News Archive: September 2005 - December 2005


Woooo hoooo! Guess who's nominated for a Golden Globe? Yessiree, Mr. Branagh, for his outstanding portrayal of Mr. Roosevelt. Official category: Best Performance by an Actor in a Mini-series or Motion Picture Made for Television. Warm Springs has also been nominated for Best Mini-series or Motion Picture Made for Television, as has Cynthia Nixon for her performance as Eleanor Roosevelt. The awards will given out - and broadcast on television - on 19 January 2006.

Literary notes - from ICCoventry, 22 November 2005:

Stars Reveal Their Favourite Reads
By Steve Evans

Charity champion Jeff Thorburn spent more than £100 on postage stamps before hauling a sack of letters of to the post box, destined for the doormats of celebrities. The Nuneaton ambulanceman wrote to more than 500 of Britain's most famous people after scouring an edition of "Who's Who".

His painstaking labours were not in vain. More than 150 replied - and he has used their responses to compile a book to raise funds for the Alzheimer's Society. The book will be dedicated to Jeff's mother-in-law, Evelyn Doughty, who is in a Nuneaton care home suffering from Alzheimer's disease, and is also in memory of her husband, Bert, who remained a devoted carer to his wife until his death three years ago, aged 78.

Among those who have contributed to Mr Thorburn's book are Prime Minister Tony Blair, former Prime Ministers John Major and the late Jim Callaghan, Harrods owner Mohammed Al Fayed, actor and film director Kenneth Branagh, sports personalities Dickie Bird, Roger Black and Sir Alex Ferguson, and actors Sir Michael Caine and Dame Judi Dench. He asked each of them to say what was their all-time favourite read and has compiled their replies into a book under the title, "Novel Ideas".

Mr Thorburn, aged 50, of Glebe Road, Nuneaton, is donating all royalties to the Alzheimer's Society. He said: "Alzheimer's is a devastating illness and I just want to do my bit to help with research into the condition. I have dedicated my book to my mother-in-law and to her late husband, who was such a devoted and dedicated carer.

"When I decided to write to famous people asking them to explain their favourite book and why, I filled a sack full of letters and hauled it down to the post office. I'm grateful to those who replied. Many who contributed confided that dementia had also affected their family in some way and they hoped the book would succeed in raising funds for such a worthy cause."

"Novel Ideas", published by Apex Publishing, priced £4.99, is Mr Thorburn's third book. Previous publications have raised funds for the Mind and Rethink mental health charities.

This is indeed a worthy cause (says another one who has dementia in the family), so... even though I'm going to tell you what Kenneth wrote, you should still support the book!
Kenneth Branagh in Novel Ideas: "My favourite book as a child was THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS by Kenneth Grahame - I loved Toad of Toad Hall and his many antics, especially with his motor car - poop poop!

My favourite book of all time is DAVID COPPERFIELD by Charles Dickens."

The good old days... Walking With Monsters is being screened in three parts, starting Thursday 8 December on BBC1, and continuing on the following two Thursdays. From the Belfast Telegraph, 8 December 2005:
Branagh Lines Up Monster Role
By Eddie McIlwaine

Comic book stories about the flesh-eating creatures that once ruled the Earth, flooded back when film star and producer Kenneth Branagh was head-hunted to narrate the blockbuster television documentary series "Walking with Monsters" that will be launched on BBC1 tonight (8.30pm).

"As a little boy I was either lying on the sofa in our house in north Belfast reading comics or watching old movies on the box," recalled the man who was to become a giant of the cinema. "It was those sessions in our house waiting for mum to come home to make the tea that inspired my passion for the movies and amazing tales."

So Branagh, who left Belfast as a nine-year-old when his joiner father took up work in Reading, had no hesitation in accepting the job of telling the monster documentary tale. "It is the story of the bizarre beasts that ruled the planet millions of years before the dinosaurs." he explains. "Viewers will see and hear about an evolutionary battle that raged on earth for billions of years featuring creatures that created the blueprint for our own bodies and for every living thing we know today."

New morphing technology has been used to reveal how the ancestors of humankind evolved and footage from inside the bodies of those ancient monsters will reveal the origins of the first limb, the heart and even the brain.

