News Archive: July 2008 - December 2008

Okay - I think I should stop 1) promising to 'be back soon' and 2) making excuses when it's weeks later (though there are some, like crawling out into the crusty snow to cut some low branches from the evergreen tree for a door decoration - breaking through the upper icy layer into fluffy depths was a total nostalgia trip, I used to cut "plates" in snow like this when I was a kid). So before I pass out completely, the usual Sunday night conclusion, I will try to add at least one or two bits of news. There quite a few things on the virtual desk and they will make it here one day (no date given). :-)

Television alert: Kenneth will be on Jay Leno on 17 December. Check your local listings (as they say).

The newst new thing is an article relating to Thor. I still have to do a page for the film (so what else is new?) but you can read it here.

Random notes:

One Liz Hunt, in The Telegraph, had this to say on 3 December 2008:

We Could Learn to Love This Angst-ridden Branagh

Kenneth Branagh has always been hard to love. His jaunty self-assurance as the theatrical wunderkind of the Eighties was distinctly unBritish, his ambition too soaring, while the surfeit of energy that drove him to dabble in every aspect of his craft just plain irritating.

He invited - and certainly relished - the comparisons that were, inevitably, drawn with Olivier, and a biography called Beginnings[sic], published when he was just 29, smacked of presumption. He wooed and won a national treasure (Emma Thompson), only to sanction the most unfortunate wedding dress ever to grace a celebrity, for their nuptials at Arundel Castle, and was, allegedly, rather beastly to her during their marriage. He dated another national treasure, Helena Bonham Carter, but then took up with her friend to whom he is now married.

No matter how many films, TV serials, musicals, plays he appeared in, wrote, directed - and they have been legion - we failed to take him to our collective bosom. A great actor but... Now, though, as Swedish detective Kurt Wallender, who made his debut at the weekend, he may be on the verge of a breakthrough. We like our TV coppers angst-ridden, and no one does angst better than Wallender; hollow of eye, stubbled of jowl, he is the personification of an incipient nervous breakdown, beset by personal problems and prone to tears. But no criminal will get the better of him. Branagh has never looked worse - nor been more compelling.

No comment.

And, much more edifying (in the literal sense, too, haha), from The Independent, 16 November 2008:

Stage Giants Fight to Save Chekhov Villa
Stoppard, Frayn and Branagh in Campaign to Stop the Great Writer's House Falling into Disrepair
By Matthew Bell

Leading British playwrights and actors are mounting a campaign to save the Crimean villa where Anton Chekhov wrote some of his most important works, including 'Three Sisters' and 'The Cherry Orchard'. The building is being allowed to fall into ruin because of tension between the Russian and Ukrainian governments, it is claimed.

The White Dacha, perched on a hill in the Black Sea resort of Yalta, was built for Chekhov after he moved south from Moscow in 1898, seeking a warmer climate in the hope that it might ease his tuberculosis. Although unhappy for most of his five and a half years in the Crimea – pining, like many of his characters, to get back to Moscow – it was here that he wrote his two last plays, considered among his greatest.

The house is of particular interest, because it has been preserved in exactly the same condition in which Chekhov left it, two months before his death in 1904. But after years of neglect, subsidence and rising damp are taking their toll: cracks have appeared in the walls, portions of ceiling have collapsed and mould is spreading. Water has begun to pour into the attic, causing damage to Chekhov's study and drawing room.

Sir Tom Stoppard, Michael Frayn, Kenneth Branagh and Ralph Fiennes are among supporters of the campaign to save the White Dacha, launched at the Pushkin House Anglo-Russian society in London last week by the the Chekhov scholar and biographer Rosamund Bartlett.

After the playwright's death, his sister Masha scrupulously looked after the house. She refused to be evacuated during the Second World War, and forebade Nazi soldiers to occupy her brother's rooms. Since her death in 1957 it has been run as a museum. Vladimir Putin visited in 2003, leaving his visiting card but no donation.

The dacha began to deteriorate after Crimea became a part of Ukraine, following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. The Russian government stopped providing the grants that had kept the house open to the public. The cash-strapped Ministry of Culture and Arts of the Autonomous Crimean Republic, under whose jurisdiction it now falls, says it has no duty to provide funds because Chekhov was Russian, not Ukrainian.

"The Ukrainians really should be supporting this house, it's so important," said Alexander Walsh, one of the campaigners. "It's a tragedy that [the government's] nationalist agenda seems to preclude doing so." The campaign hopes to raise enough money to restore the house by 2010, the 150th anniversary of Chekhov's birth.

You will find the website here: A worthy cause.

Here is are two photos to tide you over till I am back with more: a great photo, probably from the visit to Sweden and looking like a million bucks in his tux.

À bientôt!
(14 December, thanks Pierpaolo, Jude, Lyn)

Kenians, you can test your eyesight with a bunch more articles...I've decided there are too many to list, so please go to the Wallander page and you will find them all. There are only a couple of crotchety hacks, including one of those weird articles that is mostly admiring until about two-thirds of the way through, when something (as the Germans say) 'crawls over [the writer's] liver' (maybe that last unnecessary scotch, hahahaha). It's kind of a fascinating genre; you can read this example here.

And.... be still my beating heart... AA Gill, whose writing, if not usually opinions, I am besotted with has said this:

And Kenneth Branagh is close to being a thespian genius. He may also be one of the greatest wastes of talent of this generation. Every time he appears on the small screen, he’s in a class of his own. A thoughtful, truthful and strong, muscular actor who does real acting as opposed to just "being". Being is what most television performances are. Soap operas are full of blokes being characters in a soap opera, which is only vaguely related to your actual acting.

Branagh is one of the few thesps who can do it both on stage and small screen with appropriate intensity. They were lucky to get him as this generic detective, and he was lucky to get Wallander as a great character. He fulfils all the demands of the classic detective: the stoic face, the hurt eyes, the clumsy emotion and the sudden bursts of condensed anger.
(Read the whole article here).

I nearly cried.  :-)

There is also a new little gallery with a few photos from Wallander.

