News Archive: January 1999 - June 1999

Hmm, yes, the Compendium will be moving very soon to a new home. Hopefully. :) So I've been busy adjusting and tinkering around with the five million files on this site to get ready for the move, which means keeping up with what Ken's been doing has fallen way down on the list o' priorities. But the first of some external links to keep you guys in the loop: the BBC website has some nice pics and a brief article on Ken, one of many interviews he's done to promote Celebrity, which opens in the UK tomorrow. And you can watch the last half hour of the French Celebrity press conference (Ken and Woody Allen) in Real Video format. There was also a rather lengthy article in the Independent on Sunday, but typical of Ken coverage in the Independent (the hacks--er, writers--over there have serious Branagh issues they oughtta deal with; professional help highly recommended), it's pretty snarky and less of an interview than a snotty analysis of his career. I'll put it up soon, along with transcripts of Ken's amusing appearance on Clive James's show and the most excellent 1 1/2 hour NFT interview (the Guardian had promised audio clips and their own transcript at one point, but it really dropped the ball on this one--lahoooozers, as Ace Ventura would say--good thing a bunch of Ken-Friends were there to pick it up!) On the Wild Wild West front, the official site is up, but we're more interested in the separate Arliss Loveless section...speaking of Loveless, there's a cool photo of our favorite legless villain in the soundtrack liner notes. Pretty hot, if the Cats facial hair didn't make him look so icky. And WWW promo means that you can eat a chocolate Loveless (chocolate spiders too--gross!) in various ice cream brands in the U.S. and find him on the back of cereal boxes in the UK...scary. (June 17, thanks to Jena and Amy)
Ken's online chat last week was a total blast (if you were a Ken-Friend :), even though it started 2 hours late, thanks to a preceding press conference that ran overtime, and lasted approximately 20 minutes. The interview was a standard one with the usual questions (only notable bits of new info were that Love's Labour's Lost will be released in late November/early December, that he wants to play Richard III when he returns to the stage in the not-too-near future, and that the The Betty Schimmel Story is on the backburner while the script is being worked on; interestingly he didn't mention Macbeth when asked about his future plans). Our little mailing list was noted by the official moderator for its outstanding questions and general coolness, but sadly misidentified as "Ken's friends". :) No, we don't hang out with him at the pub on weekends... Behind-the-scenes info include the presence of the BBC, ITV, MTV and other press folk at the event, and the MSN people being very impressed with Ken and his press staff. Read the official transcript over at the UK Microsoft Network by clicking on "The Chat Channel" on the left and following the link. On the Love's Labour's Lost front, I had my first listen of one of the musical numbers from the movie and, was SIMPLY SMASHING, BABY!!! (Sorry, I'm gonna see Austin Powers 2 tonight...). Utterly divine. Ken's voice is in fine form (better than in that Thompson skit from a million years ago), and everything sounds toe-tappingly groovy. Come December, I have a feeling we're all gonna be singing along with Ken, "Heaven, I'm in heaven..." (KNOCK ON FRIGGING WOOD!!)
(June 11, thanks to Catherine)

Ken plays another round of "Meet Your Stalkers On-line!!!" by making his second venture into the world of cyber-space this Thursday, June 3rd at 6:15pm UK time (er, I guess that would be 10:15am PST and 1:15pm EST) to plug the June 18th UK release of Celebrity. He'll be answering questions on the UK Microsoft Network -- head over to The Chat Channel. You'll need to be using MSN Internet Explorer 3.0 or 4.0 (this is the default browser for AOL users, btw) or it'll ask you to download an MSN chat program thingie. Hey, check out some smurfy new pics: a candid Hamlet shot from a Japanese magazine--HOT! Well, I guess all Ken photos are hot...except the ones that are dorky, gooberish, geeky, and just plain bizarre, of course. :) Other new ones include close-up #1 and closeup #2 from just-before-Frankenstein days, another RSC Hamlet promo shot and a pic of Wild Wild West's evil Dr. Loveless. (June 2, thanks to Catherine, Jude)

WOO HOO, I've graduated!!! The ceremony's done, the parties are over, the massive drug and alcohol consumption has duly taken place...all that's left is (in order of importance) finding a new home for this behemoth of a website (also known as the monument to psychotic obsession and a desperate cry for therapy) and, erm, finding a job. (Any employers in need of someone entirely lacking in any practical real-world skills? Anyone? Anyone?) In the meantime, and before the school kicks me off the server, the latest Ken news:

  • The Theory of Flight is available for video rental in the U.S., so for the love of Ken, go rent a friggin' copy! Need incentives? Ok, here's a photo of Ken doing his bank robber-impersonation in front of a mirror from the movie. Hmmm, he kinda looks like a goober there, forget that one. Here are better shots of him with Helena and leaning back on the hill in suspenders (it's only a profile shot, but I like the shape of his head. "It's a virtual planetoid! It's like a pumpkin on a toothpick! I'm not kidding, that boy's head's like SPUTNIK!" Ahem. With thanks to Mike Myers...) Final Theory pic of the week is a cute one of Ken and Helena at the New York premiere of the movie.

  • Eh, while we're doing photos--THE LOVE'S LABOUR'S LOST COLLECTION (from the current issue of French Premiere): the boys (left-right: Alessandro Nivola, Ken, Matthew Lillard, Adrien Lester), the boys #2, the boys #3, the boys #4, the boys #5, the boys #6, the girls (l-r: Alicia Silverstone, Natascha McElhone, Emily Mortimer, Carmen Ejogo), just Alicia and a leggy Ken. THE KEN WITH LEGENDARY ACTORS COLLECTION: with Sir John Mills at the London Hamlet premiere and with Albert Finney after a 1982 West End performance of Another Country (Rupert Everett was in this picture as well, but was cropped out on account of having made nasty and asinine comments about Ken in the past. :) THE DAMN, HELENA IS ONE LUCKY GIRL COLLECTION: a promo shot for his 1992/3 RSC Hamlet outside the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, slightly grainy but still knee-buckling shot #1, slightly grainy but still knee-buckling shot #2 (hey, I'll swap my little brother for poster-sized versions of these photos), an autographed Hamlet shot, a youngish grinning pic and with his RSC 1984 Hamlet co-stars (l-r: Roger Rees, Ken as Laertes, James Simmons, Richard Easton).

  • I skimmed the novelization of Wild Wild West over the weekend; it seemed fun, which bodes well for the movie. (Anyway, at the very least it's gotta be more entertaining than the new Star Wars movie, which was pretty dreadful, unfortunately.) I already have a favorite line: "I'm gonna pop your head like a grape, boy!" Destined to go down as a classic, joining the likes of Austin Powers's "CARNIES! Circus folk. Nomads, you know. Small hands, smell like cabbage." and the earlier-quoted planetoid reference from So I Married An Axe Murderer. :)
    (May 31, thanks to Sandra, Isabel, Catherine, Jane, Irene, Jude, Amy)

Looks like Warners is gonna move Wild Wild West's release date up a few days to Wednesday, June 30th to take advantage of the long holiday weekend. The movie's complete official site will be launched this week...Don't think I've noted it here, but A Midwinter's Tale (originally titled In the Bleak Midwinter) will be released on video on May 18th; you can pre-order it right now at for $12...Hey, Helena Bonham Carter will be making a rare public appearance to meet and greet fans on Friday, May 21st at Blockbuster Video (1508 North Orange Grove; West Hollywood, CA 90046) in support of The ALS Association, ALS Awareness Month, and the May 25th home video release of The Theory of Flight. I encourage those who can to drop by to show support for ALS and the movie, which really deserved a better Stateside reception (it played in about a dozen theaters for about a dozen days back in December). And Helena's a very nice person--shake her hand, compliment her Theory performance (and Ken's too--he wasn't bad, eh? :), and tell her she'd make a great Lady Macbeth...;) Speaking o' Shakespeare, I saw A Midsummer Night's Dream over the weekend; it kinda lacks punch until the staging of "Pyramus and Thisbe" during the last 15 minutes, when Kevin Kline hams it up hysterically. (May 17, thanks to Marilyn, Patrick K, David's Helena Bonham Carter Homepage)

Ken's in Cannes for the film festival at the moment debuting a preview of Love's Labour's Lost, currently in post-production. He also announced his plans to start filming Macbeth ("the Scottish play" for all you superstitious folk :) this fall. He'll finish the screenplay this summer along with doing promo for Wild Wild West, and before the fall filming he's planning to audition sumo wrestlers for his upcoming As You Like It, write a novel, learn French, shoot an Energizer Bunny battery commercial and train for the 2000 Games in Sydney...There's a four-page photo spread on Love's Labour's Lost in the June issue of French Premiere...Follow the interview link and check out a great audio interview at the Australian Movie Show site (you'll need VivoActive to hear it)...There's an amusing quote from Ken about his first love scene in the new issue of Premiere--but before that, I gotta address something Kevin Kline says in the new issue of People regarding the spread of negative Wild Wild West rumors. He blames the Internet and says, "The Internet is causing the downfall of civilization." Egads! I'm gonna be wracked with guilt for nano-seconds, knowing that I'm contributing (a small teeny tiny little chunk, make no mistake--but a chunk nonetheless!!) to the fall of the human race--though to tell the truth, I'd be more inclined to blame those Tae-Bo Infomercials, the British press and Cadbury chocolate (YUM!). Anyway, on to the more substantive and worthwhile stuff, which clearly demonstrate the capacity of the Internet to be a revolutionizing medium through which enlightening information can be spread to a global community: the quote where Ken talks about his nipples!!! (Woooooo!)