As we like it... a mention of As You Like It. You can see photos of the cast members and a first photo from the set at Blackfilm.com. You'll also find it on the As You Like It page. If you go to the distributor's site, Picturehouse, you can see a poster. Unfortunately they are into Flash, which means I can't grab the image - which is a pity as it's really rather nice. Ah well....

I've only got one photo for you - been a bit distracted lately (the decade-long alliance with my granola/geek ISP has ended as they could not survive in the struggle with the Big Companies [sniff] and the ensuing email turmoil has been traumatic. :-) ). So here's KB looking Norse in Norway.

Hoping for more news soon!
(14 December, thanks Pierpaolo, Jane, Jude, Catherine, Paula, Lyn)


Congrats to the lucky bidder (whoever you may be) for the Andy Gotts photograph of Kenneth Branagh! And thank you to the winner, to Kenneth Branagh and to Andy Gotts for the $400 donation towards diabetes research.

If you did not manage to remortgage the house in time or sell the children - no, no, once again I actually mean sell the car - you can still go for it and bid on another Kenneth Branagh-related charity item: "A trip for two people to the set of Kenneth Branagh’s forthcoming film of Mozart’s opera THE MAGIC FLUTE". This is part of the BBC's The Great Big Bid auction. You can get details and participate by clicking here. The current bid stands at £156 and there are just under three days left to bid.

In "we know he's not a slacker" news, here's an item from The Guardian, 14 November 2005:

Geldof Joins Debrett's List of Country's Top Achievers

For celebrities, politicians and business people alike, the list is eagerly awaited. The 19th edition of Debrett's People of Today, a reference book of 24,000 of Britain's top achievers, and a de facto guide to who's in and who's out of the modern establishment, is unveiled today.

New entrants include the campaigner Bob Geldof, bestselling artist Jack Vettriano, actor Kenneth Branagh and the designer of the iPod, Jonathan Ive. Olympic gold medallist Jonathan Edwards and former England football manager Kevin Keegan have been dropped from the list.

And finally, please enjoy the questions put to Mark White, author of the new biography of Kenneth Branagh, and his answers by clicking here.

More soon!
(14 November, thanks Jude, Jane, Mark White)


Hi keen Kenians! You will have noticed, if you arrived at the site through the front door (and if you didn't, please go back and come in again :-) ), that the Compendium is privileged to be holding a very special auction of an autographed photograph of Kenneth Branagh, taken by Andy Gotts and being sold to support research for diabetes. You can bid between Monday 7 November and Monday 14 November, 11:59 pm EST - ample time to mortgage the house, sell the kids - ooops - I mean the car, take that mysterious object you've always wondered about to the Antiques Road Show... whatever it takes to have that portrait smiling back at you!

On a less happy note, Ducktastic, despite overall good reviews, is going to be closing on November 19. Here's one of the press blurbs, from Playbill:

London's Ducktastic Ducks Out Early, After Only One Month
By James Inverne
3 November 2005

It's an oft-quoted adage in the theatre, that one should "never work with animals or small children" because they're unpredictable and because they upstage you.

Kenneth Branagh and the comic double-act The Right Size have certainly found this to be true with their new show, Ducktastic. There was an unplanned duck audience invasion at an early performance I attended. Lead duck Daphne was reportedly ducknapped from the stage door, opening night was delayed due to duck training problems, and now the show has posted early closing notices.

A follow-up to their successful 'The Play What I Wrote' (again produced by David Pugh), this was hyped as a worthy successor to the Morcambe and Wise tribute, even repeating the trick of modeling the major characters on showbiz legends. This time round, The Right Size (aka Sean Foley and Hamish McColl) with director Branagh focused on Las Vegas illusionists Siegfried and Roy. In the show, playing at the Albery, two Blackpool duck disappearers are hapless copies of the more famous duo.

Reviews were mixed but far from universally damning. However, the duck never showed the kind of box-office pull that was the case with Play's, which featured surprise guest celebs (Ralph Fiennes, Jude Law, Kylie Minogue and Glenn Close were among dozens of guests lining up to be ridiculed).