There are quite a lot of other things but as usual my brain has died for the day, so I'll be back tomorrow.
(Thanks Anna, Wenda, Jane, Jude, Patricia)

AWOL again - apologies. This is just a quickie to give you three Wallander reviews and another related, but broader, article. There are lots more (pre- and post- yesterday's showing) which I hope to get to soon (yeah, I know you've heard that before...). So you can read a review from the Times here, one from the Leicester Mercury here, one from the Independent here, and finally an article on Wallander and more here.

Till soon!
(1 December, thanks Jane, Anna)

And on and on it goes... (I seem to be even further behind than I thought - yikes!). Sorry it's in drips and drabs! Usual excuses of the day job and not being a complete hermit (yet).   :-)

You will find two older articles here: about Much Ado from 1993, and about In the Bleak Midwinter from 1995.

And we have more additions to the Cover Gallery: a Turkish magazine from 2003 and a new book by Samuel Crowl. And, lest we forget - the new edition of Ivanov, tied in with the Donmar production.

Meanwhile, back in the present day - you can watch a nice BBC interview with Kenneth and director Philip Martin about Wallander here.

That is it for today, but I'll be back!
(22 November, Isabelle, Susanne, Jude, Jules)

Okay, a few more things, in random order....

You can see a couple of photos of Kenneth accepting the Stage Performance Award at the Variety Club's 56th Annual Showbusiness Awards at the Getty Images site.

The BBC promo for Wallander can be viewed here on Youtube. I've organised the articles on the Wallander page and you can also (finally) read the interview with Branagh and Mankell from the BBC Press Office.

The Curve Theatre has been mentioned before and is now open. Here's a report from This is Leicester, 8 November 2008:

Luvvies Lavish Praise on Curve

Actors, directors and critics alike are all agreed - Curve is simply marvellous, darling.

As the theatre gets set to open to the public, luvvies from around the country have been lavishing praise on the venue.

Actor and director Kenneth Branagh said: "I am full of admiration for the new Leicester theatre, Curve, which is an exciting and innovative building. I'm sure it will prove inspirational to all those who are lucky enough to work there and I wish Leicester Theatre Trust every success in the new space."

Actor Andy Nyman, who grew up in Leicester and recently starred in 'Dead Set', on E4, said: "I really hope Curve's a success.Leicester has always been a bit of a poor relation to Nottingham and Curve could help change that. I'm going to get tickets for Pillowman. I saw it in London and it was very good. It will be a great experience to see it in Leicester's new theatre."

Actress and singer Sharon D Clarke, who starred in the BBC's 'Holby City' and is singing in the theatre's opening show, 'Lift Off', said: "It's a fantastic theatre. I've had a tour behind the scenes and it's wonderful. Apparently, I was the first person to sing on the stage. I wanted to hear what it sounded like. The acoustics were phenomenal."

Sharon said she performed at the Haymarket theatre in the 1990s. "Having been a part of the old Haymarket theatre, I feel honoured to be part of the team that's celebrating the opening of the theatre," she said.

Critics have also been falling over themselves to compliment the theatre. Alfred Hickling, writing in the Guardian, said: "Curve is not just the most innovative new performance centre to be built in Britain, but could be one of the most revolutionary theatre spaces in the world. There have been inside-out buildings before - the Pompidou embodies most people's idea of a structure which exposes its inner workings to the world - but no one has applied the concept so comprehensively to a theatre."

Stephen Bayley, writing in the Observer, said: "A bold architectural concept, its 24-metre-high louvred glass facade swooshes with bravado to establish an elegantly forceful presence. Curve is a fine, handsome and worthwhile thing - Leicester's best building since James Stirling's University Engineering Tower."

From Tuesday to Sunday, November 16, there will be a series of opening shows, 'Lift-Off', featuring circus, gymnastic and musical performances. The official opening is next Saturday. The first production, 'Simply Cinderella', starts on December 4.

Yours truly was lucky enough to also have a behind-the-scenes tour of this amazing building (waving at Stella!) and you can see some photos here.

Nurturing the future department: read an article about Kenneth as mentor.

Still a coverboy (what model can claim this longevity? hahaha). Here's a new addition to the Cover Gallery. There is also a photo from inside the magazine.

There is more, but it seems bits and bobs is all I can get together for the moment - so more soon!
(19 November, thanks Patricia, Terry, tediousoldfools, Yvonne, Ruth)

As usual, I am behind in the news, but here are a few things before the dreaded Sunday evening brain drain begins (I will add the rest over the next week).

There is a short "new" (for this site) article on the 10 Days to War page. There is also a link to a Q&A with the producer and director from the page.

I missed bringing you the long list, but now the short list for the Evening Standard Theatre Awards has been announced... and guess who's on it. :-) Here is an announcement from BBC News, 7 November 2008:

Branagh Comeback Up for Top Award

Kenneth Branagh's return to the West End stage has been shortlisted for an Evening Standard Theatre Award. His performance in Chekhov's "Ivanov" - his first London role for five years - is one of three shortlisted for this year's best actor prize.

Chiwetel Ejiofor's Othello at the Donmar Warehouse and David Calder's King Lear at the Shakespeare's Globe are also nominated.

Donmar productions lead the field with six nominations in four categories. They include a best director nomination for its artistic director Michael Grandage, recognised for "Othello" and "The Chalk Garden" at the Donmar itself and the Donmar production of "Ivanov" at the Wyndham's.

'Astonishing year'

"Chalk Garden" stars Margaret Tyzack and Penelope Wilton are both in the running for best actress, with fellow cast member Felicity Jones up for best newcomer. There is also recognition for the National Theatre of Scotland's debut production "Black Watch", up for best play and best director.

Evening Standard theatre critic Nicholas de Jongh said it had been "an astonishing year", citing the Donmar's year-long West End season and the London stage debut of Hollywood star Josh Hartnett. The awards will be presented at a lunchtime ceremony at the Royal Opera House on 24 November. Last year's event saw two prizes go to Patrick Stewart's West End production of Macbeth. The awards, now in their 54th year, have been presented annually since 1955.