  • Premiere, June 1999:

    "My first love scene was in Australia, in a TV miniseries, and it was outside at night in the rain. There was a great deal of concern about the way in which our nipples would become erect, about whether that could be featured in this particular family drama. It's pretty hard to beat down the nips when it's cold, late at night, in the rain, so that became a technical problem in which about 80 people had a view. I think the solution was to frame the nipples out."
    (May 14, thanks to Sarah, Catherine, Meg)

Look at the lovable lads of Love's Labour's Lost...(May 10, thanks to Catherine)

There's a sweet pic and article on Love's Labour's Lost from the international edition of the Daily Mail entitled There's No Business Like Shakespeare Business - great stuff! Dead Again airs on the Sci-Fi channel this Thursday night, check listings for showtimes. And Will Smith's cool Wild Wild West song is now in heavy rotation on a hip-hop and hit music radio station near you. There's a whole verse dedicated to Ken's character, probably by virtue of the fact that "Loveless" rhymes with "West" and that he happens to be the guy Will kicks the crap out of at the end of the flick. Some press stuff:

  • From Ann Rice, via her website:

    "Thanks to so many of you for letting me know that Kenneth Branagh is making Loves Labours Lost. I've started to read it. I dream of the great Kenneth Branagh directing one of my books as a film. Could such a thing ever happen! I have no idea, but as Tom Waits says in his wonderful song: 'You're innocent when you dream'."

  • From The Guardian, on the current NFT Ken season:


    British cinema has rarely thanked Kenneth Branagh for his labours, and despite (or perhaps because of) being dubbed 'the new Olivier' at an early age, his downfall has often been more enthusiastically anticipated than his next movie. This month-long Kenneth Branagh Retrospective therefore serves as a reminder that he really has fulfilled that early promise, and has an impressive body of work to show for it. As a director he is now part of the Hollywood establishment, and his Shakespeare adaptations (particularly his debut Henry V) have contributed to the current wave of Bard appreciation. As an actor he has graduated from stage to small screen (the BBC's seven-part Fortunes of War is showing Sunday 15 in its entirety) to the upper echelons of thespdom, where he currently rubs shoulders with De Niro and DiCaprio, and even plays Woody Allen's alter-ego in the forthcoming Celebrity (playing May 23, followed by the Guardian interview)." (May 5, thanks to Sarah, Jude, Toni)

Last night on Friends there was a brief but distinct shot of the Frankenstein trailer playing on the big screen TV-thingie in New York city. Tee hee hee! :) As you can see, I'm easily amused by stuff like this...sad, isn't it? I do have some substantive stuff to let ya know about:

  • Theory of Flight opens in the UK on June 4th and is released in the US for video rental on May 25th. Celebrity opens in Australia on May 13th.

  • Wanna win free tickets to some of the Ken season screenings at the NFT? (BTW, I've added the NFT official press release, program introduction and summaries of the movies being screened--check 'em out, along with the full schedule of screenings, here.) Read on, from the April 29 issue of "The Stage":

    "Kenneth Branagh has been arguably the most prolific British actor and director to bring Shakespeare to a mass market on the silver screen in the past decade. The National Film Theatre is showing a selection of Branagh's film and television work, including Henry V, Much Ado About Nothing, Hamlet, Othello, and In the Bleak Midwinter. Other works on show during May include his homage to Hollywood film noir, Dead Again, Peter's Friends and his interpretation of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein.

    Demand for seats is expected to be large and The Stage has teamed up with the National Film Theatre to offer 20 pairs of tickets to selected films in the season. To take part in our competition, just answer the following questions and send your answer on a postcard to :

    National Film Theatre
    South Bank
    SE1 8XT

    Who played Beatrice opposite Branagh's Benedick in his film version of Much Ado About Nothing? (Good grief, my bunny could answer this question, and he's a stuffed animal.--Nock)

    a) Emma Forbes
    b) Emma Thompson
    c) Emma Noble

    Please include your name, address, daytime telephone number and the film you would like to see. The deadline for entries is next Thursday, May 6."

  • Two new, rather sexy (for someone who's got really icky facial hair, anyway) photos of Ken in Wild Wild West over at Dark Horizons and The Den (click on 'Dr Loveless'). (May 1, thanks to Peanut, Cat, Sarah, Jude, Nicky, Meg)

Ken was in Salerno, Italy last Thursday with pals Gerard Horan, Jimmy Yuill and Richard Clifford (Borachio, the friar, and Conrad in Much Ado, respectively; Jimmy and Richard are also in Love's Labour's Lost) for a theatre workshop and a couple of Ken-friends were lucky enough to attend. Thanks to sweet Cyn, you can read the very entertaining transcript of the entire interview and press conference, as well as check out a photo of Ken and co. (surrounded by media people). Ken's the light-haired guy in the middle--good-lookin' chap, eh? Well, I suppose everyone's good-looking from that kind of distance...;) More stuff:

  • There's major bad buzz going around both on the Internet and in Hollywood about Wild Wild West, including rumors that reshoots were scheduled 'cause the test screening went so badly and that the budget has skyrocketed past its $105 million limit to $175+ million. Director Barry Sonnenfield denied the validity of these rumors in an interview with the LA Times, which also noted the rumors that the WWW rumors were spread by rival studios (especially Disney chief Joe Roth--Mickey don't look so cute now, DOES HE?!) trying to undermine what is expected to be second biggest movie of the summer. Frankly, all of this bores me silly and all I'm really concerned about at the moment is whether synchronized swimming in Shakespeare can be pulled off...

  • Barry Norman does a "revival of Shakespeare" write-up (which are all the rage these days) in the new issue of Radio Times and includes a nice mention of our Ken:

    "Shakespeare lovers, incidentally, owe Branagh an enormous debt, just as they did Laurence Olivier before him. As the movies' two great actor-managers of the postwar period, they have done most to give Shakespeare a continuing presence on the screen, sometimes against considerable odds."

  • From an article on Matthew Lillard:

    'Lillard's real world has been turned upside down by a blitz of publicity for SLC Punk, while he's wrapping up work in London on Kenneth Branagh's version of Love's Labour's Lost, Branagh's retelling of the Shakespearean comedy uses the lilting tunes of George Gershwin and Cole Porter, a drastic change from The Dead Kennedys and The Ramones songs that score SLC Punk. "It's the most brilliant thing I've ever worked on," Lillard said during the final days of filming Love's Labour's Lost.' (April 29, thanks to Cyn, Catherine, Paula V)

Ken, Ken, Ken, Ken, Ken, Ken, Ken... That's the May motto of London's National Film Theatre--literally. The NFT's Kenneth Branagh Season includes a lineup that'll provide your Ken fix for the month, and then some. The on-stage interview (would I were there!) and Celebrity screening scheduled for the 23rd is sold out, but stand-by tix might be available the day of. Tickets for the other screenings are available to NFT members now by post, to non-members after April 22nd. They're screening the entire 6 hours of Fortunes of War in one day...and people thought Hamlet was long. ;)

  • Love's Labour's Lost finished shooting this week and is set to hit U.S. theaters in December; read the latest article about the film from the UK's Independent, entitled Shakespeare Meets Busby Berkeley. There's another write-up from, read it here. Not enough? Ken's in Love with Shakespeare, writes the Teletext in a brief article also previewing LLL. And there's an enthusiastic preview over at the Upcoming Movies site.

  • New photos: Check out a very cheery Ken when he went to the All Saints party a few weeks ago, a shot from the
    Billy plays, and a pic with Natasha Richardson from Ghosts.

  • Ken will be Salerno, Italy on April 22nd for an independent film festival; he'll be doing a workshop starting at 12:30pm in the Verdi theatre which will be open to the press and public.

  • Site note: I've been getting emails asking about the future of this site after my graduation in late May. Tentative plans have been made to move this behemoth to a permanent home, but at the moment and for the next few weeks until the end of May, school--and thus life in general--will be major crap and I probably won't even have time to have the usual daily talk with my 6-foot cardboard cutout of Ken. (Erm, kidding.) But rest assured, any changes to this site will be duly noted...(April 18, thanks to Catherine, Toni, Cyn, Berni, Jude)

There was a great article on Alicia Silverstone in yesterday's London Times--great 'cause most of it is cool stuff about Love's Labour's Lost. :) It's entitled Better Watch Out, Gwyneth, so we know where the writer's headed...For the cool (do I use this word too much?) Ken quote of the day, here's what Woody Allen said during his talk with Brit interviewer Michael Parkinson last week: "WOODY: I was so lucky to get Kenneth Branagh to do this movie. I can't tell you! He's so brilliant and gets every one of the laughs I wrote into that movie, and every ounce of characterisation. I was thrilled. And there he was, you know, expressing my point of view toward a menage a trois. You know, two women - GREAT! But the sight of a naked man, makes me nauseated. There's nothing I can do about it and Kenneth was able to capture my revulsion, erm, perfectly. And then he was so brilliant in this movie. I was so lucky to have him. PARKINSON: Well he is a magnificent actor, isn't he. WOODY: A great actor, and just got every nuance of it."(April 12, thanks to Catherine, Toni)

She's baaaaaaack... Apologies for the lack of updates the last few weeks (you should demand a refund), I've been sidelined with a chronic and VERY annoying migraine headache (which is still hanging around, but we've learned to co-exist in relative harmony). On the smurfy side, the doctors have been consulted, tests and scans have been done, and apparently there's nothing wrong with my head (physically, anyway. Ahem.) Anyway, there's loads and loads of Ken news to catch up on, so let's get back in da loop...

