Theory of Flight Q & A

Chicago Sun-Times, January 21, 1999
by Cindy Pearlman

This is not the winter of Kenneth Branagh's discontent. The critically acclaimed "Theory of Flight" opens Friday. Branagh plays a caretaker who is trying to build his own flying machine. When he is forced to do community service, he meets Helena Bonham Carter's character, a woman suffering from Lou Gehrig's disease.

Q. You work with your real-life love, Helena Bonham Carter. Was that the appeal?

A. Doing this wasn't just about working with Helena. I admired the writing enormously and admired the director. Essentially for me, it's all about what's on the page. If I feel a strong connection, then that is your bedrock.

Q. Is it easier or tougher to work with someone you're involved with in real life?

A. I think it does help, in a sense, that you know the other person's instincts and intuitions for what will be right for the part. It was also serious work and I knew that Helena would bring a quirky sense of humor. I also trusted that she had the ability to deal utterly seriously with the gravity of her character's physical condition.

Q. Was it nice for you just to be the actor?

A. It was a relief not to direct. The enjoyment of just acting and having one thing to worry about was delicious. I just had to keep my mind occupied with how I could convey the facets of this troubled, funny and passionate and slightly crazy man. It never occurred to me to start thinking about where you would put the camera.

Q. When was the toughest time for you?

A. I hear actors talk about the hard times, but I am loathe to complain abut anything. I think I've had a very pleasant, privileged time. My notion of hard times would make many people laugh. So prefaced with that, I would say that my toughest time was in the wake of making "Henry V." I felt I arrived at a position in the business where there was a level of attention that I had not remotely anticipated.

Q. How did you cope?

A. The years that followed were hard. It was not like it was any kind of burning tragic part of me, but I found it difficult to adjust myself to what seemed to be expected of me. Honestly, I did not feel myself worthy of the attention or the praise.

Q. What turned it around?

A. It has taken a long time, but now the fame sits much easier with me. At first, I thought this is ridiculous that I'm the subject of this much attention, having made one film. I thought people who are regarded as proper artists, well, this must be driving them mad. I was a slip of a boy when I made `Henry V.' I was 27.

Q. What about dealing with fans?

A. I prize fans. I'm reminded of how these movies touch people, and often make a real difference to people. I've been the recipient of very touching letters from people for whom this work has made a difference. It's not something I take for granted.

Q. Do the British gossip sheets still spy on you?

A. Not that I know of, but perhaps they still do. I'm not terribly worried. . . . People are not waking up this morning in this fine land of yours wondering what I'm up to. It's just as simple as that.

Q. Who do we wake up wondering about these days?

A. You've got Leo and about 9 million people in front of me. They're waking up wondering what's going on with them. Basically when I worry about celebrity, I console myself with the knowledge that as human beings we're more interested in ourselves.

Back to Articles Listing
Back to the Compendium