-> ''"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 ''Look Back in Anger'' 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/{{Cinderella|2015}}'' 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 ''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.

[[UsefulNotes/KnightFever 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

* ''Theatre/HenryV'' (1989) (also starred)
* ''Film/DeadAgain'' (1991) (also starred)
* ''Film/PetersFriends'' (1992) (also starred)
* ''Film/{{Swan Song|1992}}'' (1992)(short film)
* ''[[Film/MuchAdoAboutNothing1993 Much Ado About Nothing]]'' (1993) (also starred)
* ''Film/InTheBleakMidwinter'' (1995)
* ''Film/MaryShelleysFrankenstein'' (1996) (also starred)
* ''Theatre/{{Hamlet}}'' (1996) (also starred)
* ''Film/LovesLaboursLost'' (2000) (also starred)
* ''Theatre/AsYouLikeIt'' (2006)
* ''Theatre/TheMagicFlute'' (2006)
* ''Film/{{Sleuth}}'' (2007) (CreatorCameo)
* ''Film/{{Thor}}'' (2011)
* ''Film/JackRyanShadowRecruit'' (2014) (also starred)
* ''Film/{{Cinderella|2015}}'' (2015)
* ''Film/{{Murder on the Orient Express|2017}}'' (2017) (also starred)
* ''Film/ArtemisFowl'' (2019)
* ''Film/{{Death on the Nile|2019}}'' (also starring)

!!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).
* CareerResurrection: ''Film/{{Thor}}'' seems to have rejuvinated his directing career. He followed that up with ''Film/JackRyanShadowRecruit'' and ''{{Film/Cinderella 2015}}''. All three have been financial successes, and ''Cinderella'' in particular was a great critical success.
* CreatorKiller: ''Film/MaryShelleysFrankenstein'' '''nearly''' did this to Branagh's directing career. The film was such a huge bomb it was a while before Hollywood would trust him to helm another blockbuster (and made finding funding for ''Hamlet'' difficult). But he was still easily able to get plenty of acting jobs as well as directing the indie films he usually prefers
* FakeNationality: Plays a Third Reich German in ''Film/{{Valkyrie}}'' and ''Film/{{Conspiracy}}''. Other examples:
** FakeAmerican: Fairly convincingly, in ''Celebrity'', ''Warm Springs'', and ''Dead Again''; [[LargeHam somewhat less so]] in ''Film/WildWildWest''.
** FakeRussian: As the BigBad in ''Film/JackRyanShadowRecruit''.
* LargeHam: ''Film/MyWeekWithMarilyn'', which earned him an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor.
* TheOner: a trademark of his.
* NiceHat: His Olympic Games role.
* ProductionPosse: Branagh's posse includes Creator/BrianBlessed, Richard Briers, Creator/DerekJacobi, Jimmy Yuill, Gerard Horan, and (while they were married) Creator/EmmaThompson, as well as composer Patrick Doyle.
* PromotedFanboy: Branagh, reportedly, is a big-time ''[[ComicBook/TheMightyThor Thor]]'' geek, and has been since childhood. One suspects his ear for Shakespeare was honed by the faux-Elizabethan dialogue of Marvel's Asgardians.
** Also Creator/WilliamShakespeare: He fell in love with the bard at an early age and is now arguably considered the greatest translator of his works to the Big Screen.
** Had become such a fan of the ''Wallander'' novels, that he personally approached Henning Mankell at a Creator/IngmarBergman film festival in 2007, and asked if he could play the Swedish detective in Creator/{{The BBC}}'s adaptation.
** Branagh is also a fan of Laurence Olivier, and many have compared the two's career paths (as they both have successfully directed several Shakespeare adaptations). So, this made things humorous when Branagh was cast AS Olivier in ''Film/MyWeekWithMarilyn'', which earned him an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor. [[Main/CrowningMomentOfHeartwarming Olivier is also responsible in part for Branagh's conversion to Christianity.]]
** The Shakespeare play Branagh saw when he was 15 that changed his life was Creator/DerekJacobi in ''Theatre/{{Hamlet}}''. Cut to 1989 and Branagh's cast his idol in ''Theatre/HenryV'' (1989), and like half the films Branagh directed after that. In 1990 Jacobi directed Branagh in a production of ''Theatre/{{Hamlet}}'' inspired by Jacobi's version in the 1970s. Branagh's film version of ''Theatre/{{Hamlet}}'' (1996) where Jacobi plays Claudius capitalises on the physical resemblance between them (their hair was dyed the same shade of Nordic blonde) and the theme of displacing a powerful father figure (obviously the antagonism is just in the film, they are friends in real life).
* 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 Much Ado About Nothing he has Denzel Washington and Keanu Reeves play half-brothers, 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.
* RealLifeRelative:
** Branagh was married to Creator/EmmaThompson from 1989 to 1995. Count how many of his films feature her as his wife or love interest during that period. Interestingly, his one role in ''Film/HarryPotter'' (''Chamber of Secrets'') was right before her debut (''Prisoner of Azkaban'').
** He was also with Creator/HelenaBonhamCarter from 1995 to 1999 (they supposedly first got together when working on ''Frankenstein'' in 1994) and subsequently cast her as well.
* 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.]]
* WhatCouldHaveBeen: Was rumored to be a front-runner to play a young Obi-Wan Kenobi in the ''Franchise/StarWars'' prequels.
!!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.