In the meantime, Kenneth has already got something for the Ivanov mantlepiece. From the UK Press Association, 16 November 2008:
Variety Club Honours Showbiz Stars

Veteran actor Sir Michael Caine and a newcomer who shot to fame in the title role of the BBC drama "Merlin" scooped gongs at the Variety Club's 56th Annual Showbusiness Awards.

Colin Morgan, 22, who previously appeared in episodes of "Doctor Who" and the "Catherine Tate Show" before landing the role of the Arthurian wizard in "Merlin", won the Caron Keating Award for Outstanding New Talent. Sir Michael, 75, was awarded with the prize for Outstanding Contribution to Showbusiness at the bash, hosted by impressionist and comedian Jon Culshaw. Noel Edmonds, the cast of the "Hairspray" musical, Kenneth Branagh and James McAvoy were also among the winners.

"Hairspray", the show which has taken the West End by storm, won the Musical Theatre Award, while Edmonds, 59, whose career was revived thanks to Channel 4 teatime show "Deal or No Deal", took the Showbusiness Personality Prize.

Scottish actor McAvoy, 29, was honoured with the Variety Club Film Award for acclaimed performances in movies such as "Atonement", "The Last King of Scotland", and "Wanted". Branagh, 47, won the Stage Performance gong for his performance in the title role in Anton Chekhov's tragicomedy "Ivanov" at the Wyndham's Theatre. Oscar-winning Hollywood star Al Pacino scooped the International Award at the bash.

Alan Carr, co-host of "The Sunday Night Project", was named TV Presenter of the Year and "Peep Show" stars and creators David Mitchell and Robert Webb scooped the Variety Club Comedy Award. New Zealander Hayley Westenra won the Classical Performer of the Year gong at the ceremony, held to raise money for sick, disabled and disadvantaged children and young people.

Variety Club's Showbiz Chairman John Sachs said: "The Variety Club Showbiz Awards are the oldest and most established awards in the UK that recognise the outstanding talent in the field of entertainment. "Due to the generous donations of all our guests and supporters, the vital funds raised tonight will enable Variety Club to continue to support children and young people throughout the UK." The ceremony will be broadcast on Sky1 on November 30.

The broadcast date for Wallander has been announced - 30 November at 9 pm. (BBC Press Announcement - spoiler warning!)

And, you can see some photos from the Ken-Friends meeting with Kenneth after Ivanov here.

That is it for today (yeesh, the brain drained faster than expected...) - there is more, stay tuned!
(16 November, thanks Jane, Jude, Isabel, Anna)

Hi 2-B-eans and Not-2-B-eans. So there is finally a Valkyrie page. Just in time, as the "final trailer" came out on Thursday. You will find a link to it and some new photos (one, two and three) on the page.

The Wallander ball is rolling... you can read new articles here and here.

And sort of here... although this is kind of a wierd hommage, both way-off ("his walk is a curious waddle" - waddle?! -according to Beginning, page 55, it's a "sailor's roll") and beautifully on the mark ("He starts with such unassuming grace in all he does"). And finally another fan piece from Hermione Eyre, who has written one before. Lady after my own heart. :-)

There bigger versions available of five Ivanov photos. You can see them on the Ivanov page, or here: one, two, three, four and five.

If you have a hankering to own some photos from the opening night gala of Ivanov, you can order them here at the What's On Stage website. One of them features the lovely Lindsay (surrounded by talented men).

So on a site called io9, inside an interview with Danny Boyle, there is this snip about Alien Love Triangle, by Charlie Jane Anders, 21 October 2008 (BTW, they knicked the photo from the film which is on this site, and I know this coz they didn't change the name our Ngoc gave it: pea, tee hee):

When will Alien Love Triangle come out on DVD?

I asked Boyle a question about dysfunctional family relationships in his films, and somehow this turned into a discussion of his 2002 cult classic, 'Alien Love Triangle'. Only 30 minutes long, the film stars Kenneth Branagh as a man who invents teleportation. And then he discovers that his wife (Courteney Cox) is really a male alien hiding in a female human's body. To make matters worse, a female alien (Heather Graham) shows up to take Cox back to their home planet. Yeah.

Boyle explained that 'Alien Love Triangle' is his film about family life. "It's apparently a superficial comedy. But what it's really about, it's about the British, and what they will do to protect the apparent perfect family ideal - the lengths they will go to to protect that. I'd love you to see that." At one point, Cox's male alien and Graham's female alien "transform bodies at one point in it... They do this kind of transgressive thing, it's really bizarre. But it's really funny. Once you've seen it, you think about family life."

"Very few people have seen it," he laments, because it's too long to be shown as a short before another film. He hopes the film will come out on DVD one of these days. Miramax owns the rights to it, and it was just shown in a special screening at the smallest movie theater in Wales, which was closing. Originally, the movie was going to come out as a charity DVD, but that hasn't panned out. There's also been talk about including it as an extra on the 'Slumdog Millionaire' DVD.

So there you go... ol' Harvey Weinstein, who marketed Love's Labours Lost so brilliantly [not], is in the mix. Don't hold your breath.

And that is it for today. There is another early article to put up and I still have to get the photos from the Ken-Friends post-Ivanov encounter with the star of the show together... soon, I hope!
(2 November, thanks Pierpaolo, Catherine, Sujin, Renie, Jane, Jude)

I'm clearly on a roll, though not enough to produce all that I promised.... but, while you wait for the Ken-Friends photos and Valkyrie info, you can read an nice article from 1998, and see some photos: a bit weary, in a nice room, and facing the audience, and having a laugh with the Sleuth gang, and photoshopped with Harry...

More soon, I hope!
(19 October, thanks Isabelle, Jude)

Hallo 2-B-eans! I am back from the endlessly wonderful London (recommended activity: walk from Islington along the canal to Victoria Park, have breakfast, continue to Canary Wharf, then cross over to Greenwich through the foot tunnel - takes a few hours but lifts the soul [well, not the Canary Wharf bit, but you needn't linger there]). And if you go in time, don't miss the Francis Bacon retrospective. But mainly, mainly and memorably, I saw Ivanov. I laughed, I cried (mostly at the same time). Ensemble acting at its peak and an Ivanov to remember (as I did today, thinking that the "land" in my allotment was looking "back at me like an abandoned child"  :-)). I cannot wish anyone anything better than Branagh on stage - the ultimate gift.

