News Archive: July 2005 - December 2005

Woooo hoooo! Guess who's nominated for a Golden Globe? Yessiree, Mr. Branagh, for his outstanding portrayal of Mr. Roosevelt. Official category: Best Performance by an Actor in a Mini-series or Motion Picture Made for Television. Warm Springs has also been nominated for Best Mini-series or Motion Picture Made for Television, as has Cynthia Nixon for her performance as Eleanor Roosevelt. The awards will given out - and broadcast on television - on 19 January 2006.

Literary notes - from ICCoventry, 22 November 2005:

Stars Reveal Their Favourite Reads
By Steve Evans

Charity champion Jeff Thorburn spent more than £100 on postage stamps before hauling a sack of letters of to the post box, destined for the doormats of celebrities. The Nuneaton ambulanceman wrote to more than 500 of Britain's most famous people after scouring an edition of "Who's Who".

His painstaking labours were not in vain. More than 150 replied - and he has used their responses to compile a book to raise funds for the Alzheimer's Society. The book will be dedicated to Jeff's mother-in-law, Evelyn Doughty, who is in a Nuneaton care home suffering from Alzheimer's disease, and is also in memory of her husband, Bert, who remained a devoted carer to his wife until his death three years ago, aged 78.

Among those who have contributed to Mr Thorburn's book are Prime Minister Tony Blair, former Prime Ministers John Major and the late Jim Callaghan, Harrods owner Mohammed Al Fayed, actor and film director Kenneth Branagh, sports personalities Dickie Bird, Roger Black and Sir Alex Ferguson, and actors Sir Michael Caine and Dame Judi Dench. He asked each of them to say what was their all-time favourite read and has compiled their replies into a book under the title, "Novel Ideas".

Mr Thorburn, aged 50, of Glebe Road, Nuneaton, is donating all royalties to the Alzheimer's Society. He said: "Alzheimer's is a devastating illness and I just want to do my bit to help with research into the condition. I have dedicated my book to my mother-in-law and to her late husband, who was such a devoted and dedicated carer.

"When I decided to write to famous people asking them to explain their favourite book and why, I filled a sack full of letters and hauled it down to the post office. I'm grateful to those who replied. Many who contributed confided that dementia had also affected their family in some way and they hoped the book would succeed in raising funds for such a worthy cause."

"Novel Ideas", published by Apex Publishing, priced £4.99, is Mr Thorburn's third book. Previous publications have raised funds for the Mind and Rethink mental health charities.

This is indeed a worthy cause (says another one who has dementia in the family), so... even though I'm going to tell you what Kenneth wrote, you should still support the book!
Kenneth Branagh in Novel Ideas: "My favourite book as a child was THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS by Kenneth Grahame - I loved Toad of Toad Hall and his many antics, especially with his motor car - poop poop!

My favourite book of all time is DAVID COPPERFIELD by Charles Dickens."

The good old days... Walking With Monsters is being screened in three parts, starting Thursday 8 December on BBC1, and continuing on the following two Thursdays. From the Belfast Telegraph, 8 December 2005:
Branagh Lines Up Monster Role
By Eddie McIlwaine

Comic book stories about the flesh-eating creatures that once ruled the Earth, flooded back when film star and producer Kenneth Branagh was head-hunted to narrate the blockbuster television documentary series "Walking with Monsters" that will be launched on BBC1 tonight (8.30pm).

"As a little boy I was either lying on the sofa in our house in north Belfast reading comics or watching old movies on the box," recalled the man who was to become a giant of the cinema. "It was those sessions in our house waiting for mum to come home to make the tea that inspired my passion for the movies and amazing tales."

So Branagh, who left Belfast as a nine-year-old when his joiner father took up work in Reading, had no hesitation in accepting the job of telling the monster documentary tale. "It is the story of the bizarre beasts that ruled the planet millions of years before the dinosaurs." he explains. "Viewers will see and hear about an evolutionary battle that raged on earth for billions of years featuring creatures that created the blueprint for our own bodies and for every living thing we know today."

New morphing technology has been used to reveal how the ancestors of humankind evolved and footage from inside the bodies of those ancient monsters will reveal the origins of the first limb, the heart and even the brain.

As we like it... a mention of As You Like It. You can see photos of the cast members and a first photo from the set at You'll also find it on the As You Like It page. If you go to the distributor's site, Picturehouse, you can see a poster. Unfortunately they are into Flash, which means I can't grab the image - which is a pity as it's really rather nice. Ah well....

I've only got one photo for you - been a bit distracted lately (the decade-long alliance with my granola/geek ISP has ended as they could not survive in the struggle with the Big Companies [sniff] and the ensuing email turmoil has been traumatic. :-) ). So here's KB looking Norse in Norway.

Hoping for more news soon!
(14 December, thanks Pierpaolo, Jane, Jude, Catherine, Paula, Lyn)

Congrats to the lucky bidder (whoever you may be) for the Andy Gotts photograph of Kenneth Branagh! And thank you to the winner, to Kenneth Branagh and to Andy Gotts for the $400 donation towards diabetes research.

If you did not manage to remortgage the house in time or sell the children - no, no, once again I actually mean sell the car - you can still go for it and bid on another Kenneth Branagh-related charity item: "A trip for two people to the set of Kenneth Branagh’s forthcoming film of Mozart’s opera THE MAGIC FLUTE". This is part of the BBC's The Great Big Bid auction. You can get details and participate by clicking here. The current bid stands at £156 and there are just under three days left to bid.

In "we know he's not a slacker" news, here's an item from The Guardian, 14 November 2005:

Geldof Joins Debrett's List of Country's Top Achievers

For celebrities, politicians and business people alike, the list is eagerly awaited. The 19th edition of Debrett's People of Today, a reference book of 24,000 of Britain's top achievers, and a de facto guide to who's in and who's out of the modern establishment, is unveiled today.

New entrants include the campaigner Bob Geldof, bestselling artist Jack Vettriano, actor Kenneth Branagh and the designer of the iPod, Jonathan Ive. Olympic gold medallist Jonathan Edwards and former England football manager Kevin Keegan have been dropped from the list.

And finally, please enjoy the questions put to Mark White, author of the new biography of Kenneth Branagh, and his answers by clicking here.

