News Archive: January 2003 - June 2003

Hi all - a quick update with the other news I mentioned last time, but didn't post:

From Variety, 14 May 2003

Capitol Films will team with Jim Henson's Creature Shop for "Five Children and It," based on E. Nesbit's classic children's novel. Kenneth Branagh, Eddie Izzard and Freddie Highmore will star in the $20 million pic, to be directed by Creature Shop topper John Stephenson.

"It" is the story of five siblings who are sent to stay with their uncle (Branagh) in a strange house by the sea. While exploring, they dig up an ill-tempered 8,000-year-old Psammead, or sand fairy (voiced by Izzard), who grants them one wish a day. But the consequences are never quite what the children intend.

Pic, which starts shooting in July, will blend live action with animatronics and computer graphics. The setting will be considerably updated from the 1902 book's original period, but it will not be explicitly contemporary. Script is by David Solomon, with Nick Hirschkorn and Lisa Henson producing.

The Isle of Man Film Commission will co-finance the project. The producers also are in discussions for coin from the U.K. Film Council's Premiere Fund, which was involved in the development of the project.

There are numerous versions of this all over the papers but no other details. So... we see that the ol' Branagh stone will once again be gathering no moss, since filming overlaps with Edmond, or maybe the gaps between the performances of Edmond. It's probably lucky that KB doesn't "take on the persona 24/7" or he'd be nervewracking to meet... "is this Edmond or the kindly uncle?". Experience has shown, thank goodness, that he's usually in Kenneth Branagh mode. :-)

On the nuptials front, a new article has appeared in the Daily Mail. As you read it you'll realise that you need to reach for the salt, and more than one grain - the bird is a bit thin but there is a lot of stuffing.  :-)  Plus (standing on soapbox) this writer doesn't understand that an architect-designed house is not a sign of arrested development, doesn't understand that (good) architects work with clients and like to do a 'complete' design, that their cups and saucers are nice and people like them! Harumph! (stepping down from soapbox.)

Random notes: Here's a short review of....

In the Ravine (Boston Globe, 1 June 2003)

In Anton Chekhov's abbreviated life he became a master of the short story and a world-renowned dramatist before dying of tuberculosis at age 44. The better known of his many short stories are included in the superb collection ''In the Ravine & Other Short Stories.''

Told in plain language, each is a revealing glimpse at the lives of Russians of nearly 120 years ago. The stories include the novella-length ''In the Ravine,'' a closely examined look at life in a village through the eyes of one family. There are the comic complaints of a hassled train inspector in ''Oh! The Public.'' A favorite is ''The Chorus Girl,'' in which manners - and morality - are examined in light of the class system.

The boredom, desire, idiocy, wisdom, tragedy, and humor of Chekhov's characters remain remarkably fresh. After all, red tape and religious pomposity are still around, still annoying, and sometimes still humorous.

A listener can do no better than to purchase an audiobook read by Kenneth Branagh. This gifted Briton gets under the skin of the characters, making nearly tangible their heartache, confusion, or compassion. He is a talented enough actor so that, thanks to changes in tone and pacing, class differences are made clear through accent and each character sounds quite different from the others.

As with all Naxos productions, complete and edifying liner notes are included.

The Edmond cast/crew is coming together; here's the list from the National Theatre web site:
Lighting Designer: Mark Henderson
Sound Designer: Paul Groothuis
Designer: Michael Pavelka
Director: Edward Hall

: Jude Akuwudike
Edmond : Kenneth Branagh
: Stephen Greif
: Tony Haygarth
: David Kennedy
: Iain Mitchell
: Joseph Mydell
: Nicola Stephenson
: Nicola Walker

We don't know who anyone but Edmond is, so you can have fun betting on who will play who (if it's a slow day or you really need a life :-)).

The July issue of Empire has a feature on Shakespeare DVDs (interesting - read the the whole thing if you can). Here are the KB bits:

Much Ado About Nothing: Kenneth Branagh's greatest Shakespearean achievement, his four-hour Hamlet adaptation, is unavailable on DVD [coming next spring], but this frothy comedy is a worthy runner-up. It's a typically Shakespearean comedy of mistaken identity, awash with sun-kissed luvvies flitting about Italian vistas. Branagh and Emma Thompson relish playing the lovers who anchor the film, stealing the limelight from younger stars Kate Beckinsale and Robert Sean Leonard. As with any Branagh adaptation, the support cast is stellar, and the show is stolen by Michael Keaton playing the fool. Sadly no extras.

Love's Labour's Lost is another appealing Branagh adaptation, this time with singing. Based on one of the Bard's lesser-known peices, it has four male friends headed by Branagh, sworn off women until the Princess of France (Alicia Silverstone) throws a high heel in the works. The setting is moved to 1939 and punctuated by the cast in a series of perfectly choreographed numbers. Extras include a Branagh commentary and deleted scenes.

Henry V sees Kenneth Branagh snapping at Olivier's heels, making his directorial debut with the same film as his hero. It's an audacious gamble since it involves not only a gradnstanding central performance, but als the staging of gory battle aftermaths. Backed by a cast of theatrical gods, Branagh succeeds admirably. Following in Olivier's footsteps again, Branagh includes no DVD extras.

The Tony Awards will be presented this Sunday (8 June, 8 pm EST). The web site says the cast of The Play What I Wrote will make an appearance. And hopefully the play will win an award! Stay tuned.