  • Love's Labour's Lost: Last week, E! News Daily and Access Hollywood gave us the first behind-the-scenes peeks at Ken's upcoming musical opus, and it looks like a doozie--sexy costumes, intriguing sets, and a really phwoarsome cast. Ken's pretty hot as usual, but looking quite tired and fatigued. The poor bean. (To remind you of how hard doing all this is for him, this is what he told a journalist on the Hamlet set three years ago: "It's hideously difficult. So difficult as to be mad. Mad! This is the last time I will direct and act at the same time. Quote me on that, and throw it back in my face if I ever put myself in this position again. The last fucking time..."). Check out screen captures from the E! interview and shots of Ken in director mode; many thanks to Ann Miner over at The Nathan Lane Page for these! The film's release date is still up in the air--Ken is pushing for a winter 1999 release while Miramax is suggesting a spring 2000 date (NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!). Comparisons with last year's surprise hit and Best Picture winner Shakespeare in Love have already started (sigh), with our pal the London Times leading the way with a post-Oscar article entitled Love's Labour's Lost is Next: Branagh Pins Hope on Love for the Bard.

  • Wild Wild West: The trailer for WWW made its debut last week with prints of the Keanu Reeves flick The Matrix (v. cool movie, btw), and you can also check it out at the film's official website. Two screen captures from the trailer include Ken's Dr Loveless looking menacing and doing his Evita impersonation. The trailer has gotten a rather mixed response from audiences (suffice to say if you don't like Will Smith or his music, you won't like the trailer. I thought it was rather spiffy myself), and after a couple test screenings director Barry Sonnenfield has decided to do some reshoots that will include four new scenes, some of which may involve dragging Ken from his London LLL set to slip back into Loveless mode. The official poster has also made its debut in movie theaters in anticipation of the movie's July 2nd U.S. release; it opens in the UK on August 13th.

  • The Betty Schimmel Story: Comedian Robert Schimmel (son of Betty) did an interview on Cleveland radio a few weeks ago and said that Brad Pitt will play Betty's husband, with Meryl Streep showing interest in playing Betty at an older age. Please note that this casting news is UNCONFIRMED. What is confirmed is that Ken will play Betty's long-lost love (the two are separated by the Holocaust, and reunite many years later) and direct the picture for DreamWorks.

  • Night at the Roxbury: Ken spent last Saturday night partying at a trendy club with Alicia Silverstone. I kid you not. Here's the article from the ever-reliable British press (All Saints are like an R&B version of the Spice Girls. I think.):


    All Saint Melanie Blatt celebrated her birthday at the weekend with a galaxy of hot young stars and er, Kenneth Branagh. At first ye olde Shakespearean actor was mistaken for a dad coming to pick up one of the young revellers. Luvvie Kenneth turned up at the Saturday night do at London's exclusive Mayfair Club with Alicia Silverstone - looking less than glamorous without make-up. The pair are currently filming the Bard's Love's Labour's Lost and looked a bit lost among the trendy crowd. One partygoer said, "Kenneth is the last person you would expect at a party like this - I'm surprised Melanie knew him. But he joined in the fun and seemed to have a great time on the dance floor."'

  • New photos: Check out a sweet 1996 pic of our matinee idol, another good one from last September's Venice Film Festival, with Charlton Heston and Kate Winslet at the 1997 Cannes Film Festival, about to kiss Winona Ryder in Celebrity, as Father Michael in The Proposition, in front of the camera for Frankenstein, and some stills from Peter's Friends--with Maggie, hugging Peter, with Carol and getting drunk.

  • TV Alerts: Set those VCRs for Henry V (the video of which is currently out of print in the U.S.), set to air on Bravo on Friday, April 23rd at 3pm EST and Sunday, April 25th at 4pm EST. Ken also narrates the documentary series The Great Composers starting April 14th on PBS, check out the website for details. (April 7, thanks to Jane, Berni, Renie, Linda W, Sandra, Isabel, Estela, Paula B, Nancy)

If you've got access (and of course I don't) to premium cable channel BBC America (Echostar and Primestar subscribers get it), you're one lucky bean. It's gonna show A Matter of Choice for Billy on April 3, Coming to Terms with Billy on April 10, and Too Late to Talk to Billy on June 19 (these dates are highly suspect, btw, given to me by a BBC rep. Check back for final date confirmations) -- the Billy trilogy. Too Late was Ken's screen debut, which he shot during his last term at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. The BBC America summary for the it runs thus: "Too Late to Talk to Billy - The highly-talented, multi-award-winning Kenneth Branagh stars in Graham Reid's BAFTA and Samuel Beckett Award-winning family saga set in the predominantly Protestant area of Belfast. (1982)" They haven't been shown since the early '80s, despite numerous requests to the BBC since then to screen 'em again or make them available on video. So this is a rare opportunity indeed--set those VCRs! Questions, comments or complaints about the limited nature of the screenings can be directed to the BBC at On to the rest of the news...

  • Action figures, fast food tie-ins, what other Wild Wild West merchandise do we need? PC/Sony Playstation video games, obviously. Read the press release from SouthPeak Interactive, which will release the games late this year. Will Smith is gonna do a hip-hop title song as well--tarantulas crawl all over Salma Hayek in the video while Ken breakdances in the background. (Er, I'm kidding about that last bit). And from USA Today: 'Smith predicts the most talked-about shot in the movie will be one of villain Kenneth Branagh. "He doesn't have any legs," says Smith, "and there are full shots of his naked body — moving!"' Nudity aside, I think this is gonna be a landmark movie for Ken. Remember what Keanu Reeves did for the buzz cut in Speed? Well, expect to see freakish Loveless-like facial hair-fever take over the world--every guy is going to want to look like a furry tarantula attached itself to his chin after Wild Wild West, I swear...

  • New photos on this site include some snaps from last year's Venice Film Festival: Ken surrounded by people guarding him, Ken and Melanie with a crowd in the background, at the press conference for Celebrity and pondering an answer to a question. There's also an autographed Italian Hamlet program and just Ken from the program ('cause he looks hot). Thanks to Bertilla for these photos! And Jude sent a nice shot of Lee Simon from Celebrity.

  • ROMANTIC WOODY'S LONDON PREMIERE (World Entertainment News Network)

    Woody Allen has turned romantic to launch his latest movie in Britain - by turning the premiere into a love-in. The cult movie maker has chosen tiny 200-seater Everyman Cinema in trendy Hampstead, north London, as the venue for the Celebrity premiere on March 19 (99). And special guests will be able to watch the movie, which features Leonardo DiCaprio and Kenneth Branagh, in the romantically renovated movie house. Premiere spokeswoman Jane Kelly reveals, "It isn't one of the usual choices for a premiere of this size but it's a lovely cinema with lots of 'love seats' where partners can really sit together. It'll be very romantic." (March 13, thanks to Jude, Bertilla, Jane, Paula B. Recommended link of the week: The Daily Telegiraffe, the place to get fun coverage of Shakespeare-related stuff and other topics. Check it out!)

Just got back from seeing Rent -- mah gawd, it was FRICKIN' PHENOMENAL!!!! And worth the billion-year wait for it to come to San Francisco (not the cultural mecca people would have you believe, I should mention; this 12th national touring production of Rent came only after their 4th visit to Jackson Hole--they love them stories about druggies and drag queens and lesbians out there in Wyoming, yee haw!). Anyway, good stuff, highly recommended. Er, who should we be talking about here? Keith, Kevin, Kerry...KENNETH! That's the chap. There's a terrific new Hamlet article called The Boy Can't Help It, and the March/April issue of Cinescape has a portrait of a rather dapper Dr Loveless from Wild Wild West. (Side note: special effects technology in movies always amazes me--how'd they get rid of Ken's legs? Maybe they digitized 'em out in post-production...or maybe he had to sit on his knees while shooting on the wheelchair. Hmmm.) And hold on to yer hats kids, (overpriced) Loveless action figures are coming to a toy store near you in May or June. Take a sneak peek at this plastic version of Ken here; and here's another shot of him in a tank. Not too impressive, eh? His freakishly large hand in the first photo is especially disturbing. T'is okay, we can always melt the dolls in an oven and re-shape them to our liking afterward (a pal told me about this technique, sounds good). What news else? Oh, Her Majesty the Queen of England went on a tour of theater-related stuff last week and one of the things she was shown was Ken's Henry V costume. Upon seeing it she allegedly remarked, "Bit of a chubby monkey, wasn't he?" (March 8, thanks to Tanya, Cindy)

Miramax head honcho/mini-god Harvey Weinstein recently paid a visit to the Love's Labour's Lost set--haven't heard of production being shut down so I guess that means the shoot is going smurfily...;) And I keep forgetting to mention this--the Henry V video is now OUT OF PRINT in the United States, which means people are scrambling madly to find the last few remaining copies...but before you start bidding your kid's college savings fund away at Ebay, try calling Vision Video at 800-523-0226. Any other sources that crop up will be duly noted here...

