Kenneth Branagh Talks 'The Avengers,' Roles He Wanted

Yahoo News, 29 February 2012
By Eric Shirey
* Thanks Annette

I had the wonderful opportunity to speak with Oscar-nominated actor Kenneth Branagh two days before he was up for an Academy Award for his portrayal of Sir Laurence Olivier in "My Week With Marilyn." As a veteran of Hollywood, he's directed and starred in over 52 movies since his first uncredited role in 1981's "Chariots of Fire." As a director, he's worked on everything from masterful versions of "Mary Shelley's Frankenstein" and "Hamlet" to the comic book adaptation of "Thor."

Is there any particular person in history or a character that you want to play but haven't had the opportunity to?

A part or character that passed me but always interested me was Samuel Pepys. Samuel Pepys was an English diarist who wrote during the decade from 1660 to 1669. He wrote during one of the most tumultuous times in English history.

[His] diary was so funny and so honest. He had access to the court and to the king at a time when the English monarchy was being restored. That was also during the reign of Oliver Cromwell and during the great fire of London and the Great Plague. He was alive during all these extraordinary events and he wrote about them all. He was funny and also mildly obsessed with sex. He was a very ill-behaved husband with his very passionate and vivid wife.

I wanted to play him from the moment I read his diaries when I was about 18. Several attempts were made to do it and it just didn't happen. Now I'm too old to do it. I missed him. The pleasure his diaries and his character has given me from these unexplicated accounts; it would be like somebody writing a diary who had been in and out of the White House over a period of two terms of a presidency and you discovered the secret diary that told you everything. Pepys was like that.

He also had a huge heart as well as being wonderfully ambitious, scabrous, petty, pathetic, mad, honorable, sly, and guilty. You name it. [He was] a wonderfully complete human being. He wrote this diary in code of course. It took about 200 years for someone to work out what the code was. Everything about him fascinates me.

Do you go see movies in the theater when they come out?

I love seeing particularly big movies on the opening weekend if I can. I love when the movie theaters are packed. I remember seeing J. J. Abrams's "Star Trek" on the first Saturday in New York City in a packed [2,500]-seat house. It was absolutely thrilling. It was just a great, memorable way to see a really terrific movie.

All biases aside, what superhero movie of 2012 are you most excited to see?

There's only one answer to that: "The Avengers." You say, "All bias aside." I can't put my bias aside. I spent nearly three years working on "Thor." I feel very passionate about the work of Tom Hiddleston, Chris Hemsworth, and Stellan Skarsgard. I feel very passionate about those characters.

I saw the work that [Marvel Studios producers] Louis D'Esposito, Victoria Alonso, Craig Kyle, and all of my Marvel family were putting into it. I spoke to Joss Whedon ["The Avengers" director] at the beginning of it all. I got tips from Jon Favreau ["Iron Man" director]. I spent time with Joe Johnston ["Captain America: The First Avenger" director].

That universe is so interwoven and the amazing fact that they've come to the point where they can even put a movie like that together and make it work is really exciting. It's really a new departure. I'm really excited to see that one.

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