Two blast-from-the-past photos to end with: Henry V: "Heigh Ho Silver!" (er, Golden) and Henry V: "Charge!".
(5 June, thanks Film Lover, Jane, Catherine, Jude)

Dahlings! Major popping of corks!! Kenneth Branagh and Lindsay Brunnock have married! I'll just pause while you pick yourselves up off the floor..... :-) .... here's the BBC story:

Branagh Marries in Secret
Actor Kenneth Branagh has wed his girlfriend Lindsay Brunnock in a "private" ceremony.

Branagh marries in secret
Actor Kenneth Branagh has married his girlfriend Lindsay Brunnock in a secret ceremony. The star confirmed he tied the knot at the weekend and is now enjoying his honeymoon at an undisclosed ceremony. His publicist said the wedding was a "small, private" affair and no other details were released.

Branagh, 42, was previously married to fellow actor Emma Thompson but they split in 1996. He then had a long relationship with Helena Bonham Carter, with whom he worked on the film Frankenstein.

The star met art director Brunnock on the set of the Channel 4 drama Shackleton two years ago as Branagh was playing the adventurer Ernest Shackleton.

Branagh is fiercely protective of his private life and has not spoken about the courtship of his new wife. He is best-known for his Shakespearean roles such as directing and starring in Hamlet and Much Ado About Nothing. But he recently reached a new audience playing the vain professor Gilderoy Lockhart in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.

One labour of love for Branagh was directing the West End production The Play What I Wrote, a tribute to Morecombe and Wise, which featured a celebrity guest appearance every evening.

There are numerous variations of this story all over the wires. Now, for those who can't remember what the lovely Lindsay looks like - which would not be a surprise since she only got one public-outing-with-photos during the boyfriend/girlfriend stage - you can take a look here. I wonder if she will get to go out more now, heh heh.

And for those who don't read this column regularly (as a lot of it is just my drivel I understand entirely!) here is a quick History of Kenneth and Lindsay: Beginning, Early Middle (see the photos linked above, there is nothing else - these two get the "Victorious in their Privacy" medal... darn), Late Middle and Maturity (see above). I'll bet the crossover from Late Middle to Maturity was exciting... :-)     Aha! Just as I was rereading this (not that I ever catch the typos anyway) I was sent a "sums it up" article, which you can read here.

Congratulations Lindsay and Kenneth!

There is other news but the day job calls and I'll have to add it later. There has been (finally!) an update to the New Pics. What this means is that the links for photos in this News section have been added to the Photo Gallery, with the New Pics section available as a way to view only the new ones quickly (given the endlessness of the Photo Gallery - another project I'm working on, ha!).

(28 May, thanks Ahab, Sandra, Ginny and the multitudes)

Time for the official Compendium cheer: WOOOOO HOOOOO! (Hi Ngoc!)  The Play What I Wrote has been nominated for a Tony Award in the "Unique Theatrical Experience" (you can say that again) category. Yay! There is a short article here.

Slightly more unnerving news - but with a happy ending - Roger Moore gave everyone a scare during one of his appearances as the Mystery Guest Star during the play - here is the story from BBC News:

James Bond actor Roger Moore has been taken to hospital in New York after collapsing on stage during a show. The 75-year-old actor was singing and dancing during a performance of The Play What I Wrote on Broadway when he collapsed.

He is being treated in a Manhattan hospital for respiratory problems, and said to be in a stable condition. The actor's assistant Gareth Owen said the actor was not seriously ill. "He had breathing difficulties but he carried on with the show," he said. "Then he was taken to hospital. They kept him in overnight. They took him in to be sure he was going to be fine."

Audiences first thought the collapse was part of the actor's routine, but soon realised it was a genuine health scare.

'Huge cheer'

The show's stars, Right Size comics Sean Foley and Hamish McColl, told the Lyceum Theatre audience the show would be taking a short break after Moore is said to have told McColl: "I think I've fainted, old boy."

Mr Owen said Moore had got short of breath and fallen down, and that other actors had mopped his brow and helped him continue his performance. Moore received "a huge cheer" when he returned to the stage, dressed in lederhosen, for the last part of his role. The actor managed to complete the last ten minutes, and still dressed in his lederhosen costume, was then taken by paramedics to the St Luke's and Roosevelt Hospital in Manhattan.

"He is very comfortable and doing well. I've spoken to his agent and he's fine. It's just one of those things," Owen said. He added that Moore had been doing "an awful lot" in the last few weeks, including hosting the Night of a Thousand Stars show at London's Royal Albert Hall on the weekend. "He is 75 so you've got to bear that in consideration," he said.

Moore was playing a cameo role in the show, written by Foley and McColl and directed by Kenneth Branagh. He is the latest of several stars to do the guest spot in New York, after Liam Neeson, Kevin Kline, Alan Alda and Jeff Goldblum. The play, which started in London in 2001, is an homage to the double act comedy of Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise.

Roger Moore took over the role of 007 agent James Bond in 1973 in the film Live and Let Die, after becoming a cult star playing the suave hero Simon Templar in the TV series The Saint. In recent years he has campaigned on behalf of the United Nations' children's charity Unicef.

The epxression "bear that in consideration" is enough to make me short of breath, but that's because I am warped from a long stint of teaching English in Italy in my youth (also explains why I can't get enough of Fortunes of War... well, not really - must be the acting, after all). Anyway, Roger got a pacemaker and is right as rain - hurray!

And that is all the news for today. There are two new photos today, from a Japanese book featuring British Actors: "Sure you can take a photo of lean, fabulous, blue-eyed me! #1 and "Sure you can take a photo of lean, fabulous, blue-eyed me! #2.   :-)
(12 May, thanks Paula V., Deborah, Jude)

I have been imitating Multi-tasKen and fixing up neglected bits of the Compendium (though not half of what *should* be done). So you can get the info about last year's birthday project and previous projects; and you can read more about the Ulster Association of Youth Drama (UAYD) and see a bunch of photos of Kenneth with happy Renaissance Award and Ken-Friends Bursary winners.

