Branagh Ad-dresses Celebrity
Toronto Sun, November 19, 1998
by Bob Thompson
NEW YORK -- Kenneth Branagh is
stroking his goatee and waxed moustache in an agitated way. He
doesn't appreciate the facial hair, and he's very public about
"Yes," says the usually
clean-shaven Branagh in his proper English accent, "I have
few complaints apart from this incredibly silly moustache arrangement."
Alas poor Branagh. The
38-year-old is sitting in a mid-town Manhattan hotelroom, and
he's admitting that he's suffering for his art.
Or rather he's explaining that
he's facially dressed for the Barry Sonnenfeld movie version
of the cornball '60s TV show, Wild Wild West, which he's shooting
The movie stars Will Smith and
Kevin Kline as the heroic cowboy crime-fighting team. Branagh
plays the dastardly villain, which apparently requires some sort
He can't talk about the film,
which will be released next summer, although he is not above
"There are fantastic set
designs," whispers Branagh. "And there is a secret
but subtle part of my character, which I can't reveal at this
time. But I can't ride horses."
He chuckles. Branagh is laughing
because he is with a roomful of reporters who abhor being fed
Writing about them is another
thing," says the classically- trained London actor who should
A few years ago he was
royally roasted by the British media for "going Yank"
and divorcing wife Emma Thompson.
Which may or may not bring us
to Branagh's soon-to-be-released endeavour and the reason he's
meeting the press. It's for Woody Allen's Celebrity, which opens
Branagh portrays a New York magazine
writer obsessed with becoming famous. Along the way, the writer
divorces his wife (Judy Davis), falls for a loopy supermodel
(Charlize Theron), and then gets charmed by an actress (Winona
Ryder) half his age.
"It's a penis-led move into
madness," reports Branagh of his character.
To say that Branagh plays Woody
Allen playing the writer is difficult for even Branagh to deny.
"We didn't discuss doing
that," he says. "But his characters usually go through
the same things. They are unlucky at love, they are idealistic,
self-destructive, and hopelessly neurotic."
Straying too far from the Woody
Allen essence can be troublesome.
"I suggested jeans for my
character rather than have him live in the extraordinary world
of corduroy. I heard Woody say to somebody, 'I would never wear
"It seemed like it would
Living like Kenneth Branagh must've
seemed that way, as well. At the height of his break-up melodrama
-- leaving his wife for Frankenstein co-star Helena Bonham Carter
-- the daily Branagh-bashing in the Brit press was overwhelming.
Celebrity, indeed. "It eventually
goes away," he says of the carping. "But it seems like
it's never going to."
Parties and premieres are another
occupational hazard detailed in Celebrity.
Not surprisingly, Branagh has
some considered opinions on those forced social situations, too.
"Those things are dignity
freezers for everybody," he says. "People ferociously
try to grab little bits of you in a really competitive atmosphere.
"Somehow everybody -- stars
and fans -- get caught in the mob hysteria.
"Suddenly, it's lights,
action, cameras. And we're all exposed. And not in a very nice
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