Life Goes On: Rewind 1983 - Kenneth Branagh

The Melbourne Age, 27 March 2005
Interview Katrina O'Brien
**Thanks, Marina, Carole

"He's most comfortable in Shakespearean roles, but this Academy Award-nominated star cut his teeth in the Australian bush before Hollywood came knocking."

This shot was taken on the set of the ABC miniseries "Boy in the Bush". I was 22 and it's faintly shocking to know that another 22 years have passed since then. But it was a very happy time for me. I look rather innocent and in terms of travel, I was. I'd been on a few European package holidays prior to this so a trip to the other side of the world was a hell of an adventure for someone green and unworldly. I'd been cast in the role of Jack Grant when the producers saw me in Julian Mitchell's play "Another Country" in London in 1982.

Australia, and in particular Sydney, was overwhelming. The sheer size of the country was revealed from the aeroplane over hours and hours and then the cornucopia of sights and sounds in Sydney. I first landed in Manly - I had a wonderful apartment on the cliffs just north of the beach - and for someone brought up away from the sea, the whole surf culture across the northern beaches was a revelation. I used to be up at 5 a.m. for work and would look out my window and the surfers were always up before me.

I had just won the Laurence Olivier Award for most promising newcomer for "Another Country" when this photo was taken but I hadn't yet gone to the Royal Shakespeare Company to play Henry V. At the time, no one knew who I was - nor did I expect them to - and it was very comfortable. I certainly felt a sense of expectation from the producers of "Boy in the Bush" but I was very young and not bright enough to be too scared.

I had to ride a lot for the series and Graham Ware - a very funny disciplined character - was our horse master. He was extremely patient with me and so were his horses. When I flew off one horse and landed about six inches (15 centimetres) from an upturned piece of jagged corrugated iron, he told me, "Now you're starting to ride!" I vividly remember becoming part of an actual horse race - unintentionally. I had no choice but to hang on. I also learned to milk a cow and use a lasso on that shoot. Both talents, since unused, have now left me.

I've seen co-stars Sigrid Thornton and Steve Bisley in the years since. Both are terrific actors and fun, witty company and they were exceptionally kind to me. It was great to see Steve when I was in Australia shooting "Rabbit-Proof Fence" in 2002.

I will always come back to Australia. I've been involved in developing a script set there called "Night Cargo," which was written by an actor friend of mine, Alfred Bell, whom I met filming "Boy in the Bush." It would be nice if that came together so I could work with all the great mates I made when this photo was taken all those years ago. This picture brings back pleasurable memories.

"Fast Forward"

Essentially, I am the same fella as the one in this photo - plus extra wrinkles and chins. I'm still passionate about my work but not quite so passionate about London: I now live in the country. I've been very lucky to have a degree of choice in my work. Uncle Albert in "Five Children and It" was lovely to play. He is completely at ease with his eccentricity. I suspect my nieces view me as eccentric but, thank God, they also see me as loveable. My passions are Shakespeare, soccer and Mozart and when I'm not working, I walk the dog, cook and play music - I am a talentless, enthusiastic guitarist and pianist. Married life (to art director Lindsay Brunnock) is great. I try not to worry about the future - I enjoy the here and now.

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