So... what's happened in the meantime. I get to say that there has been some Thor-oughly new news (my admiration for the punning UK papers is limitless, I once made a fool of myself on a plane by bursting out laughing while reading a headline over a fellow passenger's shoulder, my favourite to date: the headline over a photo of a dishelved older fellow, spotted in Tahiti or somewhere and suspected of being the disappeared Lord Lucan :"You're Lucan a bit rough!").

Okay, way too much blathering... the news!

From the Guardian, 15 October 2008:

Branagh Pulls Out of Directing Jude Law in Hamlet
By Chris Wiegand

Kenneth Branagh, currently playing the leading role in "Ivanov" in the Donmar's residency at the Wyndham's theatre, has withdrawn from directing Jude Law in the season's "Hamlet" next year. Branagh is reportedly tied up with his directing commitments on the Hollywood superhero blockbuster "Thor". Michael Grandage, who directed "Ivanov", will now take over directing duties on "Hamlet", the fourth and final play in the Donmar's season at Wyndham's. Branagh will remain involved as the season's artistic associate.

Grandage says he is "thrilled and flattered to have the opportunity to direct Jude Law - one of the leading actors of his generation as he takes on one of the most important roles of his career". Law is "privileged" to be directed by Grandage and he enthused about the "support and guidance" of Branagh, who he dubbed "one of the greatest Hamlets of all time".

The Donmar's season at Wyndham's offers punters tickets at Donmar prices and a West End venue that is three times bigger than the Covent Garden theatre. The season enjoyed a triumphant opening with "Ivanov", which received rapturous reviews from critics. Grandage is also the director of the other plays in the season, which continues with the December opening of "Twelfth Night", starring Derek Jacobi as Malvolio, and Yukio Mishima's "Madame De Sade", starring Judi Dench and Rosamund Pike, which opens in March 2009. The Jude Law Hamlet, which enjoyed the lion's share of attention when the season was announced, rounds off the high-profile season and opens for previews on May 29 2009.

The news has a knock-on effect for the National Theatre, which planned to stage a production of Georg Buchner's French Revolution drama "Danton's Death", directed by Grandage, next year. A spokesperson for the National said that "Danton's Death" will now be delayed and that it is hoped Grandage will still direct. The movie "Thor", meanwhile, continues a busy Hollywood spell for Branagh, who directed Jude Law in a remake of "Sleuth" in 2007 and will soon be seen opposite Tom Cruise in "Valkyrie".

And another press release, from, 14 October 2008
Grandage Directs Law's Hamlet, Delays NT Debut
By Terri Paddock

Kenneth Branagh - who is currently starring in "Ivanov", the first production in the Donmar West End season has pulled out of directing Jude Law in "Hamlet", the final production in the year-long residency at Wyndhams Theatre. The Shakespeare tragedy runs from 3 June (previews from 29 May) to 22 August 2009.

Donmar artistic director Michael Grandage will take over from Branagh, meaning that he's now directing all four high-profile productions in the season - with "Twelfth Night", starring Derek Jacobi, and "Madame de Sade", starring Judi Dench, falling between the runs of "Ivanov" and "Hamlet".

Branagh, who continues in his role as Donmar West End artistic associate, has had to withdraw because of commitments to the forthcoming feature film "Thor", a project he's recently undertaken. Theatregoers who've already booked for "Hamlet" can apply to their point of sale for a full refund before 29 May 2009 should they no longer wish to see the production because of the change of director.

Commenting today, Michael Grandage said: "I am thrilled and flattered to have the opportunity to direct Jude Law one of the leading actors of his generation as he takes on one of the most important roles of his career. Kenneth Branagh will continue as artistic associate of the season and we have arrived at this arrangement very amicably whilst I still have time to proceed with a brand new production of this great play next year. From the outset, Ken has been a huge support and inspiration for the Donmar West End season - a project that we could not have realised without his input."

Jude Law said: "I feel privileged to be part of the Donmar West End season and to be directed by the company's artistic director Michael Grandage on "Hamlet". It was Ken who brought me to this project, and with his support and guidance, as one of the greatest Hamlets of all time, and with Michael directing, I can't imagine a better scenario for me, as an actor, to undertake the role."

Because of his new commitments on "Hamlet", Grandage has postponed making his National Theatre debut. He was due to revive Georg Buchner's 1835 piece about the French Revolution, "Danton's Death" at the NT in 2009.

Which leads to this, from Den of Geek (we'll be entering a whole new world here...)
Branagh Official For Thor

...well, very nearly. A theatrical website reveals that the thespian has withdrawn from Jude Law's Hamlet to get into "Thor".

According to the theatrical website, Kenneth Branagh has abandoned plans to direct Jude Law in "Hamlet: to concentrate on the til-now only rumoured film of Marvel comics' "Thor".

The tale of the Norse God, who can fly and has a nasty magic hammer to klunk his enemies with, is currently slated for release on 16th July 2010. Previously associated director Mark Vaughan is quoted describing the Thor saga as "the birth of a hero, interweaving Gladiator with Norse mythology."

No one is yet associated yet with the eponymous role, though forums have put forward names as diverse as Karl Urban, Gerard Butler, James Preston Rogers, Alexander Skarsgard, Brad Pitt, Viggo Mortenson, Guy Pearce and Paul Telfer for the role.

Talking to MTV recently, Marvel editor-in-chief Joe Quesada expanded on the Shakespearean connection with this particular superhero..

"Out of all our characters, he's probably the one who's bigger than life", Quesada told MTV. "He's the one who stature-wise... He's just huge - and the mythology behind it is huge. But at its core, once you get past the trappings of Thor and all the god-like mythology and the way the character looks and the setting in Asgard and the whole kingdom, once you get past that, its really the story of a father and two sons."