More soon!
(14 November, thanks Jude, Jane, Mark White)

Hi keen Kenians! You will have noticed, if you arrived at the site through the front door (and if you didn't, please go back and come in again :-) ), that the Compendium is privileged to be holding a very special auction of an autographed photograph of Kenneth Branagh, taken by Andy Gotts and being sold to support research for diabetes. You can bid between Monday 7 November and Monday 14 November, 11:59 pm EST - ample time to mortgage the house, sell the kids - ooops - I mean the car, take that mysterious object you've always wondered about to the Antiques Road Show... whatever it takes to have that portrait smiling back at you!

On a less happy note, Ducktastic, despite overall good reviews, is going to be closing on November 19. Here's one of the press blurbs, from Playbill:

London's Ducktastic Ducks Out Early, After Only One Month
By James Inverne
3 November 2005

It's an oft-quoted adage in the theatre, that one should "never work with animals or small children" because they're unpredictable and because they upstage you.

Kenneth Branagh and the comic double-act The Right Size have certainly found this to be true with their new show, Ducktastic. There was an unplanned duck audience invasion at an early performance I attended. Lead duck Daphne was reportedly ducknapped from the stage door, opening night was delayed due to duck training problems, and now the show has posted early closing notices.

A follow-up to their successful 'The Play What I Wrote' (again produced by David Pugh), this was hyped as a worthy successor to the Morcambe and Wise tribute, even repeating the trick of modeling the major characters on showbiz legends. This time round, The Right Size (aka Sean Foley and Hamish McColl) with director Branagh focused on Las Vegas illusionists Siegfried and Roy. In the show, playing at the Albery, two Blackpool duck disappearers are hapless copies of the more famous duo.

Reviews were mixed but far from universally damning. However, the duck never showed the kind of box-office pull that was the case with Play's, which featured surprise guest celebs (Ralph Fiennes, Jude Law, Kylie Minogue and Glenn Close were among dozens of guests lining up to be ridiculed).

Early closing notices have been posted, and the doors will shut on Nov. 19. Remaining tickets will see prices cut to only ten pounds. For more information call (0)870 060 6621.

I will never be the new David Pugh since I don't get it... sheesh, all that work for just over a month? The Observer critic wrote: "It's the perfect non-creepy seasonal alternative to a panto." Hello? hello! Only 45 days to Christmas: free time, jolly tipples, silly giggles, we just want to have a good time (we'll see the heavy stuff in suicidal February). Anyway, *I* saw it and I'm glad I did!  If you can, grab those ten pound tickets and join the those of us who greeted this news with regret.

I have put a few more (good, of course) reviews on the Ducktastic page. Sniff....

There was a small flurry of press releases regarding The Magic Flute this week - you can read them here.

And we end on a high note - the long-awaited biography of Kenneth Branagh by Mark White has hit the shelves (at least in the UK, but is available to us all through the magic of online ordering, with a good promotion at! You can get details about the book and author here, and ... drum roll.... next week you will be able to read the Questions & Answers from an email exchange between Dr. White and members of the Ken-Friends mailing list. So you'll be able to lift your nose from your copy and gain even more author insights!

Making a bid for charity, quacking up at the theatre, getting the straight story on our Ken's career... lots of options this week! Ain't life grand! More soon....
(6 November, thanks Andy Gotts, Jane, Jude, Mark White)

So... was Renata looking like the guys on Mount Rushmore during Ducktastic? No indeedy - "winded and feeble" (as one reviewer puts it) from laughing was the order of the day. You're going to love it! Not to mention that it has got all the journalists pecking the thesaurus for lines like "fowl play" and "a webbed feat"... so the smiles just keep coming. You can read a pack of good reviews (with a couple of mild grumbles from the predictable sources :-)) on the Ducktastic page. You can also read three articles about the abducktion (hey, I can get into this, too) of Daphne, the star of the show.

Photos from the official opening of the show are floating around on Rex Features and Getty Images, so you can visit their sites and take a look. I am, however, taking the liberty of offering you a watermarked image of Kenneth and his pulchritudinous (hand me that thesaurus!) Lindsay (with apologies to Getty Images), since sightings of her are extremely rare. This gives us a grand total of three, in roughly the same amount of years. Hollywood might even consider that not existing at all, heh heh. I do have to say, having seen Himself escaping the theatre the evening before, that this photo does Kenneth no favours... he needs to ask for "lighting for blonds".   :-)

Unfortunately I wasn't able to post the information about the radio drama Bequest to the Nation, which aired on BBC Radio 3 last Sunday, and was available through the BBC website till today, in time - mea culpa, mea culpa (or rather, blame Foley and McColl!). Happily my London hosts were late in coming home from an afternoon away, so I got to hear most of the production while puttering about in the kitchen. It was great - he laughed, he cried, he raged, he cajoled, he whispered, he declared, he ruled.

More soon, I hope.
(23 October, thanks Catherine, Deborah)

Quack! Quack! Attention please! If you haven't already booked your Ducktastic! tickets, or even if you have (like yours truly), you can pick up a special ticket for Monday 17 October at half price, with the added fun of a Question & Answer session with the cast and director (You-Know-Who) thrown in...

Ducktastic tickets - exclusive Q & A evening with Kenneth Branagh and the cast of the show, October 17 - only £20

This Q & A session would be hosted by producer David Pugh, director of Ducktastic, Kenneth Branagh together with writers and performers. Ever wondered how to train a duck? Is Ducktastic going to make it to Vegas? And how do you saw a girl in half? The entire cast will be happy to answer all your burning questions about the creation of Ducktastic. Daphne and her duck friends may also put in an appearance.

The award-winning team that brought you the smash hit, guest star-studded show THE PLAY WHAT I WROTE present DUCKTASTIC a new comedy spectacular, directed by KENNETH BRANAGH and written by HAMISH McCOLL & SEAN FOLEY.

Christophe Ursula Sasson is in the last chance saloon of his career – all his hopes for a return to LAS VEGAS ride on DUCKTASTIC! Roy de la Rue, who is in fact Roy Street, a pet shop owner from Portsmouth, volunteered to help Sassoon out with a trick and doesn’t seem to be able to leave the stage. With Sassoon drinking so much, he not only needs a hip flask, but a hip replacement flask, and with Roy barely keeping mind and body together, the magic tricks start to go wrong… Follow them on an hysterical journey of magic and illusion into the beyond, and beyond that, into the very backside of beyond – it has to be seen to be believed!