After a hiccup in which the Edmond poster appeared for a few hours and then disappeared ("ohmigod, you haven't put that up have you! it's way too early! take it down!") it is back, along with information about the play and the news that tickets go on sale to the public (as opposed to 'Friends of the National') on May 19. You can check it out at the National Theatre site or on our very own Edmond page. In the poster image KB looks like he's just been told to do 100 sit-ups, heh heh (refraining from naughty comment on Belfast photos ;-)). Yeah, yeah - fits the role and all (especially that 'd' pointing at his temple, gulp), I know.

The Play What I Wrote! More awards possible: it has been nominated for a Drama Desk Award in the "Unique Theatrical Experience" category. This snippet from Playbill lets you know how you can watch the awards:

Two-time Tony Award winner and current star of Nine, Chita Rivera, will host the 2003 Drama Desk Awards May 18 at the Concert Hall in F.H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts at Lincoln Center. The Drama Desk is an organization of theatre critics, editors and reporters. In a change from the past seven years, the May 18 ceremony will not be broadcast live on NY1 or rebroadcast on PBS' Channel 13. Instead, the event will be webcast by TheaterMania. Executive director Robert R. Blume said video highlights of the evening will be available on the web within 48 hours. Blume said the television networks dropped out "because of budgetary problems."
Also... until June 1 you can see The Play What I Wrote for the most excellent price of $50! For information see The Play What I Wrote page.

With Rabbit-Proof Fence opening in Europe a site with LOTS of photos has opened Germany. Check it out!

Click here to see two über-cute photos of Kenneth at the NT Travelex £10 Season launch. And here you can see him on the side of a bus, and clinging to a wall (Helmut, eat your heart out :-)). That's all for now!
(4 May, thanks Naomi, Jude, Robyn, Claire, Jane, Nadine, Bertilla)

So, I have just spent a weekend (in the most innocent way, with 50 other people :-)) with the erudite, charming and articulate Rod Stoneman, Executive Director of the Irish Film Board (phonetics, for when you next see this: Bord Scannán na hÉireann = Bord ScanNAN na HERE-an). And seen a load of films (three full-length [look for 'Disco Pigs'] and many short-shorts [don't miss 'Give Up Yer Aul Sins']) and, here in the land that got started early with national film funding, have heard and seen more of what a little support can do. So, it's very nice to report that the Northern Ireland film industry will be receiving, mega-pounds, to become a hub of creativity. Mr. Branagh is the Honorary President of the Northern Ireland Film and Television Commission (NIFTC) and you can read some articles about the funding, along with a quote from him. By the way, if you're wondering why he never seems to turn up in the Queen's Honours lists, it's probably because the BBC refers to him as Sir Kenneth Branagh - yet again - in their coverage of this - HRH probably thinks she's already done him right...

Rabbit-Proof Fence is showing in Europe. The Region I (North American) DVD is out, with the "Making of..." documentary narrated by Kenneth (not the case on the Australian version). I have added one new review to the Rabbit-Proof Fence page.

Meanwhile, Shackleton is arriving on Japanese television. It will be airing 1 and 2 May on the satellite channel NHK BS-2. You can get information here :

"Bring me sunshine, bring me awards..." From the New York Times, 22 April:


"The Play What I Wrote" will compete with "Enchanted April", "Take Me Out" and "Vincent in Brixton" for the designation of outstanding Broadway play in balloting by the Outer Critics Circle. The group of more than 75 critics and writers on New York theatre for out-of-town newspapers, national publications and other media beyond Broadway announced its nominees yesterday for honors in 22 categories. The winners will be announced on May 5.

There are a couple of new short articles from Newsweek and People magazine available on The Play What I Wrote page (scroll down). has a page of quotes from the opening night party of The Play What I Wrote - here's one... :-)

"The show's a very benign thing. It's not like a roast. It's lots of silly gags about their names--Kevin Kline was on tonight and there were a lot of references to Calvin Klein and Patsy Cline. We have that kind of fun rather than embarrassing or humiliating them. The audiences are on the guest's side but they adore the guests putting up with this kind teasing, with the idea that they are genuinely taking seriously the idea of being in this very silly play."
--Kenneth Branagh
For the visual ending... a photo of KB and James Nesbitt at the BAFTAs, presumably at towards the end of the festivities, the ties are gone and 'we are not quite as spiffy as at the outset'. :-)

And, filling in some holes in the gallery: the poster from Henry V, and two shots of a serious Henry. More to come.
(27 April, thanks Celia, Misato, Jane, Nancy, Claire, Jude)

Hello Kenites - I am sure I have forgotten some news article but the cyber-desk is too messy and I'm attempting to update the "New Photos" section (so new it's dated 2002!), so just to tide you over (somehow the Easter hols did not manage to be the four days of intensive Compendium updating I was planning... taxes, summer tires, cooking for kith and kin - all managed to elbow their way in...sigh...), anyway, to tide you over: Debonair at the BAFTAs (before being robbed! :-)) and with his sis, Joyce, who accompanied him.

Also, looking 12 at 28, promoting Henry V; and (the ones we like best) a 'real-life' photo: Kenneth with Michael Bishop at the opening of Richard Clifford's "Elizabeth the Queen" in Washington D.C. More as soon as possible!
(21 April, thanks Nadine, Jude, Michael)

Super-quickie update: as one might have predicted the double nomination for Kenneth at the BAFTAs split the vote and Albert Finney won the Best Actor award... I don't think anyone will begrudge it him!   BUT... drumroll..... both Shackleton and Conspiracy won for Drama Serial and Single Drama respectively! I'm sure those sterling performances in the main role helped a bit. :-) KB was there with an as-yet-unidentified lady (hopefully the Sherlocks are on this as we speak), looking very smart in his tux.