  • From the new issue of Empire Magazine, a mock school report:

    "To: Mr and Mrs Branagh
    From: The Dame Anna Neagle School for Theatre Brats (Belfast)
    Name: Branagh, Kenneth
    Class: 2B or not 2B
    Age: 6
    English: Enthusiastic doesn't cover it. Has already written autobiography, and sold rights to the school cine club. Complains that Shakespeare is too simplistic and short. Mark: 9.
    Drama: I am unable to get him to go home at the end of the school day. Has applied to run the department (back off you little shit!). American accent needs work.
    History: Kenneth has a true grasp of historical detail as long as it pertains to Elizabethan theatre, which is troubling as we are currently studying WWI."

  • From a British cinema mag:

    "Will Smith is reunited with Men In Black director Barry Sonnenfeld for The Wild, Wild West, the big-screen version of a short-lived Sixties' Western teleseries. Smith plays special Presidential agent James T West with Kevin Kline as his sidekick, master-of-disguise Artemus Gordon. But there's a rather surprising choice for the role of the moustache twirling Southern gentleman and evil genuis Dr Loveless, who hijacks the new movie with wisecracks and outrageous tactics. Fans of the TV show will probably be puzzled at the casting of vertically-unchallenged Kenneth Branagh as the twisted medic since, in the original, the role was played by a Michael Dunn - a dwarf."

  • From a Spanish mag interview with Shakespeare in Love director John Madden:

    "Q: Do you know if Kenneth Branagh has seen your film?
    A: (Laughs) I know that he has seen it, but he hasn't told me anything. Probably he would have loved to have directed it. [Maybe. But seeing how he reportedly turned down the lead role a few years ago, not to mention a few Shakespeare biography projects after Henry V, maybe not...-Nock]

    Q: Do you think that Branagh would have put Shakespeare on the psychoanalyst's divan or joked about some anachronisms like the ones in your film?
    A: Maybe yes, because he has a great sense of humour. And although the film laughs with Shakespeare, it respects the verse and the poetry, and that's what Branagh does." (March 3, thanks to Catherine, Isabel, Chris K)

The Irish Independent gives us our first peek at Ken's Berowne look--pretty hot, but I can't say I'm overly crazy about the Hitler-stache. Mr B was in Dublin over the weekend to present an award, details can be found via the link. Ken was also on the shortlist for Italy's Rudolph Valentino Award for lifetime achievement in cinema, but lost out to Jeremy Irons. I don't mind, Ken's hair isn't gray enough for him to start collecting lifetime achievement trinkets just yet. Some Love's Labour's stuff:

  • SIX IS ENOUGH (World Entertainment News Network)

    Kenneth Branagh is set to end his relationship with William Shakespeare after completing his next trilogy of films. Branagh has just started work on Love's Labour's Lost - the first of three Shakespeare musicals he intends to direct in the coming months. But he insists he's not on a mission to film all 37 of the Bard's plays - he might just let someone else do it for him. He has already starred and directed Hamlet, Much Ado About Nothing and Henry V - and film industry executives believe Branagh wants to film everything Shakespeare has written. But he says, "That's not particularly true. But setting up something where other people come and direct some of these plays as films is definitely something I'd love to do. I'm enjoying the Loves Labour's preparation enormously."


    Kenneth Branagh's Love's Labour's Lost is ready to roll in London - but the British actor/director has to wait for Alicia Silverstone and Natascha McElhone to learn how to sing and dance. The first in what Branagh hopes will be a trilogy of movies based on the Shakespeare's plays, Love's Labour's Lost is being adapted into a 1930s style Hollywood romantic musical. And Silverstone and McElhone have an 18th century theatre critic to blame for their aching tendons and sore throats. Branagh says, "The great Edwardian theatre critic Harley Granville Barker said the play could be most effectively understood in terms of song and dance, so we've taken him at his word." However, the tricky dance steps are delaying the film's start date. A source on the movie says, "There will be some tap dancing so they're all taking dancing and singing lessons. Natascha McElhone was an Irish dancing champion when she was a child, but they are all having coaching. We're ready to shoot any day but they're rehearsing at the moment." (February 24)

Shooting for Love's Labour's Lost begins this week...woo hoo! "Put on your dancing shoes..."

  • New on this site is an article about Ken and Helena making Theory from the Calgary Sun, as well as an Italian magazine cover photo and another pic from that shoot. There's also a caricature of our favorite Hamlet here.

  • The release date for Ken's animated flick El Dorado (Dreamworks's second animated feature after The Prince of Egypt) has been pushed back from this winter to March 2000.

  • UK fans: On The Directors (BBC Radio 2, 10:00pm) this Tuesday, Ken will talk about Hamlet, Frankenstein and the art of making movies.

  • Amusing bit in a recent Londoner's Diary from the Evening Standard: "'Kenneth Cranham's pride is wounded. "People often expect to get Kenneth Branagh," the actor tells me. "I've just received a letter asking for a signed photo. I was delighted until I got to the end, where the fan asked if I could also include one of my lovely wife Emma Thompson." '

  • And now for everybody's favorite Compendium feature, What Celebrities Are Saying About Ken! (Loads of apologies for this, the amount of useless and frivolous information I put on this site is directly proportional to the amount of urgent schoolwork that needs to be done. So blame the two midterm exams I have this week.):

    • "I think Kenneth Branagh does a really good job with that [Shakespeare] stuff. I really liked his last film, Much Ado. I liked the camera movement. I don't think that camera ever stopped moving. It had a real kinetic quality. He was wonderful, and [Emma Thompson] was really good, too. Maybe I'll do Shakespeare with him. He seems to have a thing for it." --Mel Gibson, 1994

    • "But he's so gorgeous!" --Pamela Wallin, Canadian talk show host, responding to remarks that she flirted too much with Ken when she interviewed him for Hamlet

    • "I owe young Kenneth Branagh a very great deal for Peter's Friends, I shall never forget that. It was a very well-written part, and it had scarcity value because I was the only elderly person in it, so people remember it. Sam Goldwyn is reputed to have asked Ken, `Where did you find her?' He replied: `She's my mother-in-law.'" --Phyllida Law (Emma Thompson's mum), 1998

    • "Is she really having an affair with Kenneth Branagh? That's all I want to know." --Lisa McRee, host (now ex-host) of Good Morning America, during a discussion about Oscar nominee Helena Bonham Carter, 1998

    • "Much Ado was really appealing to me and no one thought I would do it. I so dug Branagh's Henry V so I thought, man, I think I really might want to do this. I had to learn it. I had one Shakespeare class and barely understood anything. And I love that movie." --Michael Keaton, on why he was willing to play a supporting role in Much Ado

    • "I'm very protective about Ken because he's quite fantastic but the press don't seem to think so. Anyone who's ever worked for him knows his drive and energy and enthusiasm. You couldn't find a better producer, a better enabler than him." --Imelda Staunton (co-star in Peter's Friends and Much Ado)

    • "I understood the Shakespearean verse better than I ever have, but I always do with Branagh. He's a treasure." --Hayley Mills after the London Hamlet premiere

    • 'TO BE OR NOT TO BE GAGA OVER 'HAMLET' (USA Today, December 1996)

      If proof is needed that Hollywood loves a British accent, consider the crowd at Tuesday's Los Angeles premiere of Kenneth Branagh' s four-hour Hamlet: Sharon Stone, Nick Nolte, Jerry Seinfeld, Holly Hunter, Candice Bergen, Forest Whitaker and Rob Reiner with dad Carl. Branagh, who directed and stars, came minus his steady, Helena Bonham Carter. He introduced the film, thanking castmates Julie Christie (Hamlet's mother and Branagh's date), Charlton Heston, Billy Crystal and Jack Lemmon. ``I feel like I've never seen the play before, even though I have, '' said Hunter of this cinematic first, an unabridged version of Shakespeare' s tragedy. Seinfeld called it ``magnificent.'' ``A feast!'' exclaimed a svelte Bergen.'
      (There, don't you feel cheery now? February 22, thanks to Cynthia, Marilyn, Catherine, Toni)

Watched Much Ado About Nothing in its entirety for the first time in a long while over the weekend -- God, how I love, adore and WORSHIP this movie. If Love's Labour's Lost is even half as good as Much Ado, I'm gonna be high as a kite come winter 1999. Uhm, figuratively, of course. ;) On to the news, so I can go on to more important (not) activities like completing papers and briefs and flow charts and spreadsheets for class...

  • The Daily Mail's Baz Bamigboye talked to Natascha McElhone (Ken's leading lady in Love's Labour's Lost) about the movie -- the brief article's called Making a Song and Dance About the Bard. Shooting starts February 24th. Alicia Silverstone will be on The View this Thursday, maybe she'll give us an update on how rehearsals are going.