Early closing notices have been posted, and the doors will shut on Nov. 19. Remaining tickets will see prices cut to only ten pounds. For more information call (0)870 060 6621.

I will never be the new David Pugh since I don't get it... sheesh, all that work for just over a month? The Observer critic wrote: "It's the perfect non-creepy seasonal alternative to a panto." Hello? hello! Only 45 days to Christmas: free time, jolly tipples, silly giggles, we just want to have a good time (we'll see the heavy stuff in suicidal February). Anyway, *I* saw it and I'm glad I did!  If you can, grab those ten pound tickets and join the those of us who greeted this news with regret.

I have put a few more (good, of course) reviews on the Ducktastic page. Sniff....

There was a small flurry of press releases regarding The Magic Flute this week - you can read them here.

And we end on a high note - the long-awaited biography of Kenneth Branagh by Mark White has hit the shelves (at least in the UK, but is available to us all through the magic of online ordering, with a good promotion at amazon.co.uk)! You can get details about the book and author here, and ... drum roll.... next week you will be able to read the Questions & Answers from an email exchange between Dr. White and members of the Ken-Friends mailing list. So you'll be able to lift your nose from your copy and gain even more author insights!

Making a bid for charity, quacking up at the theatre, getting the straight story on our Ken's career... lots of options this week! Ain't life grand! More soon....
(6 November, thanks Andy Gotts, Jane, Jude, Mark White)


So... was Renata looking like the guys on Mount Rushmore during Ducktastic? No indeedy - "winded and feeble" (as one reviewer puts it) from laughing was the order of the day. You're going to love it! Not to mention that it has got all the journalists pecking the thesaurus for lines like "fowl play" and "a webbed feat"... so the smiles just keep coming. You can read a pack of good reviews (with a couple of mild grumbles from the predictable sources :-)) on the Ducktastic page. You can also read three articles about the abducktion (hey, I can get into this, too) of Daphne, the star of the show.

Photos from the official opening of the show are floating around on Rex Features and Getty Images, so you can visit their sites and take a look. I am, however, taking the liberty of offering you a watermarked image of Kenneth and his pulchritudinous (hand me that thesaurus!) Lindsay (with apologies to Getty Images), since sightings of her are extremely rare. This gives us a grand total of three, in roughly the same amount of years. Hollywood might even consider that not existing at all, heh heh. I do have to say, having seen Himself escaping the theatre the evening before, that this photo does Kenneth no favours... he needs to ask for "lighting for blonds".   :-)

Unfortunately I wasn't able to post the information about the radio drama Bequest to the Nation, which aired on BBC Radio 3 last Sunday, and was available through the BBC website till today, in time - mea culpa, mea culpa (or rather, blame Foley and McColl!). Happily my London hosts were late in coming home from an afternoon away, so I got to hear most of the production while puttering about in the kitchen. It was great - he laughed, he cried, he raged, he cajoled, he whispered, he declared, he ruled.

More soon, I hope.
(23 October, thanks Catherine, Deborah)


Quack! Quack! Attention please! If you haven't already booked your Ducktastic! tickets, or even if you have (like yours truly), you can pick up a special ticket for Monday 17 October at half price, with the added fun of a Question & Answer session with the cast and director (You-Know-Who) thrown in...

Ducktastic tickets - lastminute.com exclusive Q & A evening with Kenneth Branagh and the cast of the show, October 17 - only £20

This Q & A session would be hosted by producer David Pugh, director of Ducktastic, Kenneth Branagh together with writers and performers. Ever wondered how to train a duck? Is Ducktastic going to make it to Vegas? And how do you saw a girl in half? The entire cast will be happy to answer all your burning questions about the creation of Ducktastic. Daphne and her duck friends may also put in an appearance.

The award-winning team that brought you the smash hit, guest star-studded show THE PLAY WHAT I WROTE present DUCKTASTIC a new comedy spectacular, directed by KENNETH BRANAGH and written by HAMISH McCOLL & SEAN FOLEY.

