News Archive: January 2007 - June 2007

Happy post-St-Jean to any Québécois out there! We begin with a mea culpa. There is a nice online intervew with KB, from his trip to Paris in December 2006 to promote The Magic Flute, which I completely forgot to post! Luckily the clip is still there - it has a French translation over the top, but you can pretty much hear the original conversation between the interviewer and Kenneth: watch and listen here.

As You Like It news:
KB made an appearance at Nottingham's Showcase Cinema to promote the film. You can read about the event here.

As You Like It will be screened at the 27th Cambridge Film Festival on 7 and 8 July. There will be reviews posted on the site after the screenings.

And, finally, a show date for has been announced on the HBO website : 21 August at 9 pm. Meanwhile in the UK you will be able to see the film in theatres from 21 September. Too bad that HBO is emulating Harvey Weinstein (who dropped promotion of Love's Labours Lost after supposed initial enthusiasm, missing out a a couple of niche markets and decent payback for his investment) by not taking the film into theatres. I guess if big bucks are not guaranteed it's not worth taking a chance. The film may not make it to Canada at all, except on DVD, I suppose. [grumble grumble] Such a shame - it's wonderful and fun to watch!

While we're pondering the cultural desert that is North American film, some other countries are getting down with The Magic Flute...

On 11 June Ken appeared on Japanese TV on Eigo de Shaberanaito! which is a language program for English learners. He was about interviewed about The Magic Flute by Shigeru Kouyama, an actor who appeared in "Black Rain" directed by Ridley Scott. The snip below is posted on the official site of the program. There are a couple of small but nice photos.

KS: When you translate another culture's piece into your language, what are you primarily concerned about?

Kenneth Branagh: Well, some people think that if you don't listen to opera in the original language you lose something. But Stephen Fry, who is our brilliant librettist, I think he found a way for it to be funny and for it to be passionate and romantic. And he would try to -- in the sound of the way the English was constructed -- he would try to mirror some of the vowel sounds and some of the glottal sounds in the original German. So we tried to be as faithful as we could to the texture of the German language. We want to open the doors to opera. Not push people in, but open the doors.

There is also a nice article in the Herald-asahi which you can read here.

No photos today as I am trying to get on with the eternal (at my pace) revamp of the Photo Gallery and I'm stuck in all the old stuff and have lost control of anything new. But maybe next time!
(25 June, thanks Isabelle, Karen, Anna, Jude, Ai)

Ohmigod! It gets better and better (or the disappointment will be worse and worser)! Here's the latest rumour about a possible role for KB, from The Telegraph, 9 June 2007 :

Channel 4 Sexes Up the Puritans
By Chris Hastings, Arts and Media Editor and Beth Jones, Sunday Telegraph

For almost four centuries the Roundheads have been seen as the Puritan killjoys of history, intent on cancelling Christmas and waging war on fun. Now, however, their story is about to be retold as one of dashing heroes, passionate people as preoccupied with romance as with rebellion, in a £7 million television drama on the English Civil War.

'The Devil's Whore', written by Peter Flannery, who created the acclaimed serial 'Our Friends in the North', will chart the sexual awakening of a fictitious young aristocratic woman who is drawn to the anti-monarchist cause.

Some of Britain's biggest stars, including Kenneth Branagh, Emily Blunt, James McAvoy and Rufus Sewell, have been lined up to take starring roles in the four-part serial, which opens shortly before the outbreak of civil war in 1642 and concludes with the restoration of the monarchy 18 years later.

Key moments, including the battles of Marston Moor and Naseby and the execution of Charles I, are seen through the experiences of Angelica Fanshawe, a 17-year-old who becomes friendly, and in one case intimate, with leading Parliamentarians including Oliver Cromwell and Thomas Gainsborough. Fanshawe, who is expected to be played by Blunt, the actress who has starred in 'The Devil Wears Prada' and the 2003 BBC serial 'Henry VIII', in which she played his fifth wife, Catherine Howard. Controversially, her character marries Gainsborough, a real-life character who fought with distinction for the Parliamentarians on land and sea and who is expected to be played by Sewell, the star of the film 'Amazing Grace' and the BBC series 'Charles II', in which he took the lead role. The depiction of Cromwell, likely to be played by 'Henry V' and 'Frankenstein' star Branagh, will also raise eyebrows, because he will be shown as having Royalist sympathies and agonising over whether to sign Charles I's death warrant.

Flannery, a self-proclaimed republican, believes that merging fact and fiction will help to debunk the myths surrounding Cromwell and the Puritans. "The Civil War is the incredible untold story in our history," he told The Sunday Telegraph. "In school, we are given a phoney idea of the Cavaliers and Roundheads. We are hoping to paint a very different picture with our drama. All the great characters and events are there but it is as much about what happens in the bedroom as it is on the battlefield." He added: "The Puritans have had a bad press. The idea that they were humourless and wanted to ban Christmas is just nonsense. They could be as handsome and dashing as anyone else. These were passionate people who were -willing to fight to the death for what they believed in."