  • New photos include a rare decent headshot (taken at last November's Celebrity premiere) with the funky facial hair -- ain't he cute? Like a chipmunk. Which works nicely in tandem with Helena, since a bunch of dark woolly chipmunks seem to be co-habitating on her head. (Have I ever mentioned how much I love and adore Helena? The lady kicks ass. Uhm, figuratively, I hope.) Anyway, not so chipmunk-like is this autographed promo shot for Cold War, in which he looks kinda stern and mean. Well, maybe a little chipmunk-like. Like a chipmunk who's just read a comment making fun of his girlfriend's hair...

  • Speaking of our favorite g-f, here's a brief article from the Fort Worth Star Telegram about her working with Ken in Theory of Flight entitled, most creatively, Actress Starring Opposite Her Real-life Leading Man. And last week's Parade Q & A section had the following:

    'Q: I loved The Theory of Flight with Helena Bonham Carter and Kenneth Branagh, whose real life romance radiated off the screen. What drew them to the film? -- some guy from Providence, R.I.

    A: "I was astonished when 'Helly,' who usually mulls material over for a long time before making a commitment, reacted so passionately to this script ... so I had to read it too," Branagh, 38, tells us. "We both felt haunted by this true story of a physically paralyzed woman -- who is determined to live her life fully despite a degenerative illness -- and the emotionally paralyzed man who helps her." Bonham Carter, 32, had a special interest in the role because her own father has been in a wheelchair for 19 years. The movie, which handles the serious subject with irreverent humor, may well earn her an Oscar nomination this week. Branagh, meanwhile, begins directing a screen version of Love's Labour's Lost this month.'

  • Some foreign release dates:

    • SPAIN - Celebrity on February 26th
    • AUSTRALIA - Theory of Flight on July 8th
    • GERMANY - Celebrity on March 18th, Theory of Flight on April 1, Wild Wild West in July

  • In an article asking critics what classic films ought to be re-made and with whom, Evening Standard film critic Alexander Walker says, "I know exactly what film I'd re-make, because I've been recommending it to different producers over the years, hoping to get a finder's fee. It's a film people hardly remember, called It's Love I'm After (1937). It originally starred Bette Davis and Leslie Howard as a Broadway couple who resemble the Lunts, and hate each other - they perform Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet while hissing insults. I'd have Kenneth Branagh and Emma Thompson in the leads. Gwyneth Paltrow could be the girl sighing her heart out over Branagh."
    (February 15, thanks to Catherine, Sandra F, Meg, Estela, Sandra P)

Lotsa stuff to get through in this update, so I won't waste time expressing utter disbelief/bewilderment about some of the Oscar nominations (Elizabeth instead of The Truman Show?) -- and everybody is gonna have some kind of gripe (where's Christina Ricci? Bill Murray? Jeremy Davies? Helena Bonham Carter? Oh, right, 99.99% of the Academy didn't SEE Theory of Flight) with the nominations every year; you can't please everybody, that's the way the cookie crumbles, c'est la vie, etc, etc, ad infinitum. (On a less gripe-y note, a major YAY!!!! for Roberto Benigni!) On to things Ken....

  • New photos include a scrummy one from 1994, with Helena at the LA premiere of Theory, a black and white shot from the same premiere and a more recent shot with the funky Wild Wild West facial hair arrangement.

  • Two audio links of interest: the 55-minute NPR Hamlet interview (transcript of which can be read here) and a collection of different interviews from Bitesite.

  • Excerpt from this week's Newsweek article about Shakespeare mania: '...Meanwhile Branagh has formed the Shakespeare Film Company, which will make three films in three years, to be distributed by Miramax. The first is a musical version of Love's Labour's Lost with Alicia Silverstone and Nathan Lane, set to classic songs by Cole Porter, George Gershwin, Irving Berlin and Jerome Kern. After that, Branagh will do Macbeth, with the Scots fun couple as a power-thirsty duo on Wall Street after the millenium. And finally, As You Like It, set in Kyoto, Japan. "Producers and financiers are much more savvy about this stuff," he says. "Going into a room and saying, 'Hey, guys, I'd like to make a musical version of an obscure Shakespeare comedy' isn't as hard as it used to be."'

  • From a Mr Showbiz interview with Alicia Silverstone:

    'QUESTION: Tell me about doing Love's Labour's Lost with Kenneth Branagh directing.

    ALICIA: I was really nervous about doing Shakespeare on film. I was going to do another project with Des McAnuff [who directed a recent adaptation of Honore de Balzac's Cousin Bette], and it was a very different approach. I sort of thought that maybe Shakespeare doesn't work on film, and I had never seen Kenneth Branagh's version of Henry V before. I thought Shakespeare's characters were so rich that [his plays] can't be done on film. But I was excited at how wrong I was when I saw Henry V. I just knew I was safe when I saw what he could do. Henry V was so good; the battle scenes were amazing, and I felt like I was right there. So I was like, if he can do it, and he wants me to do it, he must be crazy. I really thought he'd lost his mind when he hired me. But now, it's just wonderful, and I'm so excited to do it, and I'm working really hard on it. It's also a musical. Which is scary. I can't sing. I can't even sing in the shower, but now that I'm doing it, I'm realizing that I can sing. And the songs are so fun. Irving Berlin, Gershwin. The film's all in the style of Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers movies. Big showy numbers. It's so fun. Nathan Lane's in it, Natascha McElhone - the girl from Ronin - and Matthew Lillard.'

  • Excerpts from Celebrity presskit notes: '"There's an undercurrent of melancholia, a certain kind of emptiness to his life because he's been chasing all these shimmers. When I first read the script I thought it one of the bleakest I'd ever read." (Kenneth Branagh). Branagh was at the 1997 Cannes Film Festival when he heard that Allen was considering him for the part. "He sent me a cover letter saying that he wanted someone attractive to women but not a movie star looking guy who was something of a loser but bright and funny enough to maintain the company of beautiful women," laughs Branagh. "I was as surprised and flattered to get the part as anything I've done."

    For the role of Davis' ex-husband, Allen turned to the talents of Kenneth Branagh. "I've always been a fan and I needed a first-rate actor who could play a regular guy," says Allen.

  • From the World Entertainment News Network (if this guy's for real...maybe he meant a different Kenneth Branagh? ;) An Andy Warhol movie, hmmm.): "Bashful Leonardo DiCaprio looks set to bear all on his new movie The Beach - because his British body double David Maguire is threatening to pull out. The blonde Leo look-a-like has been so overwhelmed with the attention his body double role in the controversial movie has caused, he's decided it might do his career more harm than good. And unless Beach bosses come up with a cameo role offer for the young British hopeful, he's decided not to bare all to save DiCaprio's blushes. He says, "In the past couple of months everything's gone mad. I've been offered adverts in Spain and Japan. I've been for auditions for a movie based on Andy Warhol's life with Kenneth Branagh."'

  • And this week's exciting edition of "What Celebrities Are Saying About Ken"!

    • Novelist Anne Rice: "Speaking of magnificent actors, I crave anything with Kenneth Branagh! You guys know that because I've praised his Shakespeare films, Henry V, Othello, and the full length Hamlet. This guy saves my soul. I ought to watch his films over and over as I write. But to get to the immediate point, I just saw his Frankenstein on TV. (I own the laser disk of this.) And what a great film this was. If you haven't seen it, get the tape or disk or watch for it on TV. The images, the inventiveness, the marvelous fidelity to Mary Shelley's great themes, all of this amounts to genius. It should have been a great box office success. I pray Kenneth Branagh is working on some new things. I felt he is the only true successor we have right now to Lawrence Olivier. And he must give us more Shakespeare and more classics. Small note: When I saw Hamlet, I was so thrilled that I sent Branagh lots of flowers, and he sent a very nice note back. I have it up on my wall, this note." You can read more Ken-gushing by Ms Rice at her official website.

    • Michael Keaton talking about his own lips in an interview with The Guardian: "I guess they are noticeable, because the other day I was watching a movie with Kenneth Branagh. He has no lips. He has anti-lips. So I must have lips and maybe I use them in some roles, but I don't want to know about them." Writer goes on to describe the freakish snowman in Keaton's new movie Jack Frost as having "Kenneth Branagh's anti-lips." Hmmph, I think Ken's lips are sexy. (Mind you, Ken could have a cucumber growing out of his left ear and I'd find that incredibly sexy.)

    • Kathie Lee Gifford to Alicia Silverstone on her show: "Say hello to Ken from us. He was on the show not too long ago and he's such a doll." Speaking of dolls, Wild Wild West action figures are gonna hit toy store shelves in the near future--hopefully there was one made of Ken. If not, we're just gonna have to break the legs off of the Kevin Kline dolls and ink Loveless's spider beard on 'em with a black marker. (February 11, thanks to Isabel, Jude, Jane, Sondra, Virginia, Christine, Sandra)

After succumbing to the whips and scorns of computer-hacking losers ("la-hoooooo...zerrrr-herrrrz" for all you Jim Carrey fans), it looks like the school server--and this site--is back up and running (well, the site's up until May anyway, when I graduate :). Yippee! Here's the news (oh by the way, to the hackers who wreaked havoc on the Berkeley server: please don't do it again. For the love of Zeus, there are at least 3 people--2 of whom I pay--who read this site!! Have mercy!!):

  • The Theory of Flight won the Top European Film prize at the Brussels Film Festival last week, woo hoo!! Congratulations to director Paul Greengrass, writer Richard Hawkins, Helena Bonham Carter, Ken and the rest of the Theory gang. Speaking of Theory, here are the Ken-related bits of an interview Helena did with LA film mag "Venice":

    "VENICE: Ken was just in here, he hummed under his breath while he signed posters.

