It's Ken's Yen to Turn the Bard Japanese

Daily Express, 15 April 2005
By Ruth Hilton, Inside Showbiz
**Thanks, Catherine

Kenneth Branagh is about to recreate 19th century Japan in modern day Middlesex. He starts directing his latest Shakespeare film, 'As You Like It', at Shepperton Studios next week and has chosen an Eastern backdrop for the action.

"I got the idea 15 years ago walking through a temple in Kyoto and being struck by the possibility of setting 'As You Like It' in Japan," he says. "It's taken a long time but I'm thrilled the film is now on."

Sadly the budget doesn't stretch to shooting in the Far East. "We're trying to do Japan in Shepperton and West Sussex. That can work. I remember 'Black Narcissus' where the Himalayas were wonderfully conveyed although the film was shot in Denham, Buckinghamshire."

Branagh, who won't be appearing in the film, has been busy doing his homework to make his movie as authentic as possible.

"I've researched the second half of the 19th century when Japan opened up to the West," he says. "Our story is set in a European-infested Japanese court."

"We have some Japanese actors, some English ones and some Americans too. The cast includes Kevin Kline, Bryce Dallas Howard, Alfred Molina, Adrian Lester, Romola Garai and then a group from other films of mine, like Richard Briers and Brian Blessed."

Getting the go ahead for 'As You Like It' means Branagh will miss starring alongside Tom Cruise in 'Mission Impossible 3'.

He explains: "The filming schedule for MI3 changed and a number of us who were originally involved are no longer available because of other projects. I'm doing this and I'm looking forward to it."

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