What I forgot the last time: a photo from the New York Post, showing Matthew Broderick, Sean Foley, Sarah Jessica Parker, Amy Sedaris, Nathan Lane, Toby Jones and Kenneth, after a performance The Play What I Wrote.

And photos of Jane with Kenneth and Paula V. with Kenneth, both taken after a performance of The Play What I Wrote.

And, the last thing I remember I forgot: Listening, the short film KB wrote and directed, was shown at the Tampere Film Festival in Finland in March, and will hopefully be on view at other festivals during the year.
(13 April, thanks Catherine, Grace, Jane, Paula)

Hi friends - this will probably be another short update, as I've got a late start (it's that time of year again...Parent/student exchange: "Can I use the computer for a while?" "I'm doing work, and I have tons to do!" "I'm sure you can take a short break..." "I'm going to fail!" "Is that why you're playing solitaire?" "I'm multi-tasking, like your idol, Kenneth Branagh!").

So without further ado: read an article by Kenneth Branagh about bringing in guest stars for The Play What I Wrote. There are more reviews now, also linked from the Play What I Wrote page : A Manic Masterpiece, New Dogs and Old Tricks; Loons Migrate Across Pond: Silly Brits Take Broadway , and The Play They Wrote Is All in Good Fun. Almost all the reviews have been glowing - one or two 'my-brow-is-lower-than-yours' types "didn't get it" and a couple of critics did a good job of revealing that they were actually dead (which is what you obviously are if you don't have a good time at this show), but we'll just leave them on their curmudgeonly island. I think Foley and McColl should be awarded honorary Olympic gold medals for their physical stamina, on top of the kudos for their performances.


From the New York Post, 4 April:
. . . Kenneth Branagh getting a note from a secret admirer at Nobu, causing his dinner companion Nathan Lane to joke that he was jealous.

Cindy Adams, New York Post, 3 April:

The London import, "The Play What I Wrote," just opened and what it's about is God knows what. Slapstick, pratfalls, pie in the face. No theme, no message, no wrench at your gizzard. We're talking fall-down funny. Just what a war-torn, economically depressed, cigarette ravaged citizenry needs.

Opening-nighter Billy Crystal, who knows from comedy, distilled the difference between British and American humor: "They're bawdier."

Alan Cumming, whilst illegally lighting up: "Yes, we're [puff] more [puff] vulgar. But [puff puff puff puff puff] I like that ... and I'd better finish now before they [puffffffffffff] arrest me."

The Lyceum was lousy with Brits. So, Roger Moore on the difference: "We may be bawdy or vulgar, but we're entitled to be." What exactly that means, I don't know but he's richer than I am, so I figure he's smarter.

Kenneth Branagh, who directed the thing: "The difference is in the rhythm and American audiences seem ready to laugh without cynicism."

For luck, co-producer David Pugh carried a stick of newspaper type. "My dad set type for the Times and gave me this when he did something about Broadway. For a boy in the middle of England, Broadway was far from reality ... and here I am now on Broadway carrying his stick of type."

The whole night was far from reality. Ticket-taker John said to me: "I'm temporarily here from the Barrymore. I'm back there April 11 when Al Pacino starts previews of 'Salome.' "

And as the "Chicago" Oscar-winner arrived, a camera man yelled: "That's the producer ... " to which Marty Richards grandly replied: "You bet your ass."

Rush and Malloy, Daily News, 1 April:
Kenneth Branagh had funny folk on stage and off at Sunday's opening of "The Play What I Wrote" -- a play what Branagh directed. Turning out to see Sean Foley, Hamis McColl and Toby Jones perform at the Mansfield [sic] Theater were Billy Crystal, Nathan Lane, Eddie Izzard, Michael Palin, Christine Baranski, Alan Cumming, Rosie Perez and John Lithgow.

You can see photos from opening night at

Final snippet: Kenneth attended the premiere of Richard Clifford's production of "Elizabeth the Queen" in Washington D.C., which prompted this in the Washington Post:

Leave it to scene-stealer Kenneth Branagh to draw stares at a performance he's not even in. At Wednesday night's opening of the Folger Theatre's production of Maxwell Anderson's drama "Elizabeth the Queen," the 42-year-old British actor sat in a back row with his good friend and fellow Brit, director Richard Clifford. "Everybody was atwitter," said audience member M. J. Jacobsen. "I was atwitter." This from a woman whose husband, Rick Foucheux plays the Fool in the show.
And, more "my doesn't he look good dressed up!" photos from the opening night of The Play What I Wrote. More as soon as I win another computer wrestling match and/or manage to start before 11:30 pm. :-)
(9 April, thanks Deborah, Jane, Virginia, Karen, Jude, Nadine)

2be-or-not-to-beanskies! The big news is... Hamlet will be available on DVD next spring (2004)! You can read about it here. Let the wild dancing through the house (in whatever state of [un]dress you may be) begin!

I have reviews of The Play What I Wrote and an article by Himself but they will have to wait a titch (pesky daily life is interfering as usual), but to tide you over I have put up the New York Times review here.

