Creator / Kenneth Branagh

I first encountered 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 is a British actor and director.

He is probably most widely known for his film versions of Shakespeare's plays, which include Henry V (1989), Much Ado About Nothing (1993), Hamlet (1996), Love's Labour's Lost (2000) and As You Like It (2006). Branagh adapted and directed all five, and starred in all but As You Like It. Hamlet is notable for including every single line of the play, running slightly over four hours.

Other films in which Branagh has directed himself include Dead Again, Peter's Friends, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, and Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit. Films in which other people have directed Branagh include Barry Sonnenfeld's Wild Wild West, Frank Pierson's Conspiracy, Phillip Noyce's Rabbit-Proof Fence, Chris Columbus's Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Woody Allen's Celebrity, Bryan Singer's Valkyrie, Oliver Parker's Othello, Joseph Sargent's Warm Springs, and Simon Curtis's My Week With Marilyn. (Oh, and Dreamworks's The Road to El Dorado.) Films Branagh has directed and not starred in include In the Bleak Midwinter, The Magic Flute, the remake of Sleuth, and Thor.

His television credits include an award-winning performance as Kurt Wallander in the 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 Walking with Dinosaurs series.

Granted knighthood by Queen Elizabeth II in June 2012.

He played Isambard Kingdom Brunel in the 2012 London Olympic Games opening ceremony.

Tropes associated with Kenneth Branagh include:

  • Ability over Appearance: Invoked when he cast Idris Elba as Heimdall (see below).
  • Career Resurrection: Thor seems to have rejuvinated his directing career. He followed that up with Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit and Cinderella (2015). All three have been financial successes, and Cinderella in particular was a great critical success.
  • Creator Killer: Mary Shelley's Frankenstein 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.
  • Black Vikings: Practically a trademark of his style. In Much Ado About Nothing, he cast Denzel Washington as the Prince of Castile; in Thor, it was Idris Elba as the Norse god Heimdall; and in Hamlet, there was a black soldier in the Norwegian army. The black guard captain in 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).
  • Large Ham: My Week With Marilyn, which earned him an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor.
  • The Oner: a trademark of his.
  • Nice Hat: His Olympic Games role.
  • Production Posse: Branagh's posse includes BRIAN BLESSED, Richard Briers, Derek Jacobi, Jimmy Yuill and (while they were married) Emma Thompson, as well as composer Patrick Doyle.
  • Promoted Fanboy: Branagh, reportedly, is a big-time The Mighty 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 William Shakespeare: Fell in love with the bard at an early age is now arguably concidered 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 Ingmar Bergman film festival in 2007, and asked if he could play the Swedish detective in 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 My Week With Marilyn, which earned him an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor.
  • Race Lift: He casts actors so blindly of their race that one suspects it's a deliberate habit. He does, however, cast really good actors, so its 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 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 an 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 Idris Elba as the Viking god Heimdall in Thor generated quite a bit of controversy (Heimdall is described in sagas as the '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.
  • Real Men Love Jesus: Became a devout Christian after hearing Laurence Olivier, one of his childhood heroes, reading the Bible. He remains so to this very day.
  • Real-Life Relative:
    • Branagh was married to Emma Thompson 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 Harry Potter (Gilderoy Lockhart Chamber of Secrets) was right before her debut as Professor Trelawney (Prisoner of Azkaban).
    • He was also with Helena Bonham-Carter from 1995 to 1999 (they supposedly first got together when working on Frankenstein in 1994) and subsequently cast her as well.
  • Walk and Talk: He did it first.

References to Kenneth Branagh in fiction:

  • In Blackadder Back and Forth, a time-travelling Blackadder meets William Shakespeare and beats him up in retribution for providing the tools with which centuries of students have been tormented. He adds 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.