desperate journey of the 1914 Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition. He was also the narrator of the ''Series/WalkingWithDinosaurs'' series.

Granted knighthood by [[UsefulNotes/HMTheQueen Queen Elizabeth II]] in June 2012.

He played Isambard Kingdom Brunel in the 2012 London UsefulNotes/OlympicGames opening ceremony.

!!Films Branagh has directed (also starred in unless otherwise noted)

* ''Theatre/HenryV'' (1989)
* ''Film/DeadAgain'' (1991)
* ''Film/PetersFriends'' (1992)
* ''[[Film/MuchAdoAboutNothing1993 Much Ado About Nothing]]'' (1993)
* ''Film/InTheBleakMidwinter'' (1995) (director only)
* ''Film/MaryShelleysFrankenstein'' (1996)
* ''Theatre/{{Hamlet}}'' (1996)
* ''Film/LovesLaboursLost'' (2000)
* ''Theatre/AsYouLikeIt'' (2006) (director only)
* ''Theatre/TheMagicFlute'' (2006) (director only)
* ''Film/{{Sleuth}}'' (2007) (CreatorCameo only)
* ''Film/{{Thor}}'' (2011) (director only)
* ''Film/JackRyanShadowRecruit'' (2014)
* ''Film/{{Cinderella|2015}}'' (2015) (director only)
* ''[[Film/MurderOnTheOrientExpress2017 Murder on the Orient Express]]'' (2017)

!!Branagh as actor only:

* ''Film/SwingKids'' (1993)
* ''Theatre/{{Othello}}'' (1995)
* ''Film/{{Celebrity}}'' (1998)
* ''Film/WildWildWest'' (1999)
* ''WesternAnimation/TheRoadToElDorado'' (2000) (voice)
* ''Film/{{Conspiracy}}'' (2001)
* ''Film/RabbitProofFence'' (2002)
* ''Film/HarryPotterAndTheChamberOfSecrets'' (2002)
* ''Film/WarmSprings'' (2005)
* ''Film/{{Valkyrie}}'' (2008)
* ''Series/{{Wallander}}'' (TV series) (2008-2015)
* ''Film/TheBoatThatRocked'' (2009)
* ''Film/MyWeekWithMarilyn'' (2011)
* ''Film/{{Dunkirk}}'' (2017)

!!Tropes associated with Kenneth Branagh include:

* AbilityOverAppearance: Invoked when he cast Idris Elba as Heimdall (see below).
* BlackVikings: Practically a trademark of his style. In ''Theatre/MuchAdoAboutNothing'', he cast Creator/DenzelWashington as the Prince of Castile; in ''Film/{{Thor}}'', it was Idris Elba as the Norse god Heimdall; and in ''Theatre/{{Hamlet}}'', there was a black soldier in the Norwegian army. The black guard captain in ''Film/{{Cinderella 2015}}'' was considered by some to also be a case, though there's actually some historical justification there (at least as far as the film's time period can even be nailed down).
* LargeHam: ''Film/MyWeekWithMarilyn'', which earned him an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor.
* TheOner: a trademark of his.
* NiceHat: His Olympic Games role.
* RaceLift: He casts actors so blindly of their race that one suspects it's a deliberate habit. He does, however, cast ''really'' good actors, [[AbilityOverAppearance so it's not just some dumb, cheap stunt]].
** His most blatant example of this took place early in his career. In Theatre/MuchAdoAboutNothing he has Creator/DenzelWashington and Creator/KeanuReeves play brothers. Okay, half-brothers. Fair enough. One of them is the noble Duke that everyone respects and follows. The other is his bastard half-brother who is insulted over how everyone hates him because of his parentage and uses this as a justification to be the villain of the piece. The film is set in 19th century Europe. So who do you think plays the Duke and who plays the bastard? Wrong.
** His casting of Creator/IdrisElba as the Viking god Heimdall in ''{{Film/Thor}}'' generated quite a bit of controversy (Heimdall is described in sagas as the [[HilariousInHindsight 'whitest']] of the gods). However, after seeing Elba's performance, many reviewers commented that if racist idiots are getting upset about a black actor playing a fictional, supposedly-white character (and less worried about a guy who throws a magic hammer), ol' Kenny must be doing something right. Also 'whitest' is only one translation, it's more along the lines of purity rather than coloration. Besides, the gods can look however they want one presumes.
* RealMenLoveJesus: Became a devout Christian after hearing Laurence Olivier, one of his childhood heroes, reading the Bible. He remains so to this very day.
* SceneryPorn: His movies nearly always feature lavish production design and sweeping camerawork that isn't afraid to show it off. His ''Hamlet'' and ''Murder on the Orient Express'' were also both shot in 65mm.
* WalkAndTalk: [[WebVideo/EchoChamber He did it first.]]

!!References to Kenneth Branagh in fiction:
* In ''Series/{{Blackadder}} Back and Forth'', a time-travelling Blackadder meets Creator/WilliamShakespeare and beats him up in retribution for providing the tools with which centuries of students have been tormented. He adds [[AndThisIsFor an extra blow specifically for]] "Ken Branagh's endless, uncut, four-hour version of ''Hamlet''".
-->'''Shakespeare:''' Who's Ken Branagh?\\
'''Blackadder:''' I'll tell him you said that. And ''I'' think he'll be very hurt.