Kenneth Branagh Finally Free of 'Frankenstein'
Denver Rocky Mountain News, November
by Bob Campbell
Still sporting Victor Frankenstein's
fiery beard, Kenneth Branagh brought a dashing air of romantic
exhaustion to the New York hotel suite where he was discussing
his new screen version of Mary Shelley's novel.
''At a certain point I just wanted
to deliver this movie and be done with it,'' he admitted. ''It's
been in my system too long.''
The ordinarily robust actor-director
was emerging from his two-year embrace with Mary Shelley's Frankenstein,
the most faithful American feature version of Shelley's philosophical
parable to date. The movie opens nationwide today. (See 6D for
Branagh has added plenty of bizarre
spectacle to make up for the film's absence of traditional horror
elements, but his movie comes closer to the book's bitter core
than any previous attempt.
Branagh plays the overreaching
Dr. Frankenstein. Robert De Niro is the creature whom he pieces
together from graveyard remnants. As in Shelley's 1818 novel,
this creature is a sentient, sensitive being who launches his
murderous depradations only after he's abandoned by his creator
and ostracized by humankind.
Maddened by despair, he implacably
revenges himself on the father who fails to love him, killing
everything that the father loves in his stead.
''I was playing Hamlet when the
film was offered to me,'' Branagh said lightly, ''so the obsession
with death was already there.''
Knowing only the previous movie
versions, Branagh was amazed when he read the book by the 19-year-old
''It had Shakespeare's scope,''
he said. ''Like a Greek tragedy, it concerned the attainment
of wisdom through suffering. Yet essentially it was a domestic
story about a dysfunctional family.''
Branagh's Frankenstein guiltily
tries to detach himself from his creation and its deeds. The
actor was attracted to the ''central moral debate - who's more
evil? The man who murders the child, or the man who created the
man who murders the child?''
His movie was produced by Francis
Ford Coppola, who had previously filmed Bram Stoker's Dracula.
''Francis originally intended
to direct it himself,'' Branagh said, ''but having spent two
years on Dracula, he felt that he'd done his Gothic bit.''
Branagh says that he and De Niro
worked well together, despite their very different performing
''We got on at a very simple
level,'' said Branagh. ''We made each other laugh. He needs to
feel trusted. Once he knew I trusted his instincts, he became
As actor and director, Branagh
said, ''I don't set things. I vary from take to take. My actors
know that I will always retake a shot if they're unhappy. I think
that helps create an atmosphere of ease.''
Branagh is now a highly visible
Hollywood figure. Rumors, which he shrugs off, have him lined
up to play the younger Obi-Wan Kenobe in George Lucas' new Star
What's next? Star Wars or Shakespeare?
Frankenstein II or the London stage?
''I have no plans,'' Branagh
said with a faded smile. ''I will just follow wherever my passionate
Celtic heart takes me.''
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