More stuff soon, but a big finale with a phwoar-phwoar-phwoarsome photo from the Broadway premiere of The Play What I Wrote.
(2 April, thanks Jude, Nadine)

Kensterinos! The BAFTA nominators (is that what they're called?) have given Kenneth Branagh not one, but two nods this year: he's running against himself for Best Actor as Ernest Shackleton (in the television film of the same name) and as Richard Heydrich in Conspiracy. He's also running against Albert Finney and James Nesbitt, not slouches in the acting category, as we well know, but hey! it's the nominations that count. (If he wins, it's the winning that counts - we make out own rules here.)  Here is one announcement article:

Independent,17 March 2003
Branagh Earns Two Shots at Bafta Best Actor Award
By Paul Peachey

Kenneth Branagh has received a double nomination for best actor at this year's Bafta television awards for his acclaimed performances in Shackleton and Conspiracy.

The nominations announced today also include three for The Kumars at No. 42 and one for John Pilger's documentary on the Middle East that incurred the displeasure of Michael Green, the chairman of Carlton Television, which made the programme.

Branagh is the only person to receive two nominations in the best actor category since the awards - now officially named the British Academy Television Awards - split from the film section in 1998. His portrayal of Sir Ernest Shackleton in the £10m production for Channel 4 provided one of the network's great hits of the year. It chronicles the explorer's escape after the failure of his 1914 expedition to Antarctica. The actor has already won an Emmy for playing SS General Reinhard Heydrich in BBC2's 'Conspiracy', which dramatises the meeting at which leading Nazis worked out how to rid Europe of Jews.

Branagh's nominations pit him against Albert Finney, as Sir Winston Churchill in 'The Gathering Storm', and James Nesbitt in 'Bloody Sunday'. The awards, held on 13 April and hosted by Anne Robinson at the London Palladium, will be broadcast on BBC1.

And here is a bit from the Radio Times, 22-28 March 2003:
"Is It A Kenspiracy?

He's always been a BAFTA favourite, but this year Kenneth Branagh's double nomination is proof that TV is having no problem bagging the best of British talent.

To receive a Bafta nomination just once is a great honour. To receive two nominations in the same category in the same year is almost unheard of. One of Britain's greatest actors, however, Kenneth Branagh, has done just that, for Branagh could win best actor for his superlative performance in either Conspiracy or Shackleton at the Radio Times-sponsored awards, being held at the London Palladium on Sunday 13 April.

Branagh's double whammy of nomination is an example of how television is becoming an increasingly attractive choice for our heavyweight film and theatrical talent."

There is a picture which accompanies the article. It appears to be another fabulous photo by Jason Bell who took a favourite of mine for the Hats Off charity book. Conspiracy and Shackleton are also nominated for Single Drama and Drama Serial respectively). You can see all the nominees at Stay tuned!

The Play What I Wrote Updates:
The "official web site" still hasn't been updated (harrumph) but we have heard that Zoe Caldwell and Nathan Lane have taken a turn. Three articles from the US press have been added to the TPWIW page which is growing like the beanstalk (they'll be getting Jack as a 'mystery guest') until I have time to think about rearranging it. You can also read an article about KB from this phase of press coverage.

Here is a quote that comes from Matt Wolf, Variety's London theatre critic, in an article about Broadway in The Evening Standard (13 March 2003):

"And, yet, the British are scarcely abandoning Broadway. [...] And Kenneth Branagh is in town for the forthcoming Broadway premiere of his production of The Play What I Wrote. (Talk about anomalous: a comedy inspired by two Britons, Morecambe and Wise, who are unknown in the US.) Branagh, wise to the risks involved, takes a savvy practitioner's overview. 'If it works, it will work big,' he says. And if it doesn't? 'We'll be home the next day.' "

And finally, Cindy Adams had a poignant story in her New York Post column under the headline "SCAMPS DOGNAP STUFFED STAR". Unfortunately I have lost the story on my virtual messy desk (and the NYP now wants $$$US for this 4-liner) but the gist was that the stuffed dog Alfred, who appears in the show, was tossed into the orchestra pit during a performance with a note saying "Please return to a member of the house staff," but instead he went missing. Rover, the understudy, has taken over, but The Boys want Alfred back! So, if the dognapper is reading this... let your conscience be your guide!

Photo finish: continuing the walk down memory lane from last time... from the time of the Renaissance Theatre Company's production of Hamlet: Channelling Hamlet and holding Yorick in front of a postcard view; 'Princes' Mutual Admiration Society', and "I dare you not to love me!". Rushing up to the present day, a drop-dead shot from the London premiere of Rabbit-Proof Fence (aka "I still dare you not to love me!", heh heh).
(22 March, thanks Catherine, Jane, Virginia, Jude)

Greetings! You can see Kenneth Branagh and his The Play What I Wrote stars doing the loaves and fishes thing with tea and scones on the TPWIW page. So far, the mystery guests during the first two weeks of previews have been Roger Moore and Liam Neeson. The official web site is being updated for NYC (unfortunately they haven't kept the London version of the site as a link) so you can expect to find news there soon.

Here's a story about a group of people who hope the play will be a hit:

From icLiverpool

Theatre staff bet on Broadway hit Mar 12 2003
By Joe Riley, Arts Editor

LIVERPOOL Playhouse staff are seeking future fortune on Broadway. There to help them will-be stars like Julia Roberts and George Clooney.

A 15-strong Playhouse team, including executive director Josephine Beddoe and board members, are backing a former award-winning Liverpool show about to open in New York. The Morecambe and Wise tribute comedy, The Play What I Wrote, was premiered at the Playhouse in 2001, directed by Kenneth Branagh. It went on to win a West End Olivier Award and became famous for its surprise guest appear-ances by famous names. This week's first Broadway preview featured former James Bond actor Roger Moore. Now Julia Roberts and George Clooney are among those said to be waiting in the wings for when the play opens in New York on March 30.