Leading historians are, however, uncertain of the merits of interspersing historic figures with fictional characters. Prof Peter Gaunt, the chairman of the Cromwell Association, said: "The blurring of fact and fiction never works well and there are real dangers inherent in just making it up. There are so many good, genuine sources about the period, which are so rich and vibrant, that there is the capacity to make factual and appealing programmes about the Civil War without turning to fiction. Alarm bells are ringing about the series and, if time and money are available, I'd be happier if they were put into proper research."

John Goldsmith, the curator of the Cromwell Museum in Hunting-don, Cambridgeshire, believes that the Civil War contains enough excitement without the need to delve into the bedroom. "While I am in favour of every attempt to popularise history, there is a danger if it goes too far into the bedroom that the viewer's intellect is insulted," he said. "People are genuinely interested in that period and many of its issues that have resonance today Ė the role of the monarchy, the power of Parliament, the question of nationhood. However, if you mix fact and fiction, it is very difficult for the viewer to distinguish one from the other."

Flannery is unrepentant. "The historical accuracy is there for people who know the period," he insisted. "I would't want people to watch it and think they can sit a ACSE in the subject, just as I would't want people to learn all they needed to know about the American Civil War from 'Gone with the Wind'."

'The Devil's Whore', a joint production between Channel 4 and H.O., has been planned for a decade.

Sounds fab to me. And all those dreams of Rufus and Ken acting together, crikey - it could actually happen! And they'll throw in McAvoy. Have I died and gone to heaven? Uhm, no - 'coz it doesn't sound like anyone has actually signed on the dotted line yet. But whoever dreamed up this cast is my kind of dreamer! And hopefully has a direct line to whoever "makes dreams reality".

Meanwhile, The Magic Flute has run its course in France (as in, it was in the cinemas and now it's not) and will be coming out in Region 2 DVD there on 27 August. There will be French subtitles, the "making of" film (presumably the one shown on UK television), a CD of the soundtrack and the libretto. You can read about it here (in French).

Regarding As You Like It, HBO is running clips about their films, including scenes from AYLI. So maybe one fine day North Americans, well, only Americans (no HBO in Canuckland), will get to see this.

It is so nice to have steady news, rumours or not! Keep those fingers crossed!
(10 June, thanks Nadine K, Isabelle, Jude)

Muahahaha - OF COURSE I forgot something.... Is it me or is it not me? A photo taken in Paris, during promotion of The Magic Flute.
(4 June, thanks Isabelle)

Kenians, although I'm in the usual Sunday night brainless state, there is some news - so I will try to get it straight and not have to fix it all up the next day...

First up, The Magic Flute will be shown at the 28th Durban International Film Festival. It will be presented on June 25 and June 30.   It will also open in theatres in Italy as of June 22.

And - it looks like Kenneth might have a dream job. Here's the first mention, from The Observer, 27 May:

Ken Revs Up For Don
by Jason Solomons

An inspired signing could see Kenneth Branagh pulling on a tracksuit to play Leeds and England football manager Don Revie. Branagh is set to play the controversial figure in Stephen Frears's adaptation of The Damned Utd, David Peace's award-winning book about the equally controversial manager Brian Clough. 'The idea of Ken came quite by chance,' says my man with the half-time oranges. 'He can't wait to come off the bench and get stuck in.' Actor Michael Sheen has already signed up to play Cloughie in the film from the team that had such success with 'The Queen' last year. Frears, currently leading the Cannes Jury in their deliberations, will begin work in the autumn. By then, Sheen will have completed filming 'Frost/Nixon' for Ron Howard, and Peter Morgan will have finished the script.

Inspired indeed!   The Belfast Telegraph, 3 June, also picked up the story, making it sound a titch more solid:
Ken: "I'll go to Elland back to be Don Reve"
Ulster Thespian Lined Up to Play Legendary Leeds Utd Manager in New Footie Film
By John McGurk

Kenneth Branagh is to swap Elizabethan frills for a sweaty tracksuit to play legendary Leeds United manger Don Revie. The Belfast thesp will star in a new movie made by the people behind Oscar success 'The Queen'. Branagh will don the trademark manager's sheepskin coat to play the controversial Leeds and England boss.

Director Stephen Frears will base his film on David Peace's book 'The Damned United', an account of the clashes between Revie and his nemesis Brian Clough, his successor at the club.

Cocky Clough will be played by Michael Sheen who starred as Tony Blair in 'The Queen' and as Kenneth Williams in 'Fantabulosa'.

Clough, who managed rivals Derby County and appeared as a pundit on Sunday afternoon highlights show 'The Big Match', regularly slagged off Revie's side for being dirty and prone to gamesmanship. After Revie quit to manage England in 1974, the board shocked fans and players by appointing the Leeds-baiting Cloughie as boss. Clough's turbulent spell lasted just 44 days. After getting the boot he went on to steer Nottingham Forest to two European Cup triumphs.

Work on the movie begins this autumn. A source said Spurs fan Branagh is itching to play Revie. Said the source: "The idea of Ken came quite by chance. He can't wait to come off the bench and get stuck in!"