Cast includes: Hamish McColl, Sean Foley, Liz Crowther, Clive Hayward, Alex Kelly, Ruby Snape and Daphne.

I hope lots of lucky UKers can flock to this event! There has also been an article in the Evening Standard, and another article in The Times. The former comes with a nice photo, though the director looks a bit tired (hmmm, maybe directing a technically tricky play while editing a Shakespeare film and keeping tabs on the recording phase of the upcoming opera film will do that to you...Kenergizer redux!).

And it seems that the ever-ruffled feathers of PETA have also been smoothed over...

From BBC News:
Flap Over Duck Production Averted

A West End show featuring 46 ducks on stage has smoothed over a possible row with animal rights campaigners.

The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta) contacted the show - 'Ducktastic' - with concerns over the use of the Indian runner ducks. The show, directed by Kenneth Branagh, said it had taken safeguards for the ducks' treatment in the current show. But its producer said he would think twice about using live animals again.

Producer David Pugh told the BBC News website he would not use live animals again "unless approved by the RSPCA and after agreement with Peta". He said he had personally met with Peta representatives to discuss the use of the ducks, prior to the show's West End transfer from Newcastle. "It started when Peta sent us a very sensible letter pointing out things that I had naively not been aware of. They were not in any way threatening," he said. And he pointed out that the ducks were a "pivotal" part of the show, which is currently running at the Albery Theatre in London.

Peta said it was "putting away its protest signs and sending accolades" instead to the show's producers. The charity pointed out that hot spotlights, long rehearsals, noise from pyrotechnics and applause can be very frightening to baby birds.

"We're delighted with Mr Pugh's response to our concerns about the ducks' welfare and his ongoing spirit of cooperation", says Sean Gifford, Peta's director of European campaigns. "Ducks don't belong on stage any more than Mr Branagh and his cast belong in a pond, so we're very happy that at least in this production company an unfortunate mistake won't be repeated."

Mr Pugh said: "I think Peta have a point, although I would not always agree with the action taken to prove a point."

Finally, you can read a message from UAYD Director Naomi Conway, along with the reports from some of the recipients of the Ken-Friends bursary funds - on the UAYD page. To learn where the funds for these bursaries come from, please take a look at the Birthday Projects page. We are currently engaged in this year's project. I can't tell you what the nifty item we created this year is, here "in print" (just in case KB has bored pals who might read this) but you can email me to find out how to participate. ;-)

I'll be away for a week, but will return to let you know whether Ducktastic! was a laff-riot, or whether I sat stone-faced all through it, heh heh.
(10 October, thanks Pennie, Catherine, Jane, Deborah, Jude)

So the Emmy Awards have come and gone and, while KB did not pick up the award for Best Actor, Warm Springs did win awards for Outstanding Made for Television Movie, Outstanding Art Direction for a Miniseries or Movie, Outstanding Music Composition for a Miniseries, Movie or a Special (Dramatic Underscore), and Outstanding Single-Camera Sound Mixing for a Miniseries or a Movie, as well as an award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie for Jane Alexander. So bravo!

There is a wonderful new article about the preparations for Ducktastic!, which comes with two photos: the boys and Ducktastic director divo. There was also an "okay-I-jumped-the-gun-and-it's-too-early-but-I-want-to-be-snarky-and-I-have-such-a-clever-title-but-I-also-feel-a-bit-bad-and-so-this-is-a-sort-of-half-baked-not-so-good-but-potentially-good" review, which you can read here.

There is also an article which manages to cover Warm Springs and Ducktastic! together, with liftings from here and there. Hey, whatever gets that name in print, I'm for it.  :-)

From a discussion about the portrayal of presidents on screen (which you can read here) comes this statement:

In the HBO TV movie Warm Springs, up this weekend for a slew of Emmys, Kenneth Branagh etched a Commander in Chief for the ages and immediately vaulted to the top of the list of actors who’ve played real presidents. His FDR was better than those of Jon Voight in Pearl Harbor and Jason Robards in F.D.R.: The Last Year, and on par overall with Hopkin’s work in Nixon.
He won't have to stick his hands into cement, but Kenneth will be immortalised on the British edition of the "Walk of Fame"... from News Letter:
Ulster Man Branagh To Be Immortalised On Avenue Of The Stars
By Liz Kennedy
15 September 2005

Belfast's Kenneth Branagh is one of the stars to be honoured on London's Avenue of the Stars. Avenue of the Stars is the UK equivalent of the Hollywood Walk of Fame and the permanent walkway in the capital's Covent Garden will feature in a new ITV programme on Sunday.

Ricky Gervais and John Cleese are teaming up for a comedy sketch to mark the opening. Gervais, creator of TV hits Extras and The Office, is writing and preparing the sketch with Cleese in California, where the Fawlty Towers star now lives. The sketch will be produced by Terry Hughes, the British TV comedy director who has worked on Friends, The Two Ronnies, The Golden Girls, and Monty Python At The Hollywood Bowl. Executive producer Michael Hurll, who devised the walkway, said: "It's fantastic for us to have got two such great names together and I really can't wait to see the results. "When we first discussed the idea I was thrilled but never in my wildest dreams did I have imagine it would actually happen." ITV, which is launching the walkway to mark its 50th anniversary, is keeping more names secret until its live show on Sunday.

But famous faces already announced include Sir Alec Guinness, Sir Alfred Hitchcock, Sir Charlie Chaplin, Peter Sellers, Sir Rex Harrison, Lord Laurence Olivier, Richard Burton, Sir Ian McKellen, Benny Hill, Cary Grant, Michael Gambon, and Bobs Hope and Geldof.

Famous females to be commemorated include Dames Judi Dench, Shirley Bassey and Thora Hird; Nicole Kidman, Peggy Ashcroft, dance Dames Alicia Markova and Margot Fonteyn, comedy duo Victoria Wood and Julie Walters, Gracie Fields and Glenda Jackson.