And here's another reworking of the same story, with a few more bits, from, 3 October 2008:
Marvel Editor-In-Chief Joe Quesada On Kenneth Branagh And The Shakespearean Thor
By Rick Marshall

Verily, when the news broke that veteran Shakespearean actor/director Kenneth Branagh was in talks to direct Marvel Studios live-action Thor film, the Webs did roar like a Midgard Serpent. Showing little on his resume that suggested blockbuster movie based on god-like comics superhero, Branagh was an intriguing option to helm such an ambitious project especially one whose story has worried prominent, comics-savvy filmmakers.

With that in mind, MTV News tracked down Marvel Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada to get his take on why Marvel's Norse god was a good match for the "Much Ado About Nothing" director.

"Out of all our characters, he's probably the one who's bigger than life", said Quesada. "He's the one who, stature-wise... He's just huge - and the mythology behind it is huge. But at its core, once you get past the trappings of Thor and all the god-like mythology and the way the character looks and the setting in Asgard and the whole kingdom, once you get past that, its really the story of a father and two sons."

"It's pretty tragic in a lot of ways", he added. "There's a lot of betrayal and a lot of lying going on. There's all this sort of stuff bubbling behind the scenes and there's so much being said in the subtext of their conversations."

But did Quesada echo the sentiment of current "Thor" series writer J. Michael Straczynski, who said Branagh's Shakespearean background made him the perfect choice for "Thor"?

"Yeah, I think you need a director who's going to bring out the Shakespearean nature of Thor", said the Marvel EIC. "That's really what it's about at its core".

Further cementing his recognition factor beyond ladies with a modicum of education and perhaps a romantic bent, the Harry Potter crowd and Nazi experts, KB will be in an episode of the Simpson's. Here's some information from the Irish Times, 15 October 2008:
Hansard and Irglov to Appear in Episode of 'Simpsons'
By Ronan McGreevy

Oscar winners Glen Hansard and Markta Irglov are to appear in an episode of The Simpsons which will mourn the decline of the Irish pub.

The pair have enjoyed worldwide success as The Swell Season, following their Oscar win last March with the song Falling Slowly from the low-budget film "Once" which was a surprise hit.

They join some of the biggest acts in music history - including U2, Paul McCartney, Metallica and Michael Jackson - in being depicted on the show, now entering its 22nd season.

According to executive producer Al Jean, the episode, to be broadcast next year, will feature Homer and his father Abe travelling to Ireland to buy a pub in which Abe claimed to have spent the best night of his life 40 years previously. The pub is reputed to be located on Grafton Street, Dublin, and the pub landlord will be played by Belfast-born actor Kenneth Branagh.

However, their romantic notions of what an Irish pub should be like are dashed by the realisation they have been in decline since the introduction of the smoking ban in 2004.

"Homer and Grandpa get drunk. They buy the bar and then they find, as it turns out, in Ireland, pubs aren't so popular anymore because you can't smoke in them. So they're really up a creek."

Hansard and Irglov will play two local buskers performing on Grafton Street.

Irish characters have regularly featured in The Simpsons. A whole episode was devoted to U2, but the most controversial was the episode set on St Patrick's Day which featured the "Drunken Irish Novelists of Springfield". It ended up with a drunken mob blowing up John Bull's Fish and Chip Shop.

And here is a little quote from CanMag, 6 October 2008:
The Simpsons Season 20 Preview

The Simpsons are into their 20th season now and they still haven't run out of things to do. Showrunner Al Jean remains as enthusiastic as ever. He's always happy to talk about the upcoming storylines and guest stars.
They also address social changes and foreign relations. "We also have one where The Simpsons go to Ireland and Homer and Grandpa go to this bar that Grandpa went to 40 years ago and it was the happiest night of his life. They get drunk, they buy the bar, and then they find, as it turns out, in Ireland, pubs aren't so popular anymore because you can't smoke in them, so they're really up a creek. We just had Kenneth Branagh to record. He's the pub owner that sells them the pub, and Kenneth Branagh is actually Irish, so he was really nice and really great, of course.

We'll keep you posted on when this will be shown. Some other news snips...
From the Hollywood Reporter, 9 October"
'10 Days to War' opens Cologne Conference
Q&A with producer, director supplements gala screening
By Scott Roxborough

The Cologne Conference, Germany's largest TV festival/confab, kicked off Wednesday night with a gala screening of the BBC's "10 Days to War," an award-winning docudrama on the countdown to the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

The film's mix of hard fact with dramatic technique, its unique format -- with eight stand-alone episodes of 12 minutes each -- and its impressive cast, which includes Kenneth Branagh, Stephen Rea and Juliet Stevenson, were some of the topics covered in an exclusive Q&A between "10 Days" producer Colin Barr, director Bruce Goodison and The Hollywood Reporter editor Elizabeth Guider.

Barr detailed the phenomenal speed at which the production was made -- five months from pitching the original idea to the finished series.

Financing came through after Branagh agreed to play Col. Tim Collins, an Irish commander who gives his men a "tread softly" speech on the eve of the invasion.

"The speech was sort of the answer to (U.S. commander) Gen. Tommy Franks' 'Gladiator'-style rousing of his troops," Goodison said. "It was very much: 'We are coming as liberators, not conquers.' I think it appealed to Branagh because it was sort of the opposite of his famous speech in 'Henry V.' "

"10 Days" certainly appealed to the audience of industry professionals in Cologne, who will be analyzing it as a test case in how to make high-quality fictional entertainment on a deadline and -- with a production cost of less than $2 million -- on a budget.

You can watch a short video clip from the Q & A with some interesting comments about Kenneth Branagh at the site (link above).

And speaking of Q & A's you can read the transcipt of the What's on Stage one,part of the evening out at Ivanov here. Kenneth does not appear to have been present.