Branagh, who also starts filming the Nazi-themed 'Valkyrie' with Tom Cruise in Berlin later this year, is football crazy. He once admitted that meeting George Best was "one of the greatest events of my life" and he's a regular at White Hart Lane.

Busy Branagh is hoping to get his opera film 'The Magic Flute' a full UK release this Christmas. Another two movies he has directed - a film adaptation of Shakespeare's 'As You Like It' and a remake of 'Sleuth' - will be in cinemas this year.

So we can all start sending the Oh please let it be so! prayers to the gods of scriptwriting, casting, financing etc. We'll keep you posted.

And while it's raining roles, here's another rumoured one - the blurb is in Spanish linked from director Alex de la Iglesia's website, this is a not-entirely-perfect translation:

The net is abuzz with the wonderful news that Alex de la Iglesia will bring one of best comics of history to the screen: "The Yellow M", the story, with protagonists Blake & Mortimer, which lifted its author Edgard P. Jacobs, to the highest ranks of the Ninth Art.

Alex himself confirmed the news in the forum of his official website. The project is still in an embryonic state but everything indicates to that the film will be made in English, will star Kenneth Branagh (who seems to have been born for the script) and will be written by Alex in collaboration with his usual scriptwriter, Jorge Guerricaechevarria.

"The Yellow M", as well as the nine albums that form the Blake & Mortimer series, are published in Castilian by Publishing Norm.

My adored Rufus Sewell was once cast in this, along with Hugh Bonneville, in an earlier incarnation which never happened... I'm thinking KB would be getting the Bonneville part (though I haven't a clue, really) so maybe they could resuscitate the Rufus casting and make some of us very, very happy.

I hope all these people are actually sharpening their pencils (well, flexing their fingers and hitting the keys) so that scripts do appear...

A photo finish! Two close-ups from the Tokyo press conference for The Magic Flute.

More soon I hope!
(3 June, thanks Pierpaolo, Jude, Gina, Patricia)

Okay, so here is the stuff that I couldn't get together last night...

Even though the North American release of As You Like It has not been officially announced, the UK one has been (21 September 2007) and there is now a trailer you can see. There are two locations: This Is London and Enjoy! (As you will enjoy the whole film when you finally get to see it!)

Random fun... watch Michael Maloney talk amusingly about Ken here.

Random notes...Ghosts with Kenneth Branagh and Judi Dench will be included The Henrik Ibsen Collection DVD, being released in July 2007. It is also included in the Judi Dench Collection.

It was just as well that I couldn't finish up last night as some new photos from Sleuth came in today - you can see them here.

And finally a photo from Flickr...KB caught in the street, with Gerard Horan and another friend, looking like he's not hearing ecstatically good news. Or maybe he sensed the photo being taken. :-)

This is definitely it for now (shakes brain and no other pieces of KB news fall out). Just a reminder that the raffle for the Celebrity Cookbook, featuring a recipe contributed by Kenneth and signed by him, is still on!
(26 May, thanks Catherine, Mark, Pierpaolo, Jude)

The ding-dong is back, still ringing... so that Jeopardy comment... really stupid. I finally got to watch the press conference on a non-dinosaur and (duh) the lovely young lady is not asking questions, but rather translating what Kenneth is saying. It's a bit of a Lost in Translation moment, with relatively few sentences seeming to require many more in Japanese, but you get to watch KB looking benevolent, eyeballing the press and drinking water in between words of wisdom. His rendition of the aria is in there, sort of tooted (it's hard to explain) but in tune and worth watching!  Besides the site mentioned in the last update, there is now another place to watch this press conference: Click on the image of a video camera which is near the top beside the numbers "(27 min 2 sec)". This version requires a JAVA Runtime Environment.

If you have the language skills you can read two other articles about this event, in Japanese, here and here.

So that moment of my world turning rosy and bright with the hint that KB might tread the boards again remained but a moment, since pretty much the next day this damp cloud of news appeared:

Waht's On Stage, 18 May 2007

Bristol Bust Cancels Branaghís 'Ivanov' for Good???

Plans for Kenneth Branagh to star in and direct a new production of Chekhovís 'Ivanov' have been dashed by last weekís abrupt decision by Bristol Old Vic to close the theatre for two years from 1 August (See News, 11 May 2007). Though as yet unannounced, the production was scheduled to be staged in November with Branagh confirmed to play the lead role and likely direct. It would have been the first time Branagh had directed Chekhov for the stage since his Renaissance Theatre Company production of 'Uncle Vanya' in 1991. A spokesperson for Branagh told that the production had been on the cards for a number of weeks but would no longer go ahead at Brisol or anywhere else. She said Branagh currently had no other plans to direct for the stage. Branagh last appeared on stage in the Nationalís production of 'Edmond' in 2003, for which he won the Theatregoersí Choice Award for Best Actor, and in 'Richard III' at Sheffieldís Crucible Theatre in 2002.