    HBC: Yeah, he sings a lot. As least he can sing, unlike me.

    VENICE: What was it like to work together?

    HBC: He's got such an irreverent sense of humor, a pretty sick sense of humor, so I'd be talking in my voice (she goes into Jane's slow drawl) and he'd be saying, 'Oh come on, would you speak up, otherwise this is going to be a three hour film'. I loved the teasing. I just laugh at him. Unfortunately, I tended to laugh during his closeups as well. He actually ordered me out of the room for one. I said, 'Don't you need me to react off?' and he said, 'You are not helping, you are undermining.' So I left. Laughing, of course."

  • Shooting for Love's Labour's Lost is around the corner, and Variety confirms the following cast list: Ken (Berowne), Alicia Silverstone (French princess), Nathane Lane (Costard the clown), Matthew Lillard (Longaville), Adrien Lester (Dumain), Alessandro Nivola (King of Navarre), Natasha McElhone, Carmen Ejogo, Emily Mortimer and Timothy Spall. The new issue of Entertainment Weekly features an article on upcoming Shakespeare movies, and Lillard is quoted about meeting Ken for the first time: "Oh my god, it was like sitting down with the grandfather of the Bard! Reading a scene with Kenneth Branagh is like shooting hoops with Michael Jordan." I'm not sure about any analogy that likens Ken to a grandpa--Shakespeare's grandpa, to be exact--but, er, Matthew meant well. :) And here's an excerpt from a recent interview with Alicia Silverstone:

    'This is what you do if you want Alicia Silverstone in your movie -- you move her or you challenge her. Blast From the Past really moved her, she says, while her next project, Love's Labour's Lost, with Kenneth Branagh, both moves her and challenges her.

    "I'm really excited about working with Kenneth Branagh," Silverstone says. "He absolutely makes you feel no fear. He knows what he's doing. When I auditioned for the part, he would have me do it so many different ways. It wasn't like, 'Try a different way.' It was him messing with you, trying to figure out that you can do everything that he wants you to be able to do. And that's fun for an actor. Because sometimes a director will tell you to do something and you'll be like, 'Are you joking? You don't know what you're talking about. That doesn't make any sense.' And you try to explain it to them, and they're not really thinking about anything. So it was super nice."

  • Fans of the Wild Wild West trailer that aired during the Super Bowl have been sending bewildered emails to the effect of "Are ya LOONIE? The special effects rocked!!!" (1) Yes, for the most part, I AM a few french fries short of a Happy Meal, but (2) the special effects seen in the 30-second teaser did bite. Hard. Especially the penultimate shot of Will Smith and Kevin Kline on a hang glider flying under the spider--major crapola. But they've got six months to re-tune and revamp (not to mention work a certain creepy kickass villain into their marketing campaign. Unless, of course, their plan is to make audiences believe the mortal enemy of Will and Kev is the Spider That Came From Outer Space), so no worries. Warner Brothers has put up a teaser website for the movie, where you can check out the trailer for yerself. (February 5)

I spent the weekend in a deep funk after Theory of Flight closed on Thursday after a whopping seven-day engagement in the San Francisco bay area--I can still see the Jerry Springer movie that opened 3 months ago, but not Theory. What's the world coming to? Good grief. The film in general is flopping like a fish out of water, which is a bloody shame since it's rather wonderful with a couple of outstanding performances. Sigh. More on the sigh front, a 30-second trailer for Wild Wild West debuted during the Super Bowl yesterday with nary a mention or clip of Ken. I'm gonna wait for the longer trailer before passing speculative judgment on the movie, but I gotta say that some of the special effects shots in the commercial looked like total crap. Mucho re-working needs to be done in that area. New stuff to check out on this site: a cool photo from the new issue of French Premiere and a shot of Ken and Woody Allen from their Paris Celebrity press conference. Woody looks like he's feeling guilty about a concealed weapon under his coat or something. New things to read include the most excellent Madison cover story, a transcript of Ken's Hamlet interview with the radio show Fresh Air and some other things in the Articles section. Below are various blurbs of interest:

  • 'ORGANIZED LABOUR (People magazine, 2/01/99)

    Having directed himself in such films as Henry V, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and Hamlet, did Kenneth Branagh feel underused in his latest drama The Theory of Flight? "The role in this was sufficiently challenging," says Branagh, 38, who costars with his real-life love, Helena Bonham Carter, in the movie. "The enjoyment of just acting and having only one thing to worry about was delicious. It never occurred to me to start thinking about where I would put the camera." Branagh next directs himself, Nathan Lane and Alicia Silverstone in a musical adaptation of Shakespeare's Love's Labour's Lost. "I've never done a musical before, so I've been meeting with choreographers and arrangers," he says. "We're using Cole Porter and Irving Berlin songs. At one point we thought we'd do original songs, but no one had the guts to write anything that would stand next to Shakespeare."'

  • From a French TV interview (done while promoting Celebrity at the Venice Film Festival):

    "Q. : Do you remember your first experience with celebrity ?

    Ken : I was on holiday in Cornwall, in the South West of England, learning to ride, and my girlfriend at the time went to the newspapers shop to buy a magazine for her own interests. We were sitting and having a cup of tea and she opened the page and screamed because for the first time ever there was a picture of me in a magazine, you know, "a young actor to watch". And we both screamed and jumped up and down...It just seemed to me completely bizarre! And... (little smile)... I think it was the last time I jumped up and down about that kind of thing..."

  • From Cindy Adams' column in the New York Post:

    [Adams is talking about Joseph Fiennes being in love with Catherine McCormack] "...But he's (Fiennes) determined to low-key the romance to avoid what fellow Brits call the 'Ken an' Em factor.' In other words, the pressure of being acting's golden couple, a.k.a. what drove ex-husband Kenneth Branagh and ex-wife Emma Thompson to separate beds . . . Speaking of Kenneth Branagh brings me to his current love, Helena Bonham Carter, who's a maybe Oscar nomination for Fine Line's The Theory of Flight opposite Branagh. Says Helena: 'My fingers are crossed for the nomination, but you just have to keep relatively calm. Truth is, I'm a complete wreck.' [Sob. She really does deserve a nom for this performance, but the movie's terrible box office and mixed reviews have probably smothered her chances...] (February 1, thanks to Marie-Dominique, Ann, Virginia)

Mr Showbiz columnist Jeffrey Wells and producer Wendy Finerman talk about The Betty Schimmel Story (hopefully a title change is forthcoming), Alicia and Matthew talk about Love's Labour's Lost, and the Wild Wild West novelist talks about a viciously homicidal Loveless...

  • HUNGARIAN LOVE STORY: 1999 will be an emotional doubleheader for Kenneth Branagh. Besides directing Love's Labour's Lost, a '30s-style musical version of the Shakespeare play in which he'll star opposite Alicia Silverstone and Nathan Lane, Branagh has now locked in a deal to direct and co-star in The Betty Schimmel Project, a true-life love story set against World War II and the Holocaust.

    The period drama, spanning from the early '40s to the mid-'60s, will begin filming in England next year for DreamWorks SKG, which is co-owned by Schindler's List director and Shoah Visual History Foundation founder Steven Spielberg.

    DreamWorks bought the rights to Schimmel's life from producer Agy Orsi, and it has all the makings of an epic. The story centers on a pair of teenaged Jewish lovers in World War II Hungary who become separated and presume each other dead after their imprisonment in Nazi labor camps.

    Both marry other people and move on with their lives, only to find each other again in the '60s in New York City. The role of Betty Schimmel is yet to be cast, but Branagh, 38, will play her long-lost lover, Richard. (This would involve a touch of illusion, or a second actor, since the story begins when the lovers are 16.)

    Schimmel could roll as early as next summer, as Branagh is expected to wrap the Shakespeare musical in May. Spielberg will apparently not have a producer credit on the project, but Wendy Finerman (Forrest Gump) and Orsi will. The script is by Ivan Fila and Greg Poirier.

    Why is Branagh double-timing it with Schimmel? It seems he developed an empathy for Holocaust subject matter after narrating Jon Blair's 1995 documentary Anne Frank Remembered. There's also the understanding that Branagh isn't exactly one of the Fortune 500, and that the Schimmel project is "a good payday for him," according to an agency source. (Mr Showbiz)

  • 'WW: What's next for you after "Stepmom"?

    Finerman: I think probably there's two movies. One is called The Betty Schimmel Story at Dreamworks, which is a triangle love story between some survivors of the Holocaust. It's wonderful. It's very in the tone of "Doctor Zhivago." It's a lost love movie. (Women's Wire)


    On key or not on key. That is the question. Only Alicia Silverstone has that answer. She will croon quite a few tunes in a big-budget movie musical version of Shakespeare's Love's Labour's Lost. Silverstone will play a singing and swinging princess in the Bard's relationship comedy.