Christophe Ursula Sasson is in the last chance saloon of his career – all his hopes for a return to LAS VEGAS ride on DUCKTASTIC! Roy de la Rue, who is in fact Roy Street, a pet shop owner from Portsmouth, volunteered to help Sassoon out with a trick and doesn’t seem to be able to leave the stage. With Sassoon drinking so much, he not only needs a hip flask, but a hip replacement flask, and with Roy barely keeping mind and body together, the magic tricks start to go wrong… Follow them on an hysterical journey of magic and illusion into the beyond, and beyond that, into the very backside of beyond – it has to be seen to be believed!

Cast includes: Hamish McColl, Sean Foley, Liz Crowther, Clive Hayward, Alex Kelly, Ruby Snape and Daphne.

I hope lots of lucky UKers can flock to this event! There has also been an article in the Evening Standard, and another article in The Times. The former comes with a nice photo, though the director looks a bit tired (hmmm, maybe directing a technically tricky play while editing a Shakespeare film and keeping tabs on the recording phase of the upcoming opera film will do that to you...Kenergizer redux!).

And it seems that the ever-ruffled feathers of PETA have also been smoothed over...

From BBC News:
Flap Over Duck Production Averted

A West End show featuring 46 ducks on stage has smoothed over a possible row with animal rights campaigners.

The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta) contacted the show - 'Ducktastic' - with concerns over the use of the Indian runner ducks. The show, directed by Kenneth Branagh, said it had taken safeguards for the ducks' treatment in the current show. But its producer said he would think twice about using live animals again.

Producer David Pugh told the BBC News website he would not use live animals again "unless approved by the RSPCA and after agreement with Peta". He said he had personally met with Peta representatives to discuss the use of the ducks, prior to the show's West End transfer from Newcastle. "It started when Peta sent us a very sensible letter pointing out things that I had naively not been aware of. They were not in any way threatening," he said. And he pointed out that the ducks were a "pivotal" part of the show, which is currently running at the Albery Theatre in London.

Peta said it was "putting away its protest signs and sending accolades" instead to the show's producers. The charity pointed out that hot spotlights, long rehearsals, noise from pyrotechnics and applause can be very frightening to baby birds.

"We're delighted with Mr Pugh's response to our concerns about the ducks' welfare and his ongoing spirit of cooperation", says Sean Gifford, Peta's director of European campaigns. "Ducks don't belong on stage any more than Mr Branagh and his cast belong in a pond, so we're very happy that at least in this production company an unfortunate mistake won't be repeated."

Mr Pugh said: "I think Peta have a point, although I would not always agree with the action taken to prove a point."

Finally, you can read a message from UAYD Director Naomi Conway, along with the reports from some of the recipients of the Ken-Friends bursary funds - on the UAYD page. To learn where the funds for these bursaries come from, please take a look at the Birthday Projects page. We are currently engaged in this year's project. I can't tell you what the nifty item we created this year is, here "in print" (just in case KB has bored pals who might read this) but you can email me to find out how to participate. ;-)

I'll be away for a week, but will return to let you know whether Ducktastic! was a laff-riot, or whether I sat stone-faced all through it, heh heh.
(10 October, thanks Pennie, Catherine, Jane, Deborah, Jude)


So the Emmy Awards have come and gone and, while KB did not pick up the award for Best Actor, Warm Springs did win awards for Outstanding Made for Television Movie, Outstanding Art Direction for a Miniseries or Movie, Outstanding Music Composition for a Miniseries, Movie or a Special (Dramatic Underscore), and Outstanding Single-Camera Sound Mixing for a Miniseries or a Movie, as well as an award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or a Movie for Jane Alexander. So bravo!

There is a wonderful new article about the preparations for Ducktastic!, which comes with two photos: the boys and Ducktastic director divo. There was also an "okay-I-jumped-the-gun-and-it's-too-early-but-I-want-to-be-snarky-and-I-have-such-a-clever-title-but-I-also-feel-a-bit-bad-and-so-this-is-a-sort-of-half-baked-not-so-good-but-potentially-good" review, which you can read here.