Sigh. ...But it looks like Hollywood will come in to keep us all from completely forgetting that this man can act. Okay, so he's back in Nazi garb, but we'll take what we can get at this point. Here's a not so reverent blurb on the new film, followed by a staccato movie-speak version:
Cinema Blend, 23 May 2007

Kenneth Branagh Heads To Germany
By Ed Perkis

If you ever need someone to play a Nazi, Kenneth Branagh is your man. After donning the swastika for both 'Swing Kids' and 'Conspiracy', he will play a German general in Bryan Singerís World War II drama 'Valkyrie', according to Variety. Something about this Irish Shakespearean actor/director makes people think Third Reich. Itís a gift.

Singerís film, which was written by Christopher McQuarrie (The Usual Suspects) and Nathan Alexander, will star Tom Cruise. It covers the true story of a group of German officers who attempted to assassinate Adolph Hitler in July 1944. Branagh will play a mentor to the character played by Cruise. Other rumored or confirmed participants are Bill Nighy, Tom Wilkinson, and Stephen Fry.

Iíve always liked Branagh. His 'Henry V' got me interested in Shakespeare after both high school and college failed to spark anything on the Bard. Heís done the accent a few times, so that should be no problem, and it looks like a stellar cast with a top-notch director. Hopefully this will be out sometime in 2008.

Variety, 21 May 2007

Branagh Set for Singer's 'Valkyrie'
Actor joins Cruise in WWII drama
By Michael Fleming

Kenneth Branagh will star with Tom Cruise in "Valkyrie," the Bryan Singer-directed WWII drama that shoots this summer for United Artists. Branagh will play a German general who mentors Cruise's character and hatches a plan to assassinate Hitler. Christopher McQuarrie and Nathan Alexander scripted, based on a true story.

Singer and McQuarrie, who will produce, brought the project to Cruise and Paula Wagner in March; Cruise committed to star shortly thereafter. Project marked the second film to which UA committed and also the second in which Cruise is starring (he also toplines the Robert Redford-directed "Lions for Lambs").

Pic begins lensing July 19 in Berlin.

Branagh recently finished directing a "Sleuth" remake that stars Michael Caine and Jude Law and a version of Shakespeare's "As You Like It" that will premiere on HBO in September.

You'll notice that wee mention of As You Like It premiering on HBO in September... for all who are asking (and this is a question that's almost up there with "when is the Hamlet DVD coming out?", for which we thankfully now have an answer) this is all the info we've had up till now. And it is not from the HBO horse's mouth...

And when release news rains, it pours. According to Screen Daily, 18 May 2007:

[UK distributor] Revolver boss Justin Marciano has confirmed that the company will be releasing Kenneth Branagh's opera film, "The Magic Flute", in time for Christmas and will be presenting it to audiences as a seasonal festive film for families.
Sounds good to me!

Further to recent directing efforts and more release news: a teaser webpage for Sleuth has been put up. You can see it here (and watch it grow, one assumes, over the summer). BTW, it has a fade in first screen, which begins to show just in the nick of time for impatient types like me, so hang in. The film opens 12 October 2007.

I think there is more, but I left my brain somewhere in the exibition I set up for Museum Day on Sunday (you do not want to know) (and hopefully no one will find it and trot it down to the Bodyworlds expo currently in town :-)), so I'll have to dig around on the virtual desk for the rest another time.
(25 May, thanks Ai, Jane, Pierpaolo, Renie, Anna)

Just a quickie - because I am a ding-dong, I forgot a very important thing in yesterday's update. If you go to this Japanese site, and scroll down you will find a Windows Media link marked "Large". Click on this and you will be treated to the press conference with Kenneth - his bits are in English, and you can do a Jeopardy thing and figure the questions out. Have fun!
(16 May, thanks Ai, Lyn), Branagh-watchers! A sighting! Yesterday Kenneth was at a press conference in Tokyo to announce the release of The Magic Flute in Japan in July. Click here to see photos from this event. You can see the official Japanese website for The Magic Flute here, with a very good trailer. Here, thanks to Ai, is the translation of a short article on the press conference (if you can read Japanese you can see the original article here):

Kenneth Branagh (44), the director of the "The Magic Flute" which is a film adaptation of a Mozart's late masterpiece, visited Japan and gave an interview in Tokyo on 14th. He said, "It took 3 years and six months (to complete the film). I listened to Mozart every day." He moved the locale from the classical world to Europe on the eve of World War I. "A love story can be described more clearly than an opera. I made "The Magic Flute" in the form of a film which is accessible in the present day". Branagh, who appeared in the second Harry Potter series as an actor, said with a smile, "I think it's about time to work as an actor".
The film will be released in July.
Those who read Japanese can find another article here, and another one here. (I can't see this last one, but I'm on a dinosaur, so I am assuming it is there and dino just doesn't get the coding). Ai reports that one article says that "Ken performed "coloratura", one of the vocalisms of opera, for 12 seconds, and enchanted reporters" - indeed! This is hard to imagine and I hope it makes it on to Youtube. :-) In another article Ken says he wants to appear on stage this year or next. So my world has just turned rosy and bright - please let this happen!

You can also find a pack of photos from the press conference (and you can enlarge them to a decent size) at Getty Images.