Jo Beddoe said: "This is fantastic news and we have put our money where our mouth is. If all goes well, we will double our stake." The Playhouse "bet" of £1,500 has been placed in 75 units of £20. "It's a good bit of fun," said Ms Beddoe. "If we come up trumps, I shall give my stake back to the Playhouse towards a bursary for new talent."

The Liverpool theatre is hoping the comedy, written by and starring Hamish McColl and Sean Foley, will run on Broadway for at least eight months. It is the first time a major Liverpool show has been seen in America's theatre capital since Bill Kenwright took the Playhouse production of Willy Russell's musical, Blood Brothers to New York exactly 10 years ago.

Fingers crossed!

You can read another article related to the Small Steps campaign in Northern Ireland here.

The Mile-High/Tall Tale story has bounced back and forth across the Atlantic (and I will maintain decorum and not make all the jokes that are just calling out to me...), taking on a life of its own, and catapulting KB into the superstar sphere of being written about in the National Enquirer. And because the Compendium publishes all the news that's fit to print, and sometimes that which is not, here is the article, with the lady named (so much for my Lindsay theory - do your own carbon-dating) and new characters (can we expect the entire passenger list by the end? :-) )....

--I'm always gossiping about the usual scandal suspects, but it's high time I went highbrow! Here's my cultural report on respected Shakespearean thespian and "Harry Potter" star Kenneth Branagh, who (drum roll, please!) just joined the randy ranks of . . . the Mile-High Club! (OH, I SAY . . . ABSOLUTELY WIZARD, OLD BOY!!) Branagh and comely lady-in-waiting Laura Burrows, a film production assistant, boarded a British Airways flight to LA along with such first-class celebs as Simon Cowell of "American Idol," etc., and -- after some refreshing cocktails -- "they were all over each other, pawing and snogging in their seats," says my flywitness. "Finally, Kenneth and Laura went to the rest room and were gone a looong time! When they came out and walked back to their seats, everyone in the cabin was giggling and snickering!" (What? Simon was aboard -- and he wasn't asked to judge?)
I think this was the apex and it will all peter out  :-)  from now on. Fun, though.

Three new photos from waaay back: Getting the wide-eyed look for Renaissance Theatre's "Much Ado About Nothing", Fluffy hair and fluffy shirt for the same production; Fluffy hair, fluffy shirt and fluffy tie!.

More soon!
(12 March, thanks Jude)

Attention! If you live in New York City you can have Kenneth Branagh, Hamish McColl, Sean Foley and/or Toby Jones offer you a cup of tea and a scone on Monday, 3 March around 9:30 am. The only thing you have to do is wait in line to purchase super-cheap tickets ($1 - $5!) for the first previews of The Play What I Wrote (having seen it twice I can assure you that you will not be wasting your time). Is there any New Yorker insane enough not to do this? Get thee to the Lyceum Theatre, Kenites! Details on The Play What I Wrote page.

Public service announcement #2.... if you have been thinking about taking the kidlets to see the greatest Shakesperian actor of our time, Edmond might not be the fist choice. This is known as one of David Mamet's "darkest" plays, so you might want to go to the library and read it first. Slightly off topic - During the Summer of Love (history pop quiz: what year was this?) David Mamet spent a couple of months in Montreal as an actor in a repertory company. I am sure he has blocked out all memory because as a wide-eyed go-fer (official term: 'apprentice') I (and everyone else) was only too aware that this was not a happy experience. Most of the other actors were UKers, laid-back and comfortable around the 'kitchen sink', while DM did voice exercises, fretted about everything, didn't get the jokes and didn't drink beer. The twain n'er met. He left early. Everyone sighed with relief. Ultimately he showed 'em, I guess. :-)

Backt to regularly scheduled programming: Kenneth is the Honourary President of NICVA (Northern Ireland Council for Voluntary Action: "an umbrella body for voluntary, community and charitable groups in Northern Ireland") and you can read an article on their website (for the moment) or here regarding his backing of their One Small Step campagaign.

News about another possible role:

From the Teletext
Branagh Short to Become Feature
A short film called Schneider's 2nd Stage starring Kenneth Branagh is being remade as a feature-length movie.       Branagh may star if it gets financing and if he is available. This year he's starring in play Edmond in the West End and directing The Play What I Wrote on Broadway.
      The thriller is about an idyllic community rocked by the disappearance of a young girl. Writer/director Phil Stoole will also direct the feature.

Kenneth Branagh in 2nd Stage Feature
Friday, February 21, 2003 12:53 CST

U.K. production company Random Harvest has acquired the rights to produce a feature-length version of the 16-minute short Schneider's 2nd Stage, starring Kenneth Branagh. Variety reports that writer/director Phil Stoole will make his directorial debut on the feature version.
      Branagh is in talks to reprise his starring role in the feature subject to pic being financed and his own availability. He has next committed to star in a West End stage version of David Mamet's play "Edmond", from June through early October, and he is also heading to Broadway to direct "The Play What I Wrote," after a successful West End run.
      "Stage" is a psychological thriller about an idyllic community torn apart by the disappearance of a young girl.

Schnieder's 2nd Stage was brilliant - so keep your fingers crossed!

And we move to the Tall Tales (or maybe 'High Tales' is more appropriate) section of the news. You should head to the salt mine and fill up a few sacks before reading this one:

From the 'Day&Night' column Daily Express, 28 February 2003

"Could luvvie Kenneth Branagh have become the latest member of the mile high club? The 42-year-old actor and director, star of Hamlet amd Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, and former husband of Emma Thompson, was reportedly spotted getting somewhat close to a film production assistant in the first-class section of a British Airways flight to Los Angeles.

