Kenneth: "I want to wear pink"
Branagh has had three great loves. A cult fiction show on Sky television. A Shakespearean soap opera in the planning. An Oscar on the horizon. But he also has another unrealized dream.
A, 13 August 2009
Has the economic crisis impacted your work?
Yes, very much. It's always difficult to find funding, even for someone like me and it's an awful situation for independent cinema. Producers obviously want to invest to realise profits and when there are few guarantees it's hard to convince them. With respect to the past you've got to work a lot harder and be very creative. Some people assert that this is very motivating. The usual story - a bit hypocritical - that at the end you'll have a high quality product and the best people will be left. But I don't really agree.
Asking Kenneth Branagh questions is quite hard. I certainly couldn't ask a four-time Academy Award nominee, cultured man, distinguished director and Shakespearean actor about his love affairs (two wives, Emma Thompson and, currently, Lindsay Brunnock, as well as a tempestuous relationship with Helena Bonham Carter).
And yet this forty-nine year old Irish actor, who received a career award at the last Roma Fiction Fest and is the main character in the BBC television cult detective series "Inspector Wallander" (recently shown in Italy on Sky), manages to be ironic and funny even when speaking about classical literature and theatre. With similar nonchalance, he moved from "Ivanov" by Chekhov to "Thor", the mythical character from the Marvel comic series: he will be directing the film version with Natalie Portman in the cast. He's also funny as the English, sexually-phobic minister Dormandy in "The Boat that Rocked", playing a politician engaged in a personal vendetta against the rule-breaking deejays broadcasting from a pirate radio station in the North Sea during the Sixties.
The Swedish police commissioner Wallander is also a philosopher. He learns a lot about himself and the human beings around him through daily contact with death. Do you read a lot of crime stories?
For a while I devoured those books. They were scattered throughout the house and my mother also became a fan, later in life. Shakespeare and Agatha Christie are not all that different, even though the former was more interested in the exploration of the dark side of human nature through the complex situations on which he based his dramas, while the latter was interested in the games played among human beings. The devices are the same.
What do you think about showing Shakespeare in prime time?
I would like to make a soap opera about Shakespeare. You'd need a bit of imagination but I think it could work. My cinematographic transpositions of Shakespeare enjoyed success because they were close to original in terms of an autonomous creative experience. Theatre is made of words, cinema is made of images. At the beginning of "Much Ado About Nothing", Shakespeare took an entire page to describe the women's anxiety as they waited for the men to return. I replaced this page with Denzel Washington, riding in on horseback, wearing tights: strong, muscular, virile. Put Denzel in tights and you don't need many words. (He laughs.) Why the women can't wait to have him back is clear to everyone!
George Clooney is going to shoot a movie in L'Aquila. [The Italian city destroyed by an earthquake in 2009] Would you return to Italy to make a movie?
I wish! Italian people are so likeable. The first time I visited this country I was 22. I had just broken up with a girlfriend and been in a play about Saint Francis of Assisi that no one came to see, a huge flop. I was lonely and disconsolate. By chance I found myself in the Campo dei Fiori, in Rome, at seven in the evening. It was like being transported to another world, with clothes in colours and styles that didn't exist in Great Britain. Men wore pink cashmere pullovers. They were wonderful! Since then I've often dreamt about men in pink pullovers but I haven't yet found the courage to wear one myself.