In other news, a first look at Sleuth, with an image of Michael Caine and Jude Law, is available over at Empire Online, from whence comes this snippet:

You may get a sense of deja vu from seeing the names Michael Caine and 'Sleuth' in the same sentence. In Joseph Mankiewicz's 1972 film, Caine played a hairdresser who has an affair with the wife of a murder mystery writer, leading to much narkiness on the latter's part and a convoluted game of cat and mouse between the two. Now Caine is returning to the 'Sleuth' world, but in a very different form.

In Kenneth Branagh's new movie, a fresh take on the Tony Award winning play by Anthony Shaffer, rather than a reworking of the previous film, Caine is in the role of cuckold, not cuckoldee (OK, maybe that's not a word, but you know what we mean). As seen in this exclusive first picture from the movie, Caine plays the author, with Jude Law playing an aspiring young actor who beds Caine's Mrs, leading to all kinds of mindgames.

The film is something of a baby for Law, who wooed Caine, Branagh and über-playwright Harold Pinter for the film, which will be released later this year. 'Sleuth Mk III', featuring Law as the writer, Freddie Highmore as the young dallier and direction by Dakota Fanning will be released in 2039.

Tee hee.

Maybe more soon... we live in hope! (And don't forget the raffle!)
(15 May, thanks Ai, Anna, Pierpaolo)

Just a quick quickie: Kenneth Branagh has signed a copy of the Papworth Hospital Charity Celebrity Cookery Book for the Ken-Friends and a raffle has been organised to raise funds for one of Kenneth's charities. You can read about the Ken-Friends' fundraising activities here and you can learn about the charity raffle and how to participate here

Another update coming up soon!
(11 May 2007, thanks Jude)

Hey Kenners (connaisseurs, in German :-) ) - I'm back from the idyllic vineyards and the fresh air of the forest I was sleeping in. Restored and refreshed... course, the event of my cute but dementia-ed mother making the Great Escape and having to be searched for by the police kind of wiped the California relaxation out, but we all survived.

But you don't want to hear about that, what you really want to hear about is..... [drumroll] an actual release date for the DVD of Hamlet! 14 August 2007. Can it really be true? Well, you can read a press release here, so I guess we don't have to pinch ourselves. The director's commentary recorded by KB is supposed to be wonderful. Time to buy the 50" flatscreen. :-)

Lots of random notes... starting with a fun blast from the past. Remember that comfy (not) wheelchair which Kenneth was confined to during Wild Wild West? I am sure he remembers it very well, but we can all refresh our memories with this photo, taken of the chair in its current (final?) resting place, the Volo Auto Museum in Volo, Illinois.

Mr. Narrator Branagh has another gig: (from Mid Sussex Times)

Branagh Joins Prince for Premiere

Kenneth Branagh will be joined by the Prince of Wales for the premiere of a documentary devoted to a priceless work of art from one of Islam's holiest sites.

Charles will watch 'Stairway to Heaven', which is narrated by Branagh, at the Leicester Square Odeon in the West End. The work charts the history of the minbar of Saladin, originally crafted more than 800 years ago.

In 1969 Jerusalem's al-Aqsa mosque - Islam's third holiest site - was attacked by a Christian fanatic and the pulpit, made from more than 16,000 hand carved pieces of wood, ivory and ebony, was destroyed in a fire. Craftsmen have spent 30 years recreating the minbar. It is currently in Jordan and is expected to eventually be returned to the al-Aqsa mosque.

In February this year, violence between Israeli police and Palestinians erupted at the holy site in Jerusalem. It was sparked by protests against excavation work in the area amid claims this was threatening the foundations of the mosque. Ariel Sharon's visit in 2000 to Temple Mount, which houses the mosque, provoked riots which turned into the Palestinian intifada.

Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad of Jordan will also be at the premiere of the film.

Charles, who is fascinated with Islamic art, saw the minbar during his tour of Jordan in October 2004. His School for Traditional Arts in London has worked closely with Al-Balqa University in Jordan, swapping skills and knowledge.

Hommage to the master, or, what Ken's doing on his summer vacation... From Eux TV:
Branagh to Attend Bergman Week on Baltic Sea Island
3 May 2007

Stockholm (dpa) - British actor and director Kenneth Branagh was slated to screen his film "The Magic Flute" at Sweden's annual Bergman Week, organizers said Thursday. The screening would be a sneak premiere in Sweden - the official premiere was to be in August - and was one of the planned events during the week held in honour of famed director Ingmar Bergman.

Bergman made a version for television in 1975 of "The Magic Flute", based on Mozart's opera.

Known for his adaptations for the screen of works by Shakespeare, Branagh said that Bergman's version of "The Magic Flute" was more "intimate" while he had wanted to do "something quite different, something more passionate," according to a statement issued by the organizers of the Bergman Week.

The week is June 26 to July 1. The festival is held on Faro, a tiny island just off the northern tip of the Swedish Baltic Sea island Gotland, where Bergman has retired. He used the island - known for its stark, stony landscape - as a setting for six films, and during the Bergman Week, visitors see some of the locations he used.

Branagh was also due to introduce his favourite Bergman movie, "Fanny and Alexander" from 1982. Belfast-born Branagh said he first saw the movie when he was 22 and was strongly moved by it.