There is also an article which manages to cover Warm Springs and Ducktastic! together, with liftings from here and there. Hey, whatever gets that name in print, I'm for it.  :-)

From a discussion about the portrayal of presidents on screen (which you can read here) comes this statement:

In the HBO TV movie Warm Springs, up this weekend for a slew of Emmys, Kenneth Branagh etched a Commander in Chief for the ages and immediately vaulted to the top of the list of actors who’ve played real presidents. His FDR was better than those of Jon Voight in Pearl Harbor and Jason Robards in F.D.R.: The Last Year, and on par overall with Hopkin’s work in Nixon.
He won't have to stick his hands into cement, but Kenneth will be immortalised on the British edition of the "Walk of Fame"... from News Letter:
Ulster Man Branagh To Be Immortalised On Avenue Of The Stars
By Liz Kennedy
15 September 2005

Belfast's Kenneth Branagh is one of the stars to be honoured on London's Avenue of the Stars. Avenue of the Stars is the UK equivalent of the Hollywood Walk of Fame and the permanent walkway in the capital's Covent Garden will feature in a new ITV programme on Sunday.

Ricky Gervais and John Cleese are teaming up for a comedy sketch to mark the opening. Gervais, creator of TV hits Extras and The Office, is writing and preparing the sketch with Cleese in California, where the Fawlty Towers star now lives. The sketch will be produced by Terry Hughes, the British TV comedy director who has worked on Friends, The Two Ronnies, The Golden Girls, and Monty Python At The Hollywood Bowl. Executive producer Michael Hurll, who devised the walkway, said: "It's fantastic for us to have got two such great names together and I really can't wait to see the results. "When we first discussed the idea I was thrilled but never in my wildest dreams did I have imagine it would actually happen." ITV, which is launching the walkway to mark its 50th anniversary, is keeping more names secret until its live show on Sunday.

But famous faces already announced include Sir Alec Guinness, Sir Alfred Hitchcock, Sir Charlie Chaplin, Peter Sellers, Sir Rex Harrison, Lord Laurence Olivier, Richard Burton, Sir Ian McKellen, Benny Hill, Cary Grant, Michael Gambon, and Bobs Hope and Geldof.

Famous females to be commemorated include Dames Judi Dench, Shirley Bassey and Thora Hird; Nicole Kidman, Peggy Ashcroft, dance Dames Alicia Markova and Margot Fonteyn, comedy duo Victoria Wood and Julie Walters, Gracie Fields and Glenda Jackson.

As musicians the Rolling Stones and Sex Pistols are to be included, a guess places the Beatles on the walkway as well.

Other names are Tom Jones, Peter O'Toole, Albert Finney, Peter Cook, Morecambe and Wise, Sir John Mills, Stan Laurel, Noel Coward and Leonard Rossiter.

At the unveiling, 1,000 celebrities will get a place on the walkway, but further names will be added each year. The stars can be awarded posthumously and must have been born in the UK or Commonwealth for their names to be emblazoned on the walkway on a silver star. The avenue, set in the grounds of St Paul's, known as the actor's church, will be launched in a three-hour live ITV1 show on Sunday, complete with a fireworks display on the Thames.

You can check out the Pathé Press Pack for Five Cildren and It online; it includes a nice interview with Kenneth which you can read here.

Fun stuff: from the New York Daily News, 4 September 2005"

10 GREAT ENTRANCES
1. Groucho Marx accepts the presidency of Freedonia - "If you think this country's in trouble now, just wait till I get through with it!" - in "Duck Soup."
2. John Wayne looking amazingly studly while he twirls a rifle (and the camera races to embrace him) in "Stagecoach."
3. Edmond O'Brien staggers into a police station to report a murder - his own - in "D.O.A."
4. Omar Sharif rides across the desert and into movie legend in "Lawrence of Arabia."
5. Sean Connery introduces himself as "Bond, James Bond" for the very first time in "Dr. No."
6. Michael Caine looks right into the camera and tells us to sit back and relax in "Alfie."
7. John Travolta struts down the street to a disco beat in "Saturday Night Fever."
8. Kenneth Branagh, backlit like God Almighty, assumes his authority in "Henry V."
9. John Cusack looks straight into the camera and shares his lovelorn misery in "High Fidelity."
10. Mark Wahlberg drives back to the mean streets of Detroit to the tune of Marvin Gaye's "Trouble Man" in "Four Brothers."
It is possible to download audio books from a new UK site called www.audible.co.uk. Five readings by Kenneth Branagh are available: 'The Captain and the Enemy' by Graham Greene; 'In the Ravine and Other Short Stories' by Anton Chekhov; 'The Magician's Nephew' by C.S. Lewis; 'The Outsider' by Albert Camus and 'King Richard III' (the Naxos production).

