Producer-Director-Writer-Star Branagh Says He's a Regular Guy
Knight Ridder News, May 1993
by Judy Gerstel
CHICAGO -- ``We've always resisted
any, as it were, excessive pursuit of celebrity,'' says Kenneth
Branagh. Well, he sure had us fooled 48 hours earlier.
That would be the day he discoursed on Renaissance comedy with
Kathie Lee and Regis on morning TV.
``I kept saying to him, `You're
so nice and so normal to be a genius,''' revealed Kathie Lee
later. ``A talented young guy,'' Regis called him on camera.
``A good way to get introduced to Shakespeare,'' Regis cooed.
Says Ken appreciatively, ``I'd
be grateful if my audience was their audience.''
Before Kathie Lee and Regis, he dropped in on Katie Couric at
``Today.'' Later that night, he visited David Letterman.
In between, at Rockefeller Center,
he signed copies of his latest book, Much Ado About Nothing,
based on his latest movie, ``Much Ado About Nothing.''
It's a delicious, ripe and radiant production, filmed on location
And now, here is the movie's
producer, director, writer and star, in Al Capone's hometown,
hog butcher to the world, selling Renaissance romantic comedy,
oblivious to the six spots staining his blue silk shirt.
``I was saying to Em this morning,
it's very unreal,'' he explains about finding himself where he
is. This is not an existential crisis he is sharing with his
Oscar-winning wife, Emma Thompson. It is a geographical one.
``I can never believe I'm in America.'' Branagh says
he only feels real when he's rehearsing or performing, ``more
real than luxuriously going from airplane to limo to hotel.''
In pursuit of his regular-guy persona, he explains, ``You see
the world through a slat o' black-tinted glass, and you think,
what the f--- is this?'' There's no doubt that Branagh
began as a regular guy. He was born 32 years ago into a Belfast
working-class family. The details are in Chapter 1 of his 1989
autobiography, Beginning (Chatto & Windus).
Well, you can see the problem.
Publishing an autobiography at age 28 is about as regular as
carrying on about poniards and baldrics, those de rigueur accessories
of Renaissance haberdashery.
Or being nominated for Oscars
as Best Director and Best Actor the first time you make a movie,
as Branagh was for ``Henry V'' in 1988, the same year he made
the cover of Time magazine.
Or playing a brilliant ``Hamlet''
on the London stage after making ``Peter's Friends'' and ``Much
Ado.'' Or being married to Em -- the Englishwoman,
next to Di, most adored at the moment by Americans.
``She knows her lines,'' says Ken about Em. ``She turns up on
So far, Em has been in
every one of Ken's films -- ``Much Ado'' is the fourth -- but
her Oscar for ``Howards End'' may have put her out of his range,
Says Ken about his cast in ``Much
Ado,'' ``They were all doing it for a fraction of what they're
usually paid.'' Em stars next with Anthony Hopkins
in the Merchant Ivory production of Kazuo Ishiguro's comedy of
manners, ``Remains of the Day,'' due out in the fall.
Ken will direct Mary Shelley's
``Frankenstein,'' with himself as the doctor and Robert De Niro
as the creature. He hasn't cast the women's roles yet, but such
topics are not favored chez Branagh.
``When I get home, I want to
close my door and empty my head of all that,'' he says. ``We
usually talk about pretty mundane things in the evening.''
The couple never do interviews together. Nor do they divulge
details in their separate interviews about what happens when
they're together behind the closed door.
Beyond talking up their movies,
Branagh says he and Thompson avoid publicity.
``There's no desire to be a movie
star, in fact,'' he says. ``We don't go to film premieres. I
don't feel comfortable in that kind of situation. I've not cultivated
that kind of thing.
``I don't feel as though we have
to reach some level of celebrity or avoid it.
``At the moment, touch wood,''
says Ken, slapping the coffee table in the luxury suite at the
Four Seasons Hotel, ``it's not unpleasant, at the moment.''
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