Kenneth Branagh Reveals 'Artistic Director' Ambition

BBC News, 7 November 2011

Despite a career that has included Oscar nominations for acting, writing and directing Kenneth Branagh says he still has one ambition yet to fulfil.

When he ran The Renaissance Theatre Company, which he founded in 1987, he was just called director, but he has always wanted to be "artistic director", he said in an interview for Radio 4's Front Row.

"I have a pathetic urge at some stage in my life to be able to pull out my wallet and pull out a little card on which it would say Kenneth Branagh, Artistic Director.

"That would appeal to some rather child-like desire of mine to have that on a business card which I've never had in my life."

He said he would love to run "a group or a theatre, or maybe a building itself that I could quite literally direct the artistic life of it".

But pressed on whether he would like to take over from Nicholas Hytner at The National Theatre, who has has hinted he may stand down in 2015, he said "that is an act impossible to follow".

He is currently starring alongside Rob Brydon in an adaptation of the French farce 'The Painkiller' at the rebuilt Lyric Theatre in Belfast, fitting it in during a break in filming for the third series of TV drama series 'Wallander'.

"I'm going to take it a step at a time and at the moment the entire height of my ambition is to enjoy the rest of the run of 'The Painkiller'," he said.

Branagh has won acclaim for his portrayal of the weary police inspector Wallander in the BBC adaptation of the best-selling Swedish crime novels, by Henning Mankell.

The series is very bleak and Branagh said he struggled to let go after filming: "I have forced myself to switch off, it's not easy." Branagh won a Bafta for his portrayal of the disillusioned Inspector Kurt Wallander.

He said he found getting away from the set at the weekend was his way of coping. "I would get back home as often as I could, and my wife would say 'what are we doing?' and I had spent the week finding horribly mutilated bodies in forests in Sweden.

"I'd say, 'We're going to the Chelsea Flower Show, we're going to something bright and vivid and life affirming and full of energy'."

After two series he said he has found ways to distract himself from the bleakness. "I find that my reading, visual stimulus, music, are all about counteracting something that just gets under the skin.

"(It's) not just the material itself and the murders, the crime etc but it's Wallander's open wound relationship to them. He seems to feel everything, he seems to bruise very easily. And the moment the series has finished I have a hair cut, I have a shower and I get to the sunshine and mountains."

You can listen to the full Front Row interview with Kenneth Branagh on the BBC iPlayer.

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