Photo finish...blasts from the past: sunset in Cannes, 1997; a little Gloria Gaynor, a few flashing lights, Disco Ken; and, going even further back, another "our young pup" photo.
(28 September, thanks Catherine, Jude, Cmdy2nite, Ukelelehip)


Hi Branaghians! The January to August 2005 news has moved to The News & Notes Archive. In case you're cramming for a Ken-test. Which the Ken-Friends have been known to amuse themselves with at their gatherings. And which, despite collating all this info that should make me the world's authority on KB, I am hopeless at. Though I still hope to develop the knack that our Ngoc (Ngoc, Ngoc, Ngoc - Nockie are you still out there?) had for dating photos by the style of Ken's hair.  :-)

That Daphne (the Duck) is not a quack - check our her mind-reading skills (and fab headgear) at the official Ducktastic! website. Previews have begun in Newcastle and our roving reporters tell us the show is a HOOT! (er...quack)  I'm sure everyone who rolled in the aisles during The Play What I Wrote is rubbing their hands together in anticipation - get yer tickets now! The Theatre Royal in Newcastle sent two rehearsal photos to their subscribers - fun times!

Magic Flute news:

Hollywood Reporter, 17 August 2005

Kenneth Branagh has plucked actors from the opera world for his feature adaptation of Mozart's "The Magic Flute."

Joseph Kaiser, Ben Davis, Rene Pape, Lyubov Petrova and newcomer Amy Carson have been cast in the lead roles.

"Flute" chronicles the adventures of Prince Tamino (Kaiser) and his sidekick, Papageno the birdseller (Davis), as they battle evil forces to rescue Princess Pamina (Carson). Pape will play Sarastro, the wise priest, while Petrova will portray Queen Elizabeth of the Night.

Mozart wrote the two-act opera, one of his last works, in 1791. He died in December 1791, just two months after it premiered in Vienna.

Branagh and British comedian Stephen Fry wrote the adaptation. The actors will record the music in the fall, then shoot the film in January. The budget is about $20 million.

Kaiser is an emerging opera star who has performed at New York's Lincoln Center and is a member of the Lyric Opera Center for American Artists in Chicago. Davis appeared on Broadway in Baz Luhrmann's "La Boheme," "Les Miserables" and "Thoroughly Modern Millie." He is a rising baritone on the stage scene. German-born Pape is a leading bass who has toured with the Metropolitan Opera in New York and was named vocalist of the year in 2002 by Musical America.

Another article:
Playbill, 21 August 2005
By Andrew Gans

Millie's Davis Cast in Branagh's "Magic Flute" Film

Ben Davis, whose Broadway credits include 'Les Misérables', 'Thoroughly Modern Millie' and Baz Luhrmann's 'La Bohème', has been cast in the film version of 'The Magic Flute'.

The Hollywood Reporter says that Davis will play the birdseller Papageno in the film, which will be directed by four-time Oscar nominee Kenneth Branagh. The company will also include Joseph Kaiser as Prince Tamino, Amy Carson as Princess Pamina, Rene Pape as Sarastro and Lyubov Petrova as the Queen of the Night.

"Flute," according to the industry paper, "chronicles the adventures of Prince Tamino and his sidekick, Papageno the birdseller, as they battle evil forces to rescue Princess Pamina."

The film adaptation of Mozart's 1791 two-act opera was penned by Branagh and Stephen Fry.

Shooting will begin in January 2006, although the music for the film will be recorded sometime this fall. The film, which has a $20 million budget, is being produced by Pierre-Olivier Bardet and will mark the screen debuts of Davis, Kaiser and Pape. Branagh has previously directed film versions of 'As You Like It', 'Love's Labour's Lost', 'Hamlet', 'Much Ado About Nothing' and 'Henry V'.

And a take by Empire, always amusing and supportive:
Empire Online, 18 August 2005

Kenneth to Adapt Mozart

After tackling Shakespeare more times than we can count (OK