Ken-mention from an article in the Guardian, 10 October 2008:

Too Close for Critical Comfort
Being on familiar terms with directors or actors makes it impossible to be objective about their films
By Ronald Bergan

Last year, at the Copenhagen Film Festival, I found myself sitting opposite Kenneth Branagh at a long table in a restaurant after a screening of his dreadfully wrong-headed version of "Sleuth". Of course, the conversation turned to the film. Because you couldn't meet a nicer bloke than our Ken, I resisted my natural impulse to tell him what "my problems" were with his film. Instead, I brought up "The Magic Flute", which I liked, and about which I wrote. Having spent a pleasant evening in Branagh's company, I could never have felt as free as Peter Bradshaw did in his devastating Guardian review of Sleuth, in which he described the film as "unendurably boring, stagey, boring, arthritic, misconceived - and did I mention boring", despite my agreeing with every word.

And from the Telegraph, 4 October 2008, Jake Kerridge reviews crime novels:
The Pyramid by Henning Mankell

This absorbing collection of short stories and novellas is a prequel to the Kurt Wallander series of mysteries, tracing the Swedish copper's progression from eager rookie to the dyspeptic miseryguts we first met in Faceless Killers (1991).

Henning Mankell is at his most sententious in his preface ("In the manner of the crab, it can sometimes be good to go backwards") and full of grand claims about the disintegration of Swedish society. But he is really a storyteller rather than a polemicist, and the appeal of his work lies in his unflinching analysis of the effects that crime has on his characters, be they victims, perpetrators or policemen.

A good book for newcomers to start with - be quick and create your own mental image of Wallander before the unsuitably slim and handsome Kenneth Branagh plays the role in the forthcoming television series.

Hmmm, is this what they call 'damning with faint praise'? Anyhoooo, slim and handsome works for me.

And while we're on the deep stuff (cough) I may was well add an oft-repeated quote from Guillermo Del Toro:

"I'm not doing 'Mary Shelly's Frankenstein.' I'm doing an adventure story that involves the creature. I cannot say much, but it's not the central creation story, I'm not worried about that. The fact is I've been dreaming of doing a 'Frankenstein' movie since I was a child. The one thing I can promise is, compared to Kenneth Branagh, I will not appear shirtless in the movie!"
The accompanying photo of Guillermo suggests that might be a good thing, as it would be unlikely to be as much of a Daniel Craig moment as KB's was (though he could pass along the name of the trainer, though).

I keep promising photos and not delivering, so let me continue with that... coming up on [insert invalid date here] will be photos from the exclusive Ken-Friends encounter with Kenneth Branagh on 11 October. And the other stuff I promised, when I find it again. And press info from Valyrie!
(18 October, thanks Pennie, Terry)

Just before I head off to take my kick at the Ivanov can (what? [I've just been to one of the inimitable Will Alsop lectures, that's my excuse]) here are a couple of little things...

There is a new review of Ivanov here.

You need the strength of Thor to read all the blurbs and comments about KB possibly directing that cinematic oeuvre, but here is one in favour, from, 1 october 2008:

Thor Writer Thinks Branagh is "Perfect" Director

J. Michael Straczynski, who knows something about the Marvel comics character Thor - because he's currently writing it, says that Kenneth Branagh will be the perfect director for the movie. We reported Monday that Branagh was in talks for directorship of Thor, and have recieved mixed comments from the fans.

Although he's best known for his role as Gilderoy Lockhart in the Harry Potter movie 'Chamber of Secrets', Branagh does have some "classical" credits to his name - many of which are in such Shakespearean projects as 'Hamlet' and 'Much Ado About Nothing', which J. Michael Straczynski points out...

"'Thor,' at his best, has always had a classical bent to the character in terms of his history, the way he speaks, and the often Shakespearean intrigues and dramas that surround him. That kind of dialogue and character needs the hand of someone who comes from a theatrical/classically trained background in order for it not to sound forced or artificial. Branagh is absolutely the perfect choice."

Thor is scheduled to hit theaters on July 16, 2010.

And for some cons, as well as more pros, you can read an entertaining article here.

I have a few pictures but I have to be good and get some sleep (I foolishly opted to skip the number one sleeping pill, the Canadian election debate :-))(Oh no, wait, there was a reason, PM Harper's eyes and hair risk giving me nightmares about alien invasion...). Maybe tomorrow.
(2 October, generalised thanks to all who help out)

And there is more - you can see a great interview with Kenneth on the Andrew Marr show, which BBC World News has obligingly put up on Youtube. You can also read a transcript of the interview here. KB is in fine form and very becoming in light blue, and seems uncannily the same when they show snippets of him from Much Ado About Nothing. (Note to self: stop doing updates and get beauty sleep. :-) )

The other news, printed in Variety, 29 September 2008, is this:

Branagh in Talks to Direct 'Thor'
Brit Set to Wield Hammer on Marvel Studios Pic
By Michael Fleming

Kenneth Branagh is negotiating to direct "Thor," the next Marvel Comics property that will be turned into a live-action film by Marvel Studios. Pic will be released in 2010.

Marvel Studios chief Kevin Feige's choice of Branagh is surprising, as Branagh hasn't really directed an action-heavy film since his debut on "Henry V," a bloody telling of the British king's conquest of France.

Branagh is the latest in a string of directors -- such as Jon Favreau ("Iron Man"), Christopher Nolan (the Batman franchise) and Gavin Hood ("X-Men Origins: Wolverine") -- with arthouse roots taking on big-budget comicbook fare.

Marvel will set a distributor for "Thor" shortly.

"Thor" comicbook adaptation, penned by Mark Protosevich, follows disabled medical student Donald Blake, who has an alter ego as the hammer-wielding Norse god Thor.

Marvel will self-finance the film via its $500 million credit facility through Merrill Lynch. Marvel used that coin to fund both "Iron Man" and "The Incredible Hulk" and will do the same for the "Iron Man" sequel that has director Favreau and star Robert Downey Jr. returning.

The "Thor" negotiations come during a resurgence for Branagh. He's currently drawing raves on the London stage in the title role of "Ivanov," and he'll next be seen acting in the Richard Curtis-directed "The Boat That Rocked" and the Bryan Singer-helmed "Valkyrie." Branagh is repped by Endeavor and manager Judy Hofflund.

We shall see...

That's it for today but I expect to be back soon.
(29 September, thanks Catherine, Karen, Hester, Pierpaolo)

Moi again, here to fill in the holes...

There are a couple more Ivanov reviews that I missed last time: read them here and here.