Last year, Hollywood director Ang Lee visited Faro and in addition to screening his film "The Ice Storm" also talked about his favourite Bergman film, "Wild Strawberries".

And finally, a new magazine cover: prelude to the showing of The Magic Flute at the Sevilla Film Festival.

More soon, I hope!
(7 May, thanks Anna, Nadine, Paula, Isabel)

Moi again (and mwah, mwah, all you Ken fans)... one little news item, but a good one. Lions Gate Films UK will be distributing As You Like It in the UK, and on their site you can read extensive Production Notes, which include an interview with Kenneth Branagh.

And from 1998 three photo session images. (Friendly chap...).

I'm going to be spending a week in a tent in a park in the Napa Valley (I will be needing the vino they've got there, ha ha), but hope to have more news soon.
(22 April, thanks Jude)

Quickie time again (really quick this time, before I turn into a pumpkin at midnight):

You can listen to Kenneth reading the biography Leni: The Life and Work of Leni Riefenstahl on Book of the Week on BBC Radio 4. It airs from 9.45 am to 10.00am, repeated 00.30 to 00.45 am. And you can "listen again" on the website.

And a very nice photo from the press conference in Barcelona to give the quickie a bit more substance.

More soon, I hope.
(16 April, thanks Sal, Lyn)

Just three quickies...

An article from 1997, previously unseen on this site, heh heh - read it here.

Then we have most excellent news on the film front... from Variety, 26 March 2007:

Paramount tracks down 'Sleuth'
Law stars in Branagh film

By Archie Thomas

LONDON ó Paramount Pictures Intl. has acquired U.K., Australia, New Zealand and South Africa distribution rights to Jude Law starrer "Sleuth," helmed by Kenneth Branagh.

Pic stars Law as an out-of-work actor who becomes embroiled in a tense game of cat and mouse with Michael Caine's wealthy thriller writer character. The movie, which recently finished filming at London's Twickenham Studios, is an updated version of Anthony Shaffer's play from a new script by Harold Pinter -- his first screenplay in a decade.

Law produces alongside Branagh, Simon Halfon, Simon Moseley and Marion Pilowsky. Ben Jackson, Law's producing partner in Riff Raff Prods., gets a co-production credit.

Sony Pictures Classics snapped up North American and Latin American rights to the film in January.

Joseph Mankiewicz's 1972 bigscreen adaptation of the original Shaffer play, which starred Caine and Laurence Olivier, earned four Oscar nominations.

I'm assuming someone will pick the the North American, European and Asian rights - right?

And photo finish: Kenneth and Virginia V. in Barcelona at the press conference for the premiere of The Magic Flute

(1 April, thanks Karen, Pierpaolo, Patricia, Virginia)

Woo hoo, a little bit of curmudgeonly comment goes a long way: Mr. B. did indeed make an appearance in Barcelona and you can see a bunch of photos here. I don't believe he was in Belfast for the premiere of The Magic Flute there, but at least now we know... he's aliiiiive!  :-)

More soon, I hope.
(25 March, thanks Virginia V., Marga, Teresa)

And Murphy's Law - which dictates that as soon as you do an update there will be new news the next day - has not let us down. Quick update, part deux: The Magic Flute will be shown at the Opening Premiere of the Belfast Film Festival, Thursday 22 March 2007. In theory Kenneth will be presenting the film in Barcelona the day before, but I suppose one can hope the Ryanair will do the patriotic (well, neighbourly) thing and fly Himself back to the old country for this event. But what do I know - my curmudgeonly side suspects he won't show at either place, but it would be nice if I could feel crummy about being way too curmudgeonly after he makes both dates. :-)

We'll keep you posted!
(18 March, thanks Anna)

Just a quick update with two bits of news...

The Magic Flute will be shown at the Cine Alcazar in Barcelona on Wednesday 21 March. Apparently Kenneth Branagh will present the film. Not sure how you get tickets...but hanging around the entrance/exits is always an option. :-)

Meanwhile, I haved added three new articles related to The Magic Flute: Peppy ... Kenneth Branagh's 'Magic Flute', Branagh's Magic Flute Star Charms Venice, and Unknown Hits High Note in Branagh's Magic Flute.

The Shakespeare Society's free 443rd Birthday Marathon, which will take place at 6:30 pm on Monday 9 April at the Kaye Playhouse at Hunter College in New York, will feature "an extended preview of Kenneth Branagh's HBO film version of As You Like It". Not entirely certain what extended preview means (more than a trailer, less than the whole film?) but if you're in the area, there is a lot of other Shakespearean stuff on the programme to tempt you as well.

I am working on the photo galleries - one day they will be decent (not even daring to think when that will be!).
(17 March, Happy St. Pat's! Thanks Virgina V., Jude)

Hi Kensterinos! Yikes, another month has passed, how time flies, etc.etc. But - a wonderful thing has happened in the intervening 28 days: Kenneth Branagh and Russell Jackson have recorded a commentary which will be on the forthcoming (still some months to wait) DVD of Hamlet!

