Adaptation Shot the Way Branagh Likes It
Cambridge Evening News, 9 July 2007
Shakespearean frolics, set in 19th Century Japan, filmed in modern day Sussex?
You'd be excused for thinking Branagh had gone slightly mad when conceiving his latest Shakespeare adaptation, 'As You Like It'.
"But it works!" he assures me.
Branagh was a guest of honour at the film festival, with 'As You Like It' showing on Saturday and Sunday.
On a trip to Japan in 1990, he was beguiled by his experience, finding in Japanese society a mirror of the play's main theme - the tension between the hurly burly of city life, and the alleged tranquillity of nature.
For the shoot itself, however, Branagh thought Wakehurst Place in Sussex would be more lovely and more temperate (he hints that the film's budget may have had something to do with this).
And Branagh is pleased to return to Shajespeare after a number of other projects He said: "It's thrilling. It's so hard to get funding for a Shakespeare film, and you never assume you'll be lucky enough to make another one."
Although it was great fun appearing in The Chamber of Secrets, the difference in scale was staggering.
"It was nice, after the vast machinery of the Potter industry, to come back to the 'gipsy caravan' of a smaller group, half of whom I knew and had worked with before."
Indeed, for this latest film, Branagh has cast his usual eclectic mix of English and American actors. Big names such as Kevin Kline and Alfred Molina star alongside Shakespeare veterans such as Brian Blessed, and others still who are completely new to the game. For Alex Wyndham, who plays the lovelorn Sylvius, working on the film was his first job as a professional actor.
Staying firmly behind the camera during 'As You Like It' (released September 21st) was a welcome break for Branagh, who has both directed and appeared in the majority of his previous Shakespeare flicks: "I was perfectly happy not to be in it." he admits, "In fact, I tend to enjoy projects a little more when I'm not having to act and direct simultaneously".
Of course, no interview is complete without the classic question, "who would play you in a film of your life?"
Branagh pauses, and then replies, "Sean Penn. I know he's nothing like me but he's such a terrific actor. Plus, he could make me seem much more exciting, and would allow my life to be full of impressive, daredevil episodes."
We'll look out for Branagh: The Movie, then.