Now It's Branagh Flaky

The Sun, June 18 1999
by Garth Pearce
*thanks to Catherine Kerrigan

As the star of Woody Allen's new film Celebrity, Kenneth Branagh has swapped the Bard for neurosis and four-in-a-bed.

Arch luvvie Kenneth Branagh turned neurotic Yank when he took the starring role in Woody Allen's new movie, Celebrity. The veteran director who writes and directs the film, was shocked by Ken's nervy, stammering portrayal of a flaky New York scriptwriter haunted by marriage breakdown and career problems.

"He looked at me very long and hard when I turned in with such an angle on the part," says Ken. "I thought he might say something on the lines of 'I can do that myself'.

"But he didn't. And the way the part was written by Woody, it was open to the very interpretation I gave it. This character is uncertain and tormented, so I had to show that.

"Woody's main concern was whether I was funny or not and he could be pretty brutal at times. He would give me notes saying, 'What you are doing is not funny'.

"To be told that by Woody Allen, of all people, is like being plunged in to cold water."

But Ken, 37, who has directed major movies during the last ten years like the award-winning Henry V and Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, gave as good as he got.

"When I got to know him, I would say 'What do you know about funny, anyway? What have you ever done? I never even fucking heard of you until this movie'."

Branagh's magic, which has worked from his first American hit, Dead Again, to his star-studded four-hour film version of Hamlet, is sharper than ever in Celebrity. In one scene his character pursues a major Hollywood star, played by Leonardo DiCaprio, to his hotel suite and pleads with him to read
one of his scripts. It ends with Leo inviting him to join a foursome, in bed with two girls.

"I have never even come close to such a thing in real life, but it was hilarious to film," says Ken.

There were stars in this movie at every turn, with people like Melanie Griffith and Winona Ryder. They were all given a little bit of the script, but not the whole thing.

"The actress, Judy Davis and I had to be the information source for them, because we were the only ones with the full script. But that's the way Woody works in keeping things close to his chest."

Ken, now divorced from Oscar-winning wife Emma Thompson and enjoying a relationship with beautiful actress Helena Bonham Carter, also keeps things quiet.

"Talking about my private life has never really been my cup of tea," he says. "I always think that some things are best left for the privacy of family and close friends.

"But the whole thing about Celebrity was taking a look at just how far we are prepared to go in the pursuit of fame and recognition. There is a frightening hunger for it all in Hollywood which is why I still live in England."

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