" 'After some cocktails they were looking very friendly indeed,' says our girl trying to look the other way.

" 'Finally, they went to the restroom and were gone a while. When they came out and walked back to their seats, some passengers in the cabin were giggling and sniggering.' Surely not."

It sounds as though a sighting of Kenneth and Lindsay Brunnock billing and cooing way back when (maybe they were heading to that cruise Down Under) grew in depth and content (ahem) as it was passed on, finally reaching whoever writes this lofty (giggle) stuff.

There are 18 fantabulous photos from the 1992/3 RSC performance of Hamlet at this web site. This is an excellent educational site about Hamlet, sponsored by MIT, the Folger Shakespeare Library, Mellon Foundation, NEH and other deep-pocketed institutions. I won't put the photos on the site but you'll be missing something if you don't go and have a look.

I have to take a long hard look at the Photo Gallery (I've lost control over what is there and not) but once again the site is in bandwidth jail (I think 15,000 hits per day is the magic number, though the hosting service still talks about "unmetered bandwidth" - HA!) so for the moment I offer you the one photo that I know is not yet on the site: taking a break as Lee Simon in Celebrity.
(2 March, thanks Margaret, Seamus, Catherine, Nadine, Teresa)

Quickie - the articles are up: read the Evening Standard here, and the Guardian here. That's all!
(20 February, thanks Catherine, Claire, Veronica)

Woooo hoooo!!! The predicted wailing and moaning (one Steve Coogan will be playing Pepys... I'm ashamed not to know who he is, someone amusing evidently, with a website which indicates - though not entirely clearly - that he's created some popular stock characters), jacked up a notch by getting my once-every-ten-years flu, has been dissipated in an instant!

Yes, Virginia, there is Christmas in July. And the present is a doozy: Kenneth Branagh at the National Theatre in Edmond by David Mamet, directed by Edward Hall. The run will be from July until October, with a large number of economy priced tickets. My unböring life hasn't left me time to put the articles up but you'll have them by Friday. This update allows you to start popping the corks.  :-)

And there can be more cork-popping to celebrate the London Film Critics Award to Kenneth as British Actor of the Year in a Supporting Role, for Gilderoy Lockhart in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. (He also won the Bring-the-Compendium-to-Its-Knees Award for this role, since his popularity [aka 'let's download his picture'] knocks it out for hours daily.)

Just so we aren't totally without visuals: Anna and friends after The Play What I Wrote.

More soon!
(19 February, thanks Jude, Catherine, countless other kind lovelies, Anna)

Hey guys! A sign of life (albeit a recorded one) from Himself - Conspiracy was selected as having the "Best Drama Moment" in the BBC TV Moments of 2002, broadcast on 1 February, and this is what Kenneth said regarding the recognition:

"Thank you Jonathan. On behalf of everyone who worked on Conspiracy, I’d like to thank you for this special recognition. The BBC and the HBO bravely chose to produce this drama, which involved 15 men, in one room talking, for 90 minutes, about the very beginning of one of the most heinous episodes in human history, the grim, insidious horror of the Wannsee conference which unleashed the holocaust. It was almost unbearable to perform, to watch or even to imagine, except of course that it really happened. As part of our research, many of us visited holocaust museums and the reason for their existence is summed up in the phrase, "Lest we forget." So thank you to everyone who was brave enough to watch Conspiracy and not to forget."
In a somewhat related note, this item by Richard Brooks appeared in the Sunday Times the next day:
"Who wants to play Hitler? Not Kenneth Branagh, who was recently sounded out about portrayinh him in a planned ITV drama about the rise of the Fuhrer and his two-timing of Eva Braun abd his niece, Geli. I always knew Hitler was a rum fellow.

"ITV wanted a big star, and went for our Ken. But Branagh, who played the Nazi Reinhard Heydrich in the BBC drama Conspiracy in 2001, declined. Wary of typecasting, I suspect. Another biggish name, Alan Cummings, was put up but rejected."

There's no wailing and moaning about this, I'm sure.

On to potential wailing and moaning, but I'm trying not to care... apparently the BBC is actually going to make the Samuel Pepys mini-series which was planned quite a few years ago and would probably have had Kenneth Branagh as Pepys. It did not happen then, but the exquisite audio editon of the Diaries, read by KB, created terrible feelings of longing for what might have been. Casting for the series has not been announced (at least not to us plebes)...for all we know You-Know-Who might not even want to do it, but I'll be blue in any case if it's not him. Meanwhile, Claire Tomalin won the Whitbread Award for her biography of Samuel Pepys (Samuel Pepys: the Unequalled Self) (the bio probably woke up the BBC) and an illuminated lady wrote this letter to the New York Times Book Review:

"To the Editor:
In his review of Claire Tomalin's Samuel Pepys: the Unequalled Self, (Dec. 29), Charles McGrath refers people interested in Pepys's diary to the Internet for the complete text and to Robert Latham's abridgment. Might I suggest the excellent audio version offered by the HighBridge Company? The text is brought to life in Kenneth Branagh's splendid reading."
Regarding Gilderoy Lockhart... if you have a fairly fast internet connection you can have a hilarious time watching Gilderoy sing "I'm Too Sexy". Go to and click on "Mr. Gilderoy Lockhart". Definitely worth the trip, and also worth ages of 'buffering' if you're on a modem (like moi).