Yes, here it is in print: there will finally be a DVD of this amazing film. According to Warner it "will be out before the end of the Summer. In SD, HD-DVD and Blu-Ray!". SD is what most mere mortals will be able to afford, I guess. The further, not confirmed, info is that the release will be in August, timed to coincide with the HBO release of As You Like It. You can find the Hamlet news summed up here.

It might be that As You Like It gets a television airing rather than a cinematic one, which would be a real shame. (It should have both, cough cough.) I have seen the film (that Italian DVD is hard to resist) and it's wonderful, right up there with Much Ado About Nothing, despite the fact that its marvellous director isn't in it.

Meanwhile, all-grown-up Daniel Radcliffe is on stage in the West End and there are a couple of snippets, from before the play opened which mention KB:

From an interview in the Guardian, 11 February 2007:
"He reflects on the way that acting, and Harry Potter, have defined his 17 years. Having spent large chunks of his adolescence in the company of adults, famous ones at that, it means that he counts as friends not schoolmates and peers but people like Gary Oldman, Imelda Staunton and Kenneth Branagh. (It was Branagh - Gilderhoy Lockhart in the second film, Chamber of Secrets - who first suggested that Dan do Equus, and who worked with him on early workshop versions of the play in 2005.)"

And from an article in Variety:
"Radcliffe had come to Pugh's attention as one of the celebrity guests on "The Play What I Wrote." "He had incredible presence and was very professional," he says. "I'd been in discussion with Peter Shaffer for six years, and he suggested a reading." Eighteen months ago, Radcliffe's reading at the Old Vic (where the play premiered) was such a success that the project was greenlit.

At that point, Kenneth Branagh was attached, initially to play the other leading role of the psychiatrist, Dysart, then to direct the play. Differences between Branagh and Shaffer over how to stage a 1970s play in the present led Pugh to move on."

Kenneth was one of the judges for the British Short Screenplay Competition. You can read about the competition and see the winners (and the judges) here.

The Magic Flute will open in Spain in April 2007. The poster is ready and you can see it here.

Blast from the past: a football story from our Ken, from 2000. Read it here, and then double the fun by revisiting this one.  :-)  :-)

There are a few new covers in the Book Cover Gallery: specifically this one, this one and this one.

Photo finish: KB looking both strangely young and yet not - from a Norwegian newspaper article.

(4 March, thanks Jude, Mark, Carole, Carole, Isabel, Gina)

The Compendium is still alive and well, even though it's been slumbering for almost a month. It's been kind of quiet on the news front, but, in the background, the filming of Sleuth is underway and a kind Deepthroat reports that it's "going well".

Regarding The Magic Flute, it will be shown, for free, on Saturday 17 February at 8 pm, at the La Monnaie in Brussels, as part of of European Opera Day.

A little walk down memory lane... the 2 Feruary issue of Entertainment Weekly has a column entitled "Jewels of the Crown", by Tim Purtell. In the context of Oscar nominated films, Kenneth Branagh, as King Henry V, is #1 and featured in a photo on horseback. The column reads:

"Long before Helen Mirren played Elizabeth II, onscreen monarchs have ruled the Academy. Here, we anoint the very best royal roles to earn Oscar nods.

"What Laurence Olivier's popular celebrated version did for 40s audiences, Branagh (who was only 28 at the time) does more so for modern filmgoers - make Shakespeare thrillingly viscerally alive. And if Olivier was constrained by wartime concerns to tone down Henry's darkness, Branagh as actor and director, was free to show him in all his charismatic colors: belligerent, coldhearted, haunted (in that stunning post-battle tracking shot), and finally sweet and ardent in love. It's a ballsy, impassioned performance that met its match on Oscar night against Daniel Day Lewis' equally stirring portrayal in "My Left Foot".

Regarding the photographic exhibition 'No Mean City' showing in Belfast until June, you can see the photo of Kenneth, looking a titch weary, here.

Finally, Kenneth's message to the Ken-Friends, thanking us for this year's birthday donation can be read here.

There are a couple of new covers to add to the Gallery so I will be back soon!
(4 February, thanks Colette, Jude , Lynne)

Happy New Year Branagh-fans! Tying up a few loose ends here, the bits I didn't get to in the last update. And if you are looking for the last updates, and the many before that, you will find them in the News & Notes Archive.

I know quite a few people saw the documentary on the making of The Magic Flute, shown on New Year's Day. Here is the promo from the Sunday Times "Critics Choice" of 31 December 2006:

Mozart Rocks

You have to hand it to Kenneth Branagh: he does keep pushing the envelope. Here he is with his filming of the Mozart's Opera, when the closest he has got to music before is enjoying Eddie and the Hot Rods. Setting the film on the eve of the first world war means this documentary chronicles making movies in all its messiness. No wonder Branagh admits to demons and terrors.