As musicians the Rolling Stones and Sex Pistols are to be included, a guess places the Beatles on the walkway as well.

Other names are Tom Jones, Peter O'Toole, Albert Finney, Peter Cook, Morecambe and Wise, Sir John Mills, Stan Laurel, Noel Coward and Leonard Rossiter.

At the unveiling, 1,000 celebrities will get a place on the walkway, but further names will be added each year. The stars can be awarded posthumously and must have been born in the UK or Commonwealth for their names to be emblazoned on the walkway on a silver star. The avenue, set in the grounds of St Paul's, known as the actor's church, will be launched in a three-hour live ITV1 show on Sunday, complete with a fireworks display on the Thames.

You can check out the Pathé Press Pack for Five Cildren and It online; it includes a nice interview with Kenneth which you can read here.

Fun stuff: from the New York Daily News, 4 September 2005"

1. Groucho Marx accepts the presidency of Freedonia - "If you think this country's in trouble now, just wait till I get through with it!" - in "Duck Soup."
2. John Wayne looking amazingly studly while he twirls a rifle (and the camera races to embrace him) in "Stagecoach."
3. Edmond O'Brien staggers into a police station to report a murder - his own - in "D.O.A."
4. Omar Sharif rides across the desert and into movie legend in "Lawrence of Arabia."
5. Sean Connery introduces himself as "Bond, James Bond" for the very first time in "Dr. No."
6. Michael Caine looks right into the camera and tells us to sit back and relax in "Alfie."
7. John Travolta struts down the street to a disco beat in "Saturday Night Fever."
8. Kenneth Branagh, backlit like God Almighty, assumes his authority in "Henry V."
9. John Cusack looks straight into the camera and shares his lovelorn misery in "High Fidelity."
10. Mark Wahlberg drives back to the mean streets of Detroit to the tune of Marvin Gaye's "Trouble Man" in "Four Brothers."
It is possible to download audio books from a new UK site called Five readings by Kenneth Branagh are available: 'The Captain and the Enemy' by Graham Greene; 'In the Ravine and Other Short Stories' by Anton Chekhov; 'The Magician's Nephew' by C.S. Lewis; 'The Outsider' by Albert Camus and 'King Richard III' (the Naxos production).

Photo finish...blasts from the past: sunset in Cannes, 1997; a little Gloria Gaynor, a few flashing lights, Disco Ken; and, going even further back, another "our young pup" photo.
(28 September, thanks Catherine, Jude, Cmdy2nite, Ukelelehip)

Hi Branaghians! The January to August 2005 news has moved to The News & Notes Archive. In case you're cramming for a Ken-test. Which the Ken-Friends have been known to amuse themselves with at their gatherings. And which, despite collating all this info that should make me the world's authority on KB, I am hopeless at. Though I still hope to develop the knack that our Ngoc (Ngoc, Ngoc, Ngoc - Nockie are you still out there?) had for dating photos by the style of Ken's hair.  :-)

That Daphne (the Duck) is not a quack - check our her mind-reading skills (and fab headgear) at the official Ducktastic! website. Previews have begun in Newcastle and our roving reporters tell us the show is a HOOT! (er...quack)  I'm sure everyone who rolled in the aisles during The Play What I Wrote is rubbing their hands together in anticipation - get yer tickets now! The Theatre Royal in Newcastle sent two rehearsal photos to their subscribers - fun times!

Magic Flute news:

Hollywood Reporter, 17 August 2005

Kenneth Branagh has plucked actors from the opera world for his feature adaptation of Mozart's "The Magic Flute."

Joseph Kaiser, Ben Davis, Rene Pape, Lyubov Petrova and newcomer Amy Carson have been cast in the lead roles.

"Flute" chronicles the adventures of Prince Tamino (Kaiser) and his sidekick, Papageno the birdseller (Davis), as they battle evil forces to rescue Princess Pamina (Carson). Pape will play Sarastro, the wise priest, while Petrova will portray Queen Elizabeth of the Night.

Mozart wrote the two-act opera, one of his last works, in 1791. He died in December 1791, just two months after it premiered in Vienna.

Branagh and British comedian Stephen Fry wrote the adaptation. The actors will record the music in the fall, then shoot the film in January. The budget is about $20 million.

Kaiser is an emerging opera star who has performed at New York's Lincoln Center and is a member of the Lyric Opera Center for American Artists in Chicago. Davis appeared on Broadway in Baz Luhrmann's "La Boheme," "Les Miserables" and "Thoroughly Modern Millie." He is a rising baritone on the stage scene. German-born Pape is a leading bass who has toured with the Metropolitan Opera in New York and was named vocalist of the year in 2002 by Musical America.

Another article:
Playbill, 21 August 2005
By Andrew Gans

Millie's Davis Cast in Branagh's "Magic Flute" Film

Ben Davis, whose Broadway credits include 'Les Misérables', 'Thoroughly Modern Millie' and Baz Luhrmann's 'La Bohème', has been cast in the film version of 'The Magic Flute'.

The Hollywood Reporter says that Davis will play the birdseller Papageno in the film, which will be directed by four-time Oscar nominee Kenneth Branagh. The company will also include Joseph Kaiser as Prince Tamino, Amy Carson as Princess Pamina, Rene Pape as Sarastro and Lyubov Petrova as the Queen of the Night.

"Flute," according to the industry paper, "chronicles the adventures of Prince Tamino and his sidekick, Papageno the birdseller, as they battle evil forces to rescue Princess Pamina."

The film adaptation of Mozart's 1791 two-act opera was penned by Branagh and Stephen Fry.

Shooting will begin in January 2006, although the music for the film will be recorded sometime this fall. The film, which has a $20 million budget, is being produced by Pierre-Olivier Bardet and will mark the screen debuts of Davis, Kaiser and Pape. Branagh has previously directed film versions of 'As You Like It', 'Love's Labour's Lost', 'Hamlet', 'Much Ado About Nothing' and 'Henry V'.

And a take by Empire, always amusing and supportive:
Empire Online, 18 August 2005

Kenneth to Adapt Mozart

After tackling Shakespeare more times than we can count (OK, six onscreen - and we can count that high, honest), Kenneth Branagh has turned his attention to another of the classics, Mozart, with the news that he is all set to produce a big-screen version of 'The Magic Flute', the two-act comic opera about sorcery and, as you'd expect, an enchanted wind instrument.