    Parting with the original time period that Will cooked up hasn't been such sweet sorrow for director Kenneth Branagh, who will also act up in the film. "I'm setting it in the '30s with Cole Porter and Irving Berlin songs," he says.

    Is he nervous about shaking down Shakespeare this way? Branagh admits, "I'm in a panic, but I keep taking deep breaths. I can't help thinking, `My God, choreography! Music!' I want to pull the covers over my head on some mornings."

    Silverstone, who stars in the comic love story Blast From the Past on Feb. 12, says her main thoughts are: Wherefore art thou vocal pipes? "I have to sing `A Night Like This' and `There's No Business Like Show Business,' " she frets. "For someone who listens to the Beatles, Aretha Franklin and Sinead O'Connor that's quite a departure, so I'm taking singing lessons." (by Cindy Pearlman, Chicago Sun-Times)

  • "...Her next project has a decidedly classier ring. She's acting for director Kenneth Branagh, playing the princess in his modernized, musical adaptation of Shakespeare's Love's Labors Lost.

    Silverstone was 'very nervous' for her audition with Branagh. 'But he was super nice,' she says. 'He did most of the talking. Then I did the reading, and he worked with me. I left and thought, Well, that was a lovely meeting, and you know ... But I'm just glad I got to meet him.' In other words, she didn't think she got the part. 'I knew I didn't get it. I was sure I didn't get it,' she says. Turns out she was Branagh's first choice for the role. 'Yeah,' she says, with satisfaction. ``And I was like, 'What?!'" (by Joshua Mooney for BPI)

  • 'Alicia Silverstone, diva of song and screen? The 22-year-old actress, whose latest movie "Blast From the Past" hits theaters Feb. 5, is not only tackling Shakespeare on screen in Kenneth Branagh's musical production of Love's Labours Lost, she's relying on her very own vocal chords to warble her way through the role. The daredevil blonde who snagged a $10 million production deal before she was old enough to drink is warming up to the part with the help of a vocal coach. "At first, I was like, 'God, my jaw hurts and my throat hurts,' because I'd never sung before," Silverstone tells EW Online. "Everything was really sore for the first couple of days."

    Even if worse turns to worst, Silverstone figures she's picked up at least one useful skill. Singing lessons "help me with my breathing for everything else," she shrugs, "because I have, um, a really hard time breathing."'
    (Entertainment Weekly Online)

  • '...[Matthew Lillard's] knack for turning a supporting role into the most memorable, comically rewarding part in the film -- most recently, in the hight school Pygmalion tale She's All That in which he plays an MTV Real Work has-been -- has helped to land him the part of Longaville in Kenneth Branagh's version of Love's Labour's Lost. Auditioning opposite Branagh for a role in Shakespeare's tale of four men who swear off women for three years to pursue knowledge was "like shooting baskets with Michael Jordan," says Lillard. "To be or not to be" with Kenneth Branagh is pretty overwhelming."' (New York magazine)

  • From an interview with Wild Wild West movie novelist Bruce Bethke:

    "Q. What were the most difficult characteristics to deal with?

    A. Actually, the character I had the most trouble with was Loveless. To me, Michael Dunn will always be the definitive Loveless, and I remember him as having a certain cat-like _playful_ aspect to his sadism. Kenneth Branagh's Loveless is just plain evil, through and through, as well as vicious and homicidal. It's hard to bring out Jim and Artie's smartalecky fun side when they're fighting a mass-murderer who's marking his trail with corpses."
    (January 28, thanks to Paula B, Virginia, Thomas)

Those who sent me a message on Thursday, Jan 21 requesting to join the Ken-Friends list, please drop me another note -- I managed to do something to make all my mail disappear that day after reading it on a friend's computer. :) Sorry for the inconvenience! On to the news:

  • From the February issue of Mode magazine:


    Just as we are about much more than size, these guys are about much more than their looks. Instead of turning heads, these men go straight for our hearts.

    WHEN WE FIRST NOTICED HIM: As sword-waving warrior Henry V in the movie version of Shakespeare's play, for which Branagh won Academy Award nominations for both direction and acting. By age 24, he had founded his own theater company and by 28, he had already looked back at it all in an autobiography.

    WHY HE'S SO SPECIAL: The precociousness of his memoirs notwithstanding, he is a deserving heir to Sir Larry Olivier's ermine thespian mantle. Ken has lived through a painful divorce from Emma Thompson, which he handled in public with stirring dignity and discretion, and has gone on to date not a Spice Girl but fellow Tinsel Town antithesis Helena Bonham Carter. Most recently, Branagh stepped nimbly into Woody Allen's loafers in Celebrity. Though evidence might suggest the contrary, Branagh evinces a disarming, self-effacing quality, as if he is always expecting a chair to break under him.

    WHAT'S NEXT: He is co-starring with Bonham Carter in Theory of Flight, and can be seen this summer in The Wild Wild West with Kevin Kline and Will Smith.'

  • From the World Entertainment Network newswire:


    British actor and director Kenneth Branagh is to continue to take Shakespeare to the masses - with a movie trilogy. The cameras will start rolling on Branagh's latest project in February (99). It will be a musical film version of William Shakespeare's Love's Labour's Lost set in the 1930's and starring Clueless actress Alicia Silverstone. But it is only the start of the Much Ado About Nothing star's two year plan to give a modern feel to two more of The Bard's classics - As You Like It and Macbeth - which will also have music added and be set in a more up-to-date era. A spokesman for Branagh's Shakespeare Film Company says of the trilogy, "I don't know why Kenneth chooses to do Shakespeare so much but he plans to complete the filming of As You Like It and Macbeth by the end of next year (2000)."'

  • From glossy Brit mag OK!, in an article about Britain's highest-paid entertainers:


    Here are the stars with the biggest bankability across the pond, and the amounts they can demand per movie. [snip - Anthony Hopkins ranks first] Kenneth Branagh - 3.5 million pounds. [about $5.78 million] Forget the films he directs and writes, he's now a box-office power player in Hollywood. He appears in the new Woody Allen film Celebrity, with Leonardo DiCaprio and Winona Ryder. He's also made The Theory of Flight with his girlfriend Helena Bonham Carter and the mega-budget Hollywood film Wild Wild West with Will Smith and Kevin Kline, which is tipped to be a big hit of 1999.'

  • In this week's New York Observer there's an article (a total waste of space, actually; but as there's already a tremendous amount of wasted space on this website as it is, what's the harm?) entitled FAT NECK SYNDROME by Andrew Goldman. Tom Hanks and John Travolta are listed among the celebrity sufferers of FNS (Travolta having the fattest) and future fat-neckers include Leonardo DiCaprio and Ben Affleck. But Mr. Goldman doesn't leave our Ken out, not to worry: "British Prime Minister Tony Blair has one, as does fellow Brit Kenneth Branagh, although it is now a toothpick compared to the ham neck he sported in Henry V." Incidentally, Richard Corliss profiled Ken for a Time magazine cover story in 1989 and described Ken's Henry as having "a huge head piked like a pumpkin on his stocky frame." Combine Goldman's "ham neck" and Corliss' "pumpkin"-head imagery, and Ken was practically a walking Christmas dinner dream....on a more serious note, even more troubling than Fat Neck Syndrome, for me, were the scrawny years of the early and mid-1980's when the width of Ken's shoulders failed to exceed the width of his adorable Charlie Brown pumpkin head. Thank God Andrew Goldman wasn't writing then...

  • For fans of Dead Again's Roman Strauss (and crikey, are there a lot of ya), here's the photo of him from the Life magazine Derek Jacobi holds...and this just in--there's a good photo of Ken on the last page of the new issue of People magazine with Mick Jagger on the cover. (January 24, thanks to Jude, Jane, Virginia, Kelly, Amy, Isabel)

Lots of interesting stuff; try to hang on 'til the end, I saved the best (hint: it's a note from Ken! :) for last...and sorry 'bout the website server being down over the weekend (as if it was my bloody fault ;)--don't school sites suck?:

  • Love's Labour's Lost casting: The Hollywood Reporter says that Alessandro Nivola (Nicolas Cage's dweebie brother in the awesome Face/Off) is in final talks to play the King of Navarre, while Natasha McElhone (the girl Jim Carrey pines for in the excellent The Truman Show) has also joined the cast.

  • Check out new photos of Ken and Helena at the Theory of Flight premiere in New York, as Richard and Jane in a publicity shot, and a super-cute photo from the film. Other new photos include Ken and Em in Peter's Friends; Ken as Iago and with Michael Maloney (playing Roderigo) and Nathaniel Parker (Cassio) in Othello; at work as director: behind the camera of Much Ado About Nothing and Hamlet, directing Andy Garcia in Dead Again, Lord Richard Attenborough, Sir John Gielgud, and Kate Winslet and Michael Maloney in Hamlet.

  • AMC Theatres is teaming up with Fine Line to host ALS benefit screenings of The Theory of Flight in the following cities: Detroit, San Francisco, Atlanta, St. Louis, Kansas City, Minneapolis, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Denver, and Phoenix; read the press release or contact your local AMC theater for details if you're interested.