Other bits and bobs...

À propos Ivanov, this snip from the Sunday Times, 21 September 2008:

Talking of pricing, it’s good that the new Donmar season at Wyndham’s, which opened on Wednesday with Ivanov, is offering all seats at nonWest End prices. Top whack is just £32.50, while 130 seats for each performance are only £10. Michael Grandage, artistic director of the season, tells me costs have been kept down because actors including Kenneth Branagh (Ivanov), Judi Dench (Madame De Sade) and Jude Law (Hamlet) have given up their usual megabucks wages for a top fee of just £750 a week.
And, even though blog-type dronings are mostly annoying (I confess to not picking up for the Compendium the reference to KB in some angsty thing by a lady splitting up with her partner and telling the world in the Telegraph) here's a few lines from Thomas Sutcliffe in The Independent, 26 September 2008:
Ben Stiller's film 'Tropic Thunder' includes a couple of passing gags about the potency of thespian fluids, with Robert Downey Jr's Australian method-actor at one point congratulating his co-star on the production of a real tear, after a nasty bit of one-upmanship with unscripted drool. I laughed, but shortly after the screening encountered the real thing, when Kenneth Branagh spilled a fat, splashy tear onto the stage of Wyndham's Theatre on the first night of 'Ivanov' last week. While I don't think his rave reviews depended on that drop of salty water, I'm pretty sure it did him no harm, either. He might be pretending, we thought, but he's pretending well.
And there is a little Ivanov image gallery here.

The poster for Valkyrie has been released - very excitingly harking back to 30s German graphic design with a touch of Constructivism (and a floor plan for us archi-freaks!) - you can see it here. You can also view a new trailer for for the film here. And you can download said trailer here.

Wallander: you can see the tie-in books from the Henning Mankell series, featuring KB on the cover, here. Amazon UK and list the 2 disc region 2 BBC DVD of the "Wallander" series as available from 8 December 2008. It can also be pre-ordered directly from the BBC Shop.

Blast from the past: here is the cover from Télérama magazine, from which you can read a great article in which Kenneth discusses Hamlet.

That seems to be it for now...
(27 September, thanks Lyn, Pierpaolo, Jude, Anna, Isabelle)

And a few more reviews...

one, two, three, four... even philistines, taking a swipe at museums, art and other theatre while reviewing this, love it (that's # 3). You can still find all the reviews in a row on the Ivanov page.

There are also a few media links and photo links. The Donmar West End website has a fade in/out of photos of the production on the main page - check it out.

More soon!
(21 September, thanks Wenda, Terry, Jude)

More reviews...

one, two, three, four, five, six... you can find them all in a row on the Ivanov page.

I have more reviews and photos to put up, so check back (this is the time when being on a desert island all alone - but with wi-fi - would be useful!). There are also other little bits of news which I will get to. See ya soon!
(20 September, thanks Sujin, Terry)

Wooo hooo... first reviews for Ivanov: here and here!  And one quote sums it up: "And now, giving a performance of extraordinary perceptiveness and human breadth, Kenneth Branagh has an almighty crack at Ivanov."

You can also read an article about Kenneth here. And you can see a photo here and another photo here.

More to come, I'm sure.
(17 September, thanks Jane, Wenda, Terry)

A few little bits that have come along in the last few days...

The first Wallander episode will be shown on 23 November, according to the BBC. It seems that Vantage press will publish tie-in paperbacks of the Mankell novels with photos of Kenneth on the covers. He could paper his dinette with all the covers he's been on by now. (Do people still have dinettes? Are they coming back?)

There are some nice pics from the photocall for Ivanov here.

More Ivanov goodies: You can hear Michael Grandage, Tom Stoppard and Kenneth in a short report about Ivanov from BBC Radio 4 news here, or, if you have trouble with that link, the same snip has been posted on Youtube here.

In the same vein, tune in next Thursday 18 September for:

Front Row, 7:15-7:45 pm
Mark Lawson speaks to writer Howard Jacobson, about his book The Act of Love; Helen Hunt talks about directing her first film Then She Found Me; and Booker-shortlisted author Philip Hensher reviews Tom Stoppard's translation of Ivanov by Chekhov, which stars Kenneth Branagh in the title role.>
There should be reviews by the end of the week, see you then.
(14 September, thanks Jude, Terry)

Hi all... Congratulations to the winner of the collage poster auction, Susan Cadman of London, England! Thank you for supporting Project Shakespeare!

News regarding Valkyrie: the film release has been brought forward from 13 February to 26 December... so a Boxing Day present rather than a Valentine (fine by me!). The film will be released in France on 28 January 2009.

French fans will also be able to pick up a Sleuth DVD or Blu-ray on 10 September.

Fans from near and far... one of our correspondents reports a short reference to Ken on Radio 4 on 19 August: "Former Prime Minister John Major was being interviewed about the National Lottery and its contribution to the Olympics; he referred to the fact that national heroes, both sporting and in the arts, are good for the nation's spirits and said that we could do with 'a few more Rebecca Adlingtons, a few more David Beckhams, a few more Kenneth Branaghs.'" Hear! Hear!

The previews of Ivanov begin on Friday! The Donmar West website has posted rehearsal photos for your enjoyment. You can see the one of Kenneth here (she says, hoping they won't mind... cough, cough).

There are a couple of other photos floating around as well: a fab cover from What'sOnStage, and a nice photo of Ken with co-players Andrea Riseborough and Gina McKee.

You can read a new article about the production here.

Here's the Ken-bits from a longer article on Michael Grandage from This is London, 19 August 2008:

There will certainly be many who will thank Grandage for bringing Branagh, once British theatre's favourite young gun, now 47, to the West End. "He's a man who has spent many years exploring every medium including opera and film, as a director, producer and writer. What he's doing in his forties is consolidating all that wealth of experience and saying, 'Well, I started as a theatre actor, I love the theatre, what more can I do in theatre?'"