Thankfully, Branagh isn't planning to de-musicify it, since the story is a bit barmy at best. It follows Prince Tamino and Papgeno, a birdseller and sidekick as they battle evil forces to rescue Princess Pamina. And yes, we know that doesn't sound like the best plot ever, which is why we're so pleased that we can concentrate on the fabulous music rather than the story.

However, the twinkly tunes mean that you can't just hire any old actor - you really need someone who can, y'know, sing - and preferably hit the high notes to boot. For that reason, Branagh has hired proper opera types, namely Joseph Kaiser as Tamino, Ben Davis as Papageno, Rene Pape as wise priest Sarastro, Lyubov Petrova as the Queen of the Night (nothing to do with Whitney Houston, never fear) and operatic newcomer as Amy Carson as Princess Pamina.

There's no word yet on an expected release date for the film, but Branagh will have to finish work on his adaptation of 'As You Like It' before he gets going. We'll keep you up to date as we learn more.

What they're saying about Ken...

David Oyelowo, from an article in the Sunday Times about "what's good about Britain" (28 August 2005):

"I'm proud of our multicultural society, where curry is the nation's favourite dish. When my dad arrived in Britain in the 1960s, you would never have seen a black actor as a Shakespearian lead. Thirty years on, he saw his son as Henry VI with the RSC. I'm proud of our theatrical tradition. The generosity and can-do attitude of people such as Kenneth Branagh and Dame Judi Dench is always amazing. But I'm not proud that we've lost our faith as a nation - I think it's left us cynical. And I don't like our culture of fame for fame's sake. Not at all."
Alicia Silverstone, Contact Music, 19 August 2005:
Hollywood star Alicia Silverstoneis desperate to team up with Kenneth Branagh again because she thinks he is the greatest director in the world.

The 28-year-old actress insists she would appear in any movie if the legendary British director was at the helm because she their 2000 collaboration LOVE'S LABOUR'S LOST her finest work to date.

She says, "My favourite film I've ever done was Love's Labour's Lost... "If Kenneth Branagh had a movie for me every year, I'd feel very settled.

"But he hasn't made one since 'Love's Labour's Lost'. So if you could just have a word with him..."

Patrick Doyle, from a lovely, long article in the Evening Times, August 2005
He eventually got a role in TV's 'The Monocled Mutineer' but, disillusioned with acting, was on the verge of giving up altogether when Kenneth Branagh offered him the job of musical director of his production of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night.

The musical side eventually won out, and his first film score was for Branagh's Henry V, in 1989. He still regards it as his finest achievement. He said: "It was the biggest chance I had, and I grabbed it with both hands."'

Another short review of The Goebbels Experiment, by Kyle Smith in the New York Post, 12 August 2005
Kenneth Branagh's fierce narration of Joseph Goebbels's diaries makes "The Goebbels Experiment" a visceral documentary. Seeing what Hitler's propaganda minister saw, hearing only his diary entries and what he heard, we effectively live inside the monster's head. The film is nearly as powerful as last winter's "Downfall," though those unfamiliar with the history of the Third Reich don't get any context.

As he did in the HBO film "Conspiracy," Branagh makes a brutally convincing Nazi, his readings bringing out Geobbels's viciousness as the boasts grow increasingly empty: "I believe the war against Moscow will be our greatest coup," he says in 1941.

Later, after the invasion of the U.S.S.R. proves disasterous, he looks for someone to blame: "The propoganda -- very much against my will -- seemed to assume that the campaign in the East had already been won." As the end approaches, it's a pleasure to see him tour the wreckage of Berlin and start to squirm.

Photography notes:
'Degrees', Andy Gotts' book of celebrity photos that includes two of Kenneth Branagh [see the results of the Compendium's call for "what Ken saw (or heard) while Andy Gotts was taking his picture" here] will be available on October 6th. The 'Degrees' exhibition begins September 30th and continues until October 29th in London.

On the preview night there will be an auction of prints that have been signed by the featured actor, to raise funds for diabetic research. Lots include: George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Kate Winslet, Jude Law, Michael Caine, Tom Hanks, Minnie Driver, Ewan McGregor, Julia Roberts, Kirk Douglas, Patrick Stewart, and many more! The preview night will be by invite only but we will be taking bids via the internet until 27th September.

Degrees is loosely based on the 'six degrees of separation theory' and the world famous cinema game 'The Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon'; this is the theory that you can connect ANY actor you can think of to Kevin Bacon.

Andy Gotts has had extraordinary access to the world's most famous faces. Over 100 A-list actors feature in this fascinating collection of photographs and anecdotes. Each actor Gotts photographed then suggested a best friend, or someone they really admired, as the next person. This gives a wonderful chain of 'who knows who'. Dustin Hoffman suggested Brad Pitt, Brad suggested George Clooney, George suggested Julia Roberts, Julia suggested Susan Sarandon, Susan suggested Paul Newman, Paul suggested....etc.

Two weeks before he died Sir Alan Bates wrote a text for Andy Gotts - it was his last penned work - and is included as a foreword. Sir Alan had suggested Pierce Brosnan as his 'connection', and Pierce has written a tribute to him. As an afterword, Kevin Bacon himself plays the 'six degrees' game, linking himself back to Sir Alan Bates, by just using the actors photographed for the book.

Andy Gotts' percentage from the sale of this book will be donated towards the 'Degrees' project to raise funds and awareness for diabetes research.

And... you'd best be sitting down or have the smelling salts ready when you click on the link below...
Kenneth Branagh's is one of the 100 portraits by Cambridge Jones featured in the book OFFSTAGE, celebrating the RADA centenary - just published. You can see Kenneth's portrait here.

Signed copies of the photographs are being auctioned to raise money for RADA's bursary fund. Information for bidding is at You can also order a limited edition, signed copy of the book and bid on a copy signed by all the subjects through this website.

Here's what the Cambridge Jones said about Ken in the book:

"Ken came around to my house in Chelsea and, for some reason, I was expecting a cavalcade and entourage. Instead, he walked in off the street and said, 'Hi'. This, for no explicable reason, made me more nervous that I have ever been for any other portrait session ever. I basically thought I had made a fool of myself although I knew the pictures were fine. Imagine my surprise when a few weeks later, Ken's PA calls to say 'Ken really likes the way you work and wonders if you would like to do something with him for his new film.' Relief was not the word."