  • Melanie Griffith was on the Charlie Rose Show last week and talked a bit about working on Celebrity with Ken and Woody Allen -- mostly about how Woody basically kept telling Ken how much he sucked. Bummer. :) So much for Woody's claim that he didn't feel worthy enough to give Ken acting notes...anyway, read a rough transcript of the KB-related bits of the interview. Also for your reading pleasure, two new excellent Shakespeare-heavy interviews in the article archive: Creative Screenwriting 1998 and another from late 1996, in which he mentions envisioning the Love's Labour's Lost blokes on skateboards skating around a big circular library in his film...

  • From this week's issue of Entertainment Weekly, which highlights the major entertainment events of 1999:


    Blockbuster king WILL SMITH saddles up with KEVIN KLINE for a showdown with KENNETH BRANAGH. Think 'Men in Black Hats.'

    PROJECT: "Wild, Wild West," Barry Sonnenfeld's big-screen remake of the late-'60s, gadget-heavy TV staple starring guy's guy Robert Conrad.
    THE DETAILS: U.S. special government agents James West (Will Smith) and Artemus Gordon (Kevin Kline) team up to stop the evil Dr. Loveless (Kenneth Branagh) from assassinating President Grant circa 1869.
    AT STAKE After scoring in the biggest summer blockbusters of 1996 ("Independence Day") and 1997 ("Men in Black"), Smith goes for the hat trick.
    THE BUZZ: Despite Smith being on the bench last summer, Sonnenfeld swears Will is back in game condition: "Will is everything you've seen before, plus he's James Bond."
    JUST DON'T CALL IT A WESTERN: Since cowboy pics aren't exactly magic at the box office these days (who remembers 1998's "The Newton Boys?"), expect to see limited use of the W-word. "This feels more like "Men in Black" than a John Ford movie," explains Sonnenfeld. And it's certainly got the sci-fi gizmos: Dr. Loveless' arsenal will include an 80-foot-tall walking tarantula. "It's mostly done on the computer," says Sonnenfeld, "but we did build one leg of it and it weighed 16,000 pounds. It's badass." '

  • Finally, Ken was kind enough to send the loveliest of thank-you notes in response to the Ken-Friends birthday gift,
    read it here. (January 19, thanks to Mercedes, Marilyn, Samantha; photos thanks to Isabel)

There's gonna be a special Theory of Flight premiere in Detroit on January 20th to benefit ALS of Michigan, read more about it . . . The newest issue of Movieline reports that Ken is in the running for a major role in the high-profile film trilogy of J.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, the blurb is reprinted below. I'm not really into the whole wizards and dragons thing myself, but I've always thought that Ken would make a pretty damn cool elf. (January 15, thanks to Jennifer)

RING LEADERS (Movieline)

Since Heavenly Creatures director Peter Jackson got the go-ahead from New Line Cinema to direct back-to-back all three films of J.R.R. Tolkien's fantastical The Lord of the Rings trilogy for $130 million, some of the biggest names in the biz have been touted front-runners to play the various wizards and scary monsters. Sean Connery's name keeps coming up for the role of Gandalf, but rumor is that the sexy Scot has so abused his icon status with the ludicrous Dragonheart, the silly First Knight and--this apparently was the final straw--the bombastic The Avengers, that he's no longer a consideration. Other actors who are said to be waiting in the wings include Sam Niell (who won points as TV's Merlin), Patrick Stewart, and Kenneth Branagh. As far as the pint-sized, aging ringbearer Bilbo Baggins, Murg hears Danny DeVito may snag the role.

New York Post columnist Mitchell Fink wrote about speaking to Alicia Silverstone about Love's Labour's Lost in yesterday's column; Alicia will also be on Letterman (Jan 26) and Conan O'Brien a few days before flying to London for her big adventure with Ken and Co. CNN film critic Paul Clinton put Theory of Flight on his 1998 top ten list, VERY cool. The movie's groovy soundtrack is also out, you can get a copy for $13.97 by going to this link at CD Universe. Or just go there to check out the names of the track titles, "Looking For A Gigolo" being my favorite...;) (January 14, thanks to Paula B, Sarah)

Entertainment Weekly Online posted a short article over the weekend in which Helena talks about her and Ken's apprehension approaching The Theory of Flight because of the nasty British press, who've been pretty mean to the couple since...forever. A running theme of Hel's American Theory interviews has centered around how much the UK press sucks, as a matter of fact. "They're hideous," she says. Expect British press coverage of the couple to be MUCH more favorable from now on...;) Speaking of Ken and _____ press coverage, the latest issue of Forbes magazine has a "doesn't-it-TOTALLY-SUCK-that-Ken-and-Em-broke-up"-themed retrospective on Dead Again. (Jan 12, thanks to Uyen)

BITS AND PIECES: Shooting for Love's Labour's Lost will begin on JANUARY 29th at Shepperton Studios near London. Still on the LLL front, Nathan Lane mentioned on the Rosie O'Donnell Show that he'll be singing "There's No Show Business Like Show Business" to open a play-within-a-play scene . . . Check out the Vote Yes website to see a pic of Ken giving his thumbs-up to the peace referendum in Northern Ireland . . . The Gingerbread Man was mentioned on several lists of notable films of 1998, including those of New York Times critic Janet Maslin and Mr Showbiz; according to Entertainment Weekly, so far on video the movie has made 10 times (roughly $10 mill total) what it made during its entire stunted theatrical run (bite me, PolyGram!) . . . There's a great, lengthy (8 pages) interview with Ken in the Shakespeare supplement to the newest issue of film mag CINEASTE (vol. XXIV, no 1). Also mentioned in the issue is a forthcoming book from Samuel Crowl called The Branagh Renaissance: Reimagining Shakespeare in the Age of Film. Hmmm. The Branagh Renaissance. Good title. ;) . . . Will Smith talks about his Wild Wild West buddies in the current issue of the UK's Film Review: "The team is Kevin Kline and Kenneth Branagh! And that's the thing about making films - it's all about the people you work with. I feel like I'm working with Michael Jordan. If you're in a basketball game playing with or against Michael Jordan, you're going to be better because he's there. That's how I feel about Kevin Kline and Kenneth Branagh. They inspire the scenes . . . And Kenneth Branagh, who is just brilliant, top ten in the world as a Shakespearean actor." Only top TEN? ;) C'mon, Will, get jiggy with it. (January 8, thanks to Jane, Virginia, Sarah, Julie, Fiona)

Some release dates: US - Gingerbread Man at purchase price on February 23rd (Amazon is taking pre-orders now at a $16.99 price); UK - Celebrity on June 18th, The Gingerbread Man on video on January 25th; Australia - Wild Wild West on September 9th, Hamlet video on sale in February . . . So I was at a bar last night and a friend goes, "Hey, I think that video game thingie over there is flashing the name 'Kenneth Branagh'." At first I thought it was the alcohol talking, but we went over to take a closer look and, holy pectorals, it turned out to be the one and only FRANKENSTEIN PINBALL MACHINE!!!! Damn cool. The guy playing it was setting a new high score record, undoubtedly inspired by the numerous cartoon drawings of Ken's head stuck on Jean-Claude van Damme's body. I wanted to tap him on the shoulder to say, "Hi you realize that the shaggy-haired shirtless guy featured prominently all over this game happens to be a noted actor/director/auteur/thespian/Shakespeare-reincarnate who at this very moment is rehearsing major Bob Fosse dance moves for his new musical adapation of Love's Labour's Lost--which, by the way, is gonna eff-ing ROCK?!?!!?" Uhm, but I restrained myself . . . and I can't end without giving props and kudos to my beloved San Francisco 49ers for their thrilling last-second playoff victory over their arch-rival, the Green Bay Cheeseheads. If Ken were familiar with American football, he'd be a Niner fan, I'm sure of it...;) (January 6, thanks to Sandra, Catherine, Toni, Paula)

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!! It'd be a lot happier if Theory weren't getting lost in the big holiday crush of films--it's a small movie that happens to be quite good and deserves much better; read some reviews of the movie from more objective sources if ya don't believe me. :) Here's a brief snippet from Time Out New York:


Later in the week, Tony chatted with real-life sweethearts Kenneth Branagh and Helena Bonham Carter after the December 10 benefit premiere of the duo's film The Theory of Flight, in which the actress, wheel-chair bound and dying is racing around London with Branagh's character in a quest to lose her virginity. Naturally we asked Bonham Carter, seated beside her beau in the Plaza's Grand Ballroom, to reveal her own unfulfilled desires -- and her answer was almost as unexpected as the film's wacky premise. "I'd love to tap dance," she revealed. Noting that she's had a total of four lessons, the actress continued, "I'm really good at starting things and terrible at finishing them." Branagh attributed the couple's pleasant working relationship to the fact that both are "disciplined and lunatic." Added Bonham Carter, "I find (working with Branagh) remarkably unproblematic, and I'd forgotten what terrific fun he is." Maybe the Celebrity lead passed time on the set by doing his ace Woody Allen impersonation. (January 2, thanks to Virginia)

Check out the first photo from Alien Love Triangle, it's Ken in bed with a green person. A bit disturbing, eh? But yum anyway. I'm, uh, green with envy. (December 29, thanks to Estela and Isabel **Hey, guys, go see Theory of Flight if you live within 500 miles of LA or New York. The opening weekend box office numbers are frigging depressing.)