And, to complement the interview which can be found in the press kit on the Magic Flute website here are a few new questions and answers which appeared in a feature interview with Kenneth in Paris Match last month (thanks to Isabelle for the translation):
Q.  Donít you ever feel like making a more personal film?
I do. My father is very sick, and when I look at him, itís as if I'm looking in a mirror. I recognize the boy from Belfast, and everything I had repressed about my proletarian, Protestant and lonely childhood comes back to me. Maybe, one day, Iíll manage to express myself by mixing self-analysis and a contemporary and political context.

Q.  Do the days when you were Hollywoodís golden boy and British peopleís "man youíd love to swipe" seem a long time ago to you?
Itís a little as if I'm looking at another manís life. When 'Dead Again' turned out to be the box office number one, I was married to Emma Thompson, we were young and successful. Everybody was my best friend in Hollywood, whereas we were very unpopular in Great Britain. I donít feel the same aggressiveness anymore today and people donít reproach me for "daring" to adapt Shakespeare or Mozart anymore. People accept the idea that I just do my job and that I have the right to fail.

Q.  Have you ever doubted your talent?
The reviews of 'Loveís Labours Lost' were so dreadful in 2000 that I was like a groggy boxer. I said to myself: "Youíve been wrong from the beginning, your successes are misunderstandings, itís time to withdraw!" Fortunately, passion and enthusiasm came back at the double. Iím not going to flourish the flag of martyrdom. We are a few to make films in the same direction but for all that we donít claim that it is the best direction. All we ask is that a bit of room be left for us."

And there is one more interview, from Le Figaro, which you can read here.

And if you would like to listen before you see, you can download the soundtrack from The Magic Flute from iTunes for $9.99 US. Put some kultcha in your iPod! :-)

Bits and bobs: here is a short article from the Belfast Telegraph, 15 December 3006:

Belfast's Finest Captured on Camera
By By Emily Moulton

Some of Belfast's most celebrated citizens have been immortalised in a new photographic exhibition entitled 'No Mean City'.

The eclectic collection of portraits profiles more than 50 of the city's most well-known identities from a range of backgrounds including sports, the arts, business and medicine. Belfast City Council commissioned the exhibition to mark the centenary of the City Hall and is one of two legacy projects which were set to be unveiled this week to show the city's rich history, both past and present. Belfast-born photographer Michael Donald has managed to capture some of the many characters and personalities that have helped shape Belfast into the vibrant, cultural city it is today.

Belfast boy and footballing legend George Best sits alongside renowned engineer and Titanic designer Thomas Andrews. Van 'The Man' Morrison shares the stage with musician Francis McPeake and architect Peter McGuckin and children's author CS Lewis learns a line or two off Snow Patrol lead singer Gary Lightbody. Other portraits include former snooker world champion Alex Higgins, poet John Hewitt, playwright Marie Jones, Irish President Mary McAleese, trade unionist James Larkin, author Glenn Patterson, Olympic gold medallist Dame Mary Peters, actors Kenneth Branagh, Jimmy Ellis and Stephen Rea and singer Brian Kennedy.

'No Mean City' was unveiled at Belfast City Hall last night and will be on display until the end of June next year.

So if you go to Belfast in the first half of 2007, you can catch it.

And another short article from the Belfast Telegraph, on James Nesbitt, the dad in the "Billy" trilogy (well, there were four episodes, but the fourth remains elusive), 16 December 2006:

Veteran Ulster Actor Ellis's Life in Focus
By By Eddie McIlwaine

Television cameraman Eric Gillespie was really impressed when he focused on Ulster's best loved actor James Ellis - on board the Liverpool ferry steaming into Belfast. "I was shooting scenes at sea in the first series of the hit BBC Billy plays in which Jimmy played opposite an emerging Kenneth Branagh," recalls the man who now heads up the Actualeyes production company.

That was 23 years ago and Ellis made such a big impression on the young man with the lens recording scenes at sea that Gillespie promised himself to one day tell the Ellis story in a television documentary.

After being director of photography on network hit dramas like 'At Home with the Braithwaites' it has taken Eric more than 20 years to turn his Ellis dream into reality with the production An Actor's Life being screened on BBC1 on Tuesday night. "He's a hard man to pin down," says Gillespie who personally directed the one-off programme. "Jimmy loves to talk and is a natural story teller, but he dislikes the documentary style with acquaintances going on about him and his career."

And 'An Actor's Life' nearly foundered at first base when Ellis had a stroke last spring. "He made a remarkable recovery and has just recharged his batteries on holiday with his wife Robina," explains Gillespie, "and it has been a privilege for me to tell his story, the good times and the bad. "From the controversial times when he was putting on the play 'Over the Bridge' in his native city to the grim day when his son was murdered on a tow path."

James Ellis has given the production the thumbs up. "I love acting and telling stories and writing as much as ever," he said. Among those talking about the Ellis touch will be Ken Branagh and James Nesbitt.

And just so there is a little photo finish (while I rummage through the virtual desk trying to regain control over many floating images... if you sent me something and I haven't put it up yet, please don't despair [or think I am ungrateful]) here is a collage of the many newspaper articles which appeared after Kenneth received his award in Seville.

More as soon as I pull together the information on the results of this year's birthday fundraising project - coming soon!
(7 January, thanks Catherine, Isabelle, Jude, Isabel)