Good works department:
Contact Music, 28 August 2005

Tea Lovers Branagh, Lapaglia + Shatner Decorate Pots

Kenneth Branagh, Anthony Lapaglia and Willian Shatner are showing off their artistic skills by decorating teapots for charity.

The trio of actors are among the stars who have revamped crockery for an upcoming auction at the third annual EMMY Awards Nominees Tea Party on 17 September (05).

Bidding on the pots will take place throughout the posh luncheon at the Park Hyatt hotel in Los Angeles on 17 September (05) and proceeds from the auction will benefit the educational outreach and scholarship of the British Academy of Film + Television Arts/Los Angeles, the co-organisers of the tea party.

Other stars taking part in the teapot designing include actor Ian McShane, funnyman Sacha Baron Cohen, aka Ali G, and writer Helen Fielding.

Too bad there is no photo of the pots... Maestro Branagh's artistic endeavours are always sincere and rather touching, (you'll remember the clock and the squirrel) and occasionally quite poetic (you'll remember the jetty).

Photo finish: glam headshot and "If this were an American car I'd be driving - and running you down!  :-) More soon, I hope!
(5 September, thanks Pat, Deborah, Catherine, Paula, Virginia, Jude, Ukelelehip)

Yikes - tempus fugit! I can't believe how long it's been since the last update! There hasn't been much news but before I leave for a week in paradise here are a few items.

I have finally done up a page for Ducktastic!'ll find two new articles there.

Excerpted from an article in The Times, 30 July 2005

I Didn't Get Where I Am Today Without...
Richard Briers, 71, Actor

...Kenneth Branagh.

I first played Hamlet aged 22, but you have to be practical in this life. Voiceovers and sitcoms pay the bills and, if you're lucky, also finance occasional stabs at the classics. So thank goodness for dear Ken. I've got my daughter to thank for introducing us. Years ago, she went to see him in a one-man show in some pub, and was part of an audience totalling seven; he was so grateful for them being there, he bought them all a drink afterwards. Our family becaome fans of his after that and, when finally he and I met, he said, "Would you fancy being Malvolio in my Twelfth Night?" Would?! We went all round the world with it, and I've since been in all five of his filmed Shakespeare movies, one of which has yet to be released. It's opened up a whole different aspect to my career, and has been a wonderful relationship. Do I give him advice? Oh, mainly he gives it to me and I think, "Yes, excellent idea!" and do my best to deliver what he wants.

And an excerpt from a Guardian article on David Oyelowo, who is playing Orlando in the forthcoming As You Like It:
Handsome, smart and the Britney side of 30, he is already a role model for young black actors, something he does not take lightly. "I know I had my equivalents in Adrian Lester and Lenny James when I was at drama school," he recalls. "I remember David Harewood doing Othello at the National, and Adrian Lester having done Cheek by Jowl's famous As You Like It and Company at the Donmar. Not necessarily performances I saw, but just the fact they happened was massively encouraging."

This year, Oyelowo has been Lester's brother in As You Like It, Branagh's latest helping of big-screen Bard, due to be released next year. Shakespeare, Branagh, Lester - it was all too much when his agent told him he'd got the part. "I just broke down and cried. Like - a - baby," he adds emphatically, before breaking into a laugh. "Branagh's someone I admire hugely for his ability to make things happen and not wait for others. There's a real element of 'Let's do the play right here!' about him."

RADA (The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art) is celebrating its centenary and you can see photos of wonderful flower arrangements and a lovely lunch, along with an unflattering photo of Kenneth Branagh (looking rather like a banker). There is an exhibition of RADA Centenary Portraits on at the Getty Images Gallery, 46 Eastcastle Street, from 11-20 August. The exhibition then moves to the National Theatre from 22 August until 17 September. Also there was a short remembrance of his RADA days by Ken, along with those of other former students, in the Telegraph Magazine.

You'll want to read about how the 2004 Ken-Friends donation to UAYD was disbursed: here.

The film The Goebbels Experiment, narrated by Kenneth is showing in New York. Here is a revue by Maitland McDonagh from Time Out New York, 11-17 August:

This documentary’s eye-opening dramatic readings from master Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels’s diaries, which he kept from 1924 until his suicide in 1945, don’t exactly cast him in a new light. The virulent anti-Semitism, professional paranoia and opportunism are all familiar.

What the readings (all flawlessly intoned by Kenneth Branagh) do present, however, would be funny if it weren’t so horrifying. The journals contain a stream of petty bitchiness, worthy of a particularly self-involved teenager, from one of the architects of the Nazi regime’s worst horrors: Himmler hates me, my foot hurts, Leni Reifenstahl is a crybaby, I don’t have any friends, the neighbors gossip about my mother, I can’t get a date. Even the immature swings from adoration to loathing and back are represented. Goering is a nice chap, Goering is a girly man prancing around in a silver uniform. There’s no sign of either the eloquent orator or the brilliant strategist who perverted public opinion through media manipulation in this spiteful, melodramatic recitation of grudges and enthusiasms.

Hannah Arendt’s observation about "the banality of evil" has certainly been worked to death. But her words never seemed more apt then when listening to Goebbels’s whining, self-important pronouncements about everything from worthless Czech movies to Winston Churchill ("a revolting fat beast") and his enumeration of personal slights.