A related note again: the December 2002 Ladies Home Journal has a short Q&A with Daniel Radcliffe (and if you don't know who he is you fail Pop Cult 101). He was asked, "Do you have a role model?" to which he answered: "Kenneth Branagh. Apart from being one of the best actors in the country, he is one of the nices people I ever met." This kid has a big future.  :-)

And more lovely news, from Nancy Ruff, the producer of How to Kill Your Neighbor's Dog: the film will be opening in France on March 5. The French title is Comment tuer le chien de son voisin and so far the reviews (it has played at numerous festivals) have been positive, "with much praise for Ken". So, tout le monde au cinéma!

Also, Leonard Maltin named How to Kill Your Neighbor's Dog his 'favorite film of the year that no one got to see' on his show. So... if you haven't seen it run to the video store now!

Final random note: Rabbit-Proof Fence will be out on DVD (North America) on April 15. In one of those breathtakingly opportunistic moves - given that they couldn't be bothered to promote the film - they have given Kenneth 1/3 of the image space. No complaints from the Compendium... you can see the cover here.

The promised covers are now up. I think they're the last for a while (and I'm not crying because jiggling the tables to fit them in is enough to turn me into Shane McGowan (ex-Pogues), off topic but I just saw a film about him, heh heh). In no particular order they are: the UK paperback edition of Beginning; three German editions of Shakespeare - Henry V; Much Ado About Nothing; Hamlet; an edition of Hamlet with a judiciously selected cover; three publications relating to Mary Shelley's Frankenstein - MSF, ooh!; MSF, ooh la!; MSF, ooh la la!; an Italian biography and the unauthorised-so-the-author-read-a-lot-of-old-newspapers-so-you-don't-have-to-do-it Ken & Em.

Enough for today! Addendum: in reviewing I have realised that I forgot a cover - aaaarrrghh!! As I'm invited out to dinner, stringing myself up is not an option. So there will be another cover next time. Sigh.
(9 February, thanks Ellie, Catherine, Virgina, Hannah, Nancy, Jude, Tanya, Nadine)

Apologies for the long silence - and the very short 'chiming up' that this will be... there hasn't been much (any) news and I've been having an enduring Shackleton experience walking to work in -19 C (not even mentioning the 'wind chill factor' they love to bandy about) for the last 2 weeks or so. And then there are those pesky real life demands upon your time ("it's winter, why don't you just all go and hibernate?"). But this just to let you know we are still here (and I have some new covers which I will put up later this week).

There was another lazy-journalist-reheats-old-"bash-hash"-regarding-Kenneth-Branagh article in the Guradian last week. Must have been a slow time. I'm excercising my censorship rights because it's too limp to warrant server space: the statement "his visual sense is non-existent" should tell you a lot, or at least that the hack is blind. The gist is that villains (Gilderoy?) are KB's true calling. Uhm, okay.....

There were also a bunch of articles saying that a movie called 'Therapy', which was to star ex-Spice Girl Gerri Halliwell has been cancelled because they couldn't find a suitable male lead. KB was listed as one of the actors who turned down the part. Whatever.

The last bit today is more interesting... from Modern Hamlets & Their Soliloquies by Mary Z. Maher comes this quote from Kenneth:

"We use music where we think it works, where it may help to move the story along and make it easier to listen to. It's always been a subject of debate in the films that we've made - many people are concerned that there is too much music and that it clashes against the verse.

I don't have music on in my house as a kind of 'audio fur' for background. I'm a man of silence and when I listen to music I listen to music. But when I've made a decision in film, I do it because I feel it's right to do so, partly embracing the medium in which we are involved, and partly creating a new medium within it. We're taking plays that were written for a dialogue-based medium and putting them into film, which is mostly about pictures.

In order to avoid simply photographing people talking, music becomes an important thematic element. For instance, repeated preoccupations of Hamlet that emerge across a number of different scenes (or speeches) can be marked musically to indicate developments of thought or to underscore a partiuclar decision you have made if you've made a strong one about the meaning of a scene.

For instance, in the "fall of a sparrow" scene, one might argue that to say it without music is to allow for a myriad of ways to occur in the mind of a particular listener. I wanted to create a certain atmosphere in that scene which music expresses and clarifies, which goes hand in hand with the performance and strikes a particular kind of note. I wished not to offer other possibilities of interpretation for that moment by being more neutral."

That's all folks! But till very soon...
(28 January, thanks Renie, Marie, Jude)

Greetings Kenthusiasts! Happy New Year! If you're new and wondering how come there is no news... it's because I got my act together and moved last year's news (though Kenneth is never last year's news! :-) ) to the archive. Click here to find out what you've missed!

In a fit of efficiency (I used up the year's quotient on the first two days) I've copied the last few months worth of photos from the News& Notes to the Photo Gallery, and also to New Pics, for those who just want to see the latest stuff (the Cover Gallery additons are listed here, too).

I've also updated the Book Cover Gallery. You'll find these new covers: the German edition of one volume of the Levant/Balkan Trilogy, aka Fortunes of War; another volume of the German edition; American edition of the Much Ado About Nothing screenplay; Hamlet screenplay, paperback edition; a Spanish biography of Kenneth Branagh; Shakespeare in Performance; Interpreting Shakespeare on Screen; Shakespeare in the Cinema; Shakespeare, Film, Fin de Siecle (do you sense a theme here?); and Writers on Directors.

And, last (for today) but not least: Gilderoy Does Greece, from the magazine Cover Gallery.

And finally, if you are new, a note to let you know that the site tends to be down from 4-6 hours a day... this is probably due to the popularity of Gilderoy Lockhart (ah, so fitting!). We are condemned to bandwidth jail on an almost daily basis (though yesterday morning there was no problem - hail to hangovers!). So hang in, and y'all come back now!
(2 January, thanks Jude, Nadine, Joanne)