It was for Grandage that Branagh ended a 10-year stage absence to play Richard III at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield (which the director ran in parallel with the Donmar for a while). "He had heard we were doing a season with seats for £3.50," Grandage says. Branagh went on to appear in the National Theatre's £10 season in David Mamet's Edmond. "He's on record as being behind the idea of accessibility. He's the great inspiration behind me doing this Wyndham's season."

He is an extraordinary talent, the director adds. "He was so prolific so young, we all decided we knew what he could do. But look at the places Ken Branagh is going now. He probably always could, but he was doing it as a young man and now he's doing it as a middle-aged man." And he has a generosity of spirit, too. "He's a phenomenal collaborator, a real company leader. He doesn't work in isolation."

Branagh has been crucial to the venture and is recognised as an artistic associate. On top of offering Grandage his first chance to direct Chekhov, he introduced the director to the Mishima play and also brought Law to the Donmar table when it was long expected that he would play Hamlet at the Young Vic.

Branagh and Law, who recently collaborated on the film of Sleuth, are already rehearsing the troubled Danish prince. "They have been working on it for quite a few months - we get the theatre for them and they come and do a day on the stage," Grandage says. "The idea that Ken knows Hamlet so well from being in it on stage, on radio, on film, then turns director and offers something-of that experience to a younger actor is very exciting."

That actors are willing to take part for small financial returns is testimony to the Donmar's reputation. Grandage admits casting gets easier. "As you build a track record, inevitably you get people who hear about it being a good experience and want to sign up."

And here are some nice words from another Ivanov cast member, from a longer article on "Rising Stars 2008" in The Independent, 7 September 2008:
Tom Hiddleston, actor

While at Rada, Tom Hiddleston was in the same year as Andrea Riseborough; now they're together again, in Ivanov at the Donmar Warehouse, alongside Kenneth Branagh.

Hiddleston, 27, has had an "amazing" couple of years. He played Casio in the Donmar's much-hyped 'Othello', which starred Ewan McGregor. And earlier this year he won a Best Newcomer Olivier for his dual role as Posthumus and Cloten in Cheek By Jowl's 'Cymbeline' - the very award scooped in 1982 by Branagh, who Hiddleston has seen a lot of lately; they've just been in Sweden filming three of Henning Mankell's Kurt Wallander crime novels for the BBC.

How big a break was 'Othello'? "James Laurenson, who was playing Brabantio, said to me, 'You'll be lucky if you get a job like this three or four times in your career.' It was very special."

What have you learned from Kenneth Branagh? "Sometimes I walk into rehearsal and hear Ken, and think oh, they're not acting... oh, they are acting! It's the Holy Grail of being an actor when you can't see the joins."

On the Wallander front: the BBC has posted a promo with clips from its autumn season shows. You can watch here.   There is also a brief Radio Times blurb (which comes with a photo) here.   And there is another photo related to Wallander here.

Finally someone in North America has noticed The Magic Flute. You can read an excellent review here.

Photo finish: looking a bit weary in 2006 and the cover of the 2007 reprint of the Oxford School Shakespeare edition of Othello.

That's it for today... there should be Ivanov reviews coming in 10 days or so, so see you then.
(8 September, thanks Jude, Isabelle, Kate, Catherine, Karen, Terry, Jonas, Lyn, Susanne)

Ken-fans, greetings. I will have to stop saying I will be back soon, since that seems inevitably to be a lie. I've just had a mild stroke seeing that the last update was at the end of June (where does the time go? yada yada yada). Thankfully (or perhaps not) there has not been a lot of news, but here are the few things that have appeared. (And in case you're not quite up to date, the news from the first 6 months of this year, has moved to the News& Notes Archive.)

First things first: the Compendium is hosting an exclusive auction of a unique poster and memorabilia collage to benefit Project Shakespeare. The auction begins Saturday 10 August 2008 and continues for two weeks until Saturday 23 August 2008. Click here to see the item for auction, get details and find out how to bid.

10 Days to War has won the RomaFictionFest Diamond Award for Overall Best Production. You can read a short article here.

Great news for North American fans - the Wallander series has been picked up PBS for airing in spring 2009! You can read a press blurb here.

From the rumour mill (and not the first time it's been floated)... In an article on Spanish director Alex de la Iglesia, the last paragraph (on future projects) reads:

He won't rest this summer or the following. Next year he'll adapt the comic THE YELLOW MARK for the big screen. An adventure film co-produced by France, Spain and England, with an international cast.
Kenneth Branagh "has read the script and said yes", however, "dates have to be confirmed".
I've just checked (site search is a wonderful thing) and this is my third time hoping that at least one member of the cast originally touted (2002) for "The Yellow Mark", the fab Rufus Sewell, might be in this film with KB. Highly unlikely, but it does seem to be a film that wants to be made. One day.

Rotten Tomatoes has a feature on the Greatest Shakespeare Movies, a listing ranked by "which Shakespearean adapatations fared the best with the critics". You'll find Ken's Much Ado About Nothing at number 11, Hamlet at number 3 and... drum roll, please... Henry V at number 1.

And sticking with Shakespeare, Michael Billington has written an article in the Guardian in which he lists (in chronological order) his 10 favourite Hamlets. Here is the bit about Kenneth:

Kenneth Branagh (film, 1996)
Branagh has laid as strong a claim to the part as any recent actor. He has played it for his own Renaissance Theatre Company, for the RSC and finally in his self-directed, star-studded film. Some have accused him of chutzpah, but he seems to understand the part inside out. On screen, invested the role with his own impish humour and buoyant athleticism. Wilde may have said there was no such thing as Shakespeare's Hamlet. But Branagh confirmed the opposite: that the play survives because there is something of all of us in the multi-dimensional hero.
And finally, there is an early review at ain't it cool news for Valkyrie, which should be released 13 February 2009.

To end, some "new" photos from last year's Toronto International Film Festival, when Sleuth was presented. Se them here, here and here. You can see the whole slew from that day here.

So, to avoid calling down the procastination and/or no-time evil eye, I will say, I'll be back who knows when... (but I will be back). I hope you'll come back to bid and check the bids in our auction!
(9 August, thanks Terry, Monica, Jude, Jonas, Patricia, ailis_17, Pierpaolo, Catherine)