And the part regarding Kenneth's narration from another review in The Jewish Week:
By contrast, Hachmeister’s own visuals are carefully chosen. “The Goebbels Experiment” uses a great deal of unfamiliar footage (most tellingly, a horrific shot of Germans on a rooftop watching burning synagogues on Kristallnacht as if they were a fireworks display), artfully edited. But what makes “The Goebbels Experiment” at all bearable, beyond the fascination of watching a particularly ghastly global-sized train wreck, is Kenneth Branagh’s voice-over readings from the Goebbels diaries. Branagh has the extraordinarily difficult task of taking bad texts (with deeply odious messages) and finding an interesting and expressive way of approaching them. His choice, treating Goebbels as a bad actor and emphasizing the self-pity and delusional qualities of his writings, is daring and it is no small tribute to Branagh that he brings it off masterfully.
From the "actors turning in their graves" file: an article precipitated by a new biography of Lord Laurence Olivier - with one of those headlines where they've picked the bit that that can catch the eye without going quite so far as writing Olivier in Same-sex Fling with Matinee Idol. And guess who's being served up in the gossip gumbo (if you can't guess you've fallen into the wrong website, heh heh). Let's step down off the sidewalk then....
Olivier Family Banned Kenneth Branagh from Memorial Service
By Chris Hastings, Arts Correspondent
The Sunday Telegraph, 14 August 2005

Kenneth Branagh was banned from Laurence Olivier's memorial service at Westminster Abbey, The Sunday Telegraph can reveal. Olivier's family kept the young pretender to the Shakespearean throne away as they did not want him upstaging the event.

The disclosure is contained in a new authorised biography of Olivier, which has also sparked a bitter family feud by shedding light on the actor's homosexual past.

In 'Olivier, The Authorised Biography', Terry Coleman reveals that the Oscar- winner's family reacted with horror when the Prince of Wales suggested that Branagh should represent him at the memorial service in Westminster Abbey in 1989. They feared that such a prominent role for the then 28-year-old, who like Olivier had directed his own film version of 'Henry V' would have stolen Olivier's thunder on the very day he was meant to be centre stage. As Charles's representative, Belfast-born Branagh would have taken precedence over everyone else at the ceremony and would have entered Westminster Abbey last while everyone else stood.

Olivier's family feared that the sight of mourners, who included Dame Peggy Ashcroft, Peter O'Toole, Lord Attenborough and Sir Alec Guinness, deferring to the newcomer, who was already being hailed as the next Olivier, would have caused a media frenzy and undermined the tribute to the actor, who died aged 82. Coleman writes: "His family and friends were firm that he really could not be upstaged by Branagh at the service. Laurence Harbottle (the executor of Olivier's estate) thought that the Prince of Wales's nomination showed real poverty of imagination."

He adds: "Richard Olivier [his son] thought several senior actors would have died on the spot and knew that the last thing his father would have wanted at his memorial was the apparent crowning of an heir to his throne."

In the face of protests, Branagh's nomination was withdrawn and he was replaced by the "safe" Lord Attenborough. Coleman reveals that both Westminster Abbey and St Paul's Cathedral went to extraordinary lengths to ensure each would host the memorial. The Abbey, which had been first choice for the memorial service, was suddenly ruled out when the then dean, the Very Rev Michael Mayne, said he could not bury Olivier's ashes in Poet's Corner because rules insisted on a 10- year gap between death and interment.

The Abbey, however, performed a U-turn when it heard that St Paul's had written to the family offering a burial plot next to Lord Nelson, whom Olivier had once played on screen.

Coleman writes: "Westminster Abbey and St Paul's, the two principal theatres of the Church of England, had competed to stage Olivier's positively final appearance. Richard thought his father would have been tickled pink."

The biography's most controversial disclosures, however, deal with Olivier's sexuality. Coleman, who was given access to all of Olivier's private papers and correspondence, disputes the suggestion made in recent years that the actor was a promiscuous bisexual who had affairs with a string of men. He is particularly scathing about suggestions of relationships with Danny Kaye and Noel Coward.

The author does, however, believe that Olivier had a fling with fellow matinee idol Henry Ainley. He quotes from several letters that Ainley, who died in 1945, sent to Olivier between 1937 and 1938. At the time Ainley, himself a married man with a son, was 57, almost twice Olivier's age.

This suggestion of a homosexual liaison has infuriated Olivier's son Tarquin who, according to Coleman, has done everything possible to try to censor his book.

Coleman said last night: "Tarquin dismissed Ainley's letters, though his father had kept them for 50 years, as merely a 'delusion' and as the 'louche rantings of frustrated perversion'. He scattered letters around to Olivier's executors and to my agent and publisher, accusing me of treachery and invention. He was hell-bent on censoring the book.

"Tarquin then did his utmost to lean on Dame Joan [Plowright, Olivier's widow] to withdraw permission for the book to be called the 'authorised' biography. She refused, remarking that a man who had been at Eton and in the Guards might be expected to be a little more broad-minded."

Tarquin, 68, Olivier's son by his first wife, Jill Esmond, last night refused to be drawn on the subject. "People will have to read the book themselves and make up their own minds," he said.

Richard Olivier, 43, said he was aware that Tarquin had withdrawn his support but he himself was largely pleased with the book. "It is by far the best researched book that has been written about my father and by far the most accurate," he said. "Terry talked to us about his thoughts about Ainley. We understood why he drew the conclusions he did based on what he read in the letters. Although, as a family, we believe there is still no corroborating evidence to suggest any homosexual relationship."

Branagh was unavailable for comment last night.

I'll bet he wasn't available for comment - what comment could one possibly make? "Uhm... it's not my fault that the Prince of Wales thought I was a good choice."

And yet another blurb about Alien Love Triangle, which has pretty much alienated me by now. This time from a longish article about the Weinstein brothers:

Even that fate seems more tangible than the treatment afforded Danny Boyle's 'Alien Love Triangle', a project that appears to be not so much released as allowed to wander off into the undergrowth. Made between 'A Life Less Ordinary' and 'The Beach', this was a truly small film and has never been shown publicly. Miramax first commissioned it as part of a trilogy of science-fiction shorts, then decided to turn the other segments into full-length features ('Impostor' and 'Mimic'), leaving Boyle's section effectively orphaned. Boyle himself wasn't sure what fate awaited the picture recently. A 28-minute fable about sexual stereotypes, it's a light-hearted feature in which Kenneth Branagh's scientist discovers that his wife (Courteney Cox) is really a male alien, just as Cox's own green, bald wife (Heather Graham) comes calling. Boyle called it charming but says that the film couldn't be expanded to a feature because "there's a limit on charm".

"I don't know if it's coming out on DVD or not. I hope it is, perhaps as an extra feature, but I can't see how you could watch it as a new release in the cinema. And I made it when Branagh and Courtney and Heather were rising young stars," he laughs. "And they're not that any more."

I'm not sure Kenneth was just a "rising" star in 1998/99, but it's a good thing he wasn't counting on this film to launch his career.   :-)

Just before the photo finish - check out the great website which has been created for Kevin McNally, who played Worsley in Shackleton.

Photos! No, it's not me and you don't see me - I and No, it's not me and you don't see me - II. The only photo within recent memory of Kenneth and Lindsay, attending the last royal wedding. It's still not me and you still don't see me. Yes, I'd have been an excellent professor, or lawyer, or young member of parliament!.
(15 August, thanks Jane, Catherine, Jude, Virginia, Lori, Ukelelehip)

It's time to roll out those Ken & Emmy" jokes again - yay! For the Emmy nomination, not the jokes. Warm Springs has been nominated for 16 Emmy Awards (!) including "Outstanding Made For Television Movie" and "Outstanding Lead Actor In A Miniseries Or A Movie" for our Ken. Cynthia Nixon was nominated as well, as were other actors in the film, along with a passle of noms for non-acting things. The competition is fierce, so it will be an exciting evening.

And while we're in the laudatory stuff, you may remember (and if you do you get the "not likely to suffer from dementia" prize) that waaaaay back last year, in April, this was in the Compendium:

"Hi Kenites - once more it's time to get the vote out! The Radio Times is having a kind of survey with a prize. You get to vote for things like "What is Britain's finest natural wonder?" or "What is Britain's finest national treasure?", and most importantly "Who is Britain's finest actor?"... a fab list which includes Kenneth Branagh (who might well have also been listed in the Finest Natural Wonder or Finest National Treasure category, heh heh)."
The deadline was April 30, and I believe there were things in place to prevent multiple votes... and then we heard no more... Well, they have finally come out with the list (limited to ten) of "Britain's Finest Actors" and Kenneth Branagh weighed in at number six. Of course, as with any such list there is lots of argument, etc. etc. The television program about the poll and final selection explained why certain important actors did not make it into the final ten. Anyhoo, you can read a couple of articles, and the transcript of the pertinent bits of the program here.

In non-casting, but wishful thinking, news...

27 April 2005

Pop Hunk Turns Down Kenneth Branagh Movie to Stay With Boy Band
By Beverley Lyons And Cath Bennett

G4 pin-up Jonathan Ansell has turned down a part in Sir Kenneth Branagh's new film. The blond singer was offered the part of Prince Tamino in 'The Magic Flute' but said no because of the group's busy recording schedule. Bognor Regis boy Jonathan was offered the part in the adaptation of the Mozart opera after year-long auditions.

The film, just announced this week, will be made in the style of 'Phantom of the Opera' for the big screen and has been translated from German to English by fellow thesp Stephen Fry. Jonathan revealed that he turned down the role a few months ago, after G4 album sales exceeded expectations. He said: 'I fancy doing some acting at some point. Admittedly I was offered the role for the lead in an opera, a box office production.

'It was the new film for 'The Magic Flute' which Kenneth Branagh is directing. I had some early auditions in the run-up to 'The X Factor' and then continued to audition as we got through the show.

'Kenneth called me and offered me the role, but the group came first. It was exciting and a difficult decision to make. Before all this I would have jumped at it, but G4 is a dream come true for me and the group came first.'

Jonathan says he and his G4 colleagues Matthew Stiff, Ben Thapa and Mike Christie had various meetings to decide the fate of the group who were runners-up to Steve Brookstein. He said: 'It was hard for us, but I didn't want to end things at the beginning. We've got some time to go together. It's actually quite cool to say that I turned the part down and it has brought us closer.'

G4's debut album reached sales of 600,000 taking it to double platinum status. They are now looking to make as big an impact with their forthcoming tour in June and a second album is planned for later in the year. They have been preparing for the hard slog with a strict Girls Aloud style diet to get in shape.

Matt said: 'We've started on a new diet and fitness regime. Now there's no fried food, lots of fruit and veg and no processed junk.' Jonathan added: 'It's difficult when our tour manager tucks into steak sandwich and chips and we've got to eat lemon sole and salad.' The boys have been preparing a few surprises for the show and have even engaged a choreographer to help them out. Ben said: 'We won't be doing any high kicks, but we will do something different.' Jonathan added: 'We'll have to be careful in Scotland if we wear our kilts - as long as there are no wind machines.'

G4come to Glasgow's Clyde Auditorium on June 13 and Edinburgh Playhouse on June 14.

The article pegs KB as a "Sir" again... wear tights one time after the age of thirty and you're automatically knighted in the popular imagination (though, has KB actually been caught in tights in the last 15 years or so? Tight pants, yes, I remember them well... :-) )

Release notes: A&E's region 1 DVD of the Renaissance Theatre Company's 1988 television production of Twelfth Night directed by Kenneth Branagh is scheduled for release on 30 August.  A&E will also release the region 1 DVD of Look Back in Anger on 27 September. Kenneth participated in an interview for each of the DVDs. See the covers here.

I've got a Ducktastic! article but it will be next time. Here is a closing treat: KB, caught on the street, unwittingly doing an advert for a coffee, if his phone wasn't pressed so closely to his ear, he might have sold us two products. :-)
(18 July, thanks Anna, Catherine, Maureen, Jude, Ukelelehip)

Friends, Ken-Friends, people from any country (sorry, I've been watching that TV thing Empire, which everybody has been panning, but which is not half as awful as Gladiator [ducking] - Michael Maloney is fighteningly not nice and worth the price of admisson, i.e. switching on the box).... anyway, hello. Before we get to the purely Ken stuff, a quick plug for a great site (which will satisfy Branagh fans, too): LitAdapt, a site devoted to films that are literary adaptations.

Oh goody, goody... Ducktastic! is coming together - read an article with the kind of title that makes my day, sad I know (and it gets worse when you find out AA Gill cracks me up more than anyone; I used to read him in my lunch hour but realised that if I didn't want to die choking I would have to give that up). There is also a poster which you can see here.

You will find an article here about 'Musical Theatre 4 Youth', a Northern Ireland-based initiative which Kenneth Branagh has lent his support to.

And the photo finish: our young pup in yet another version. I'll be back when there's new news...
(2 July, thanks Heidi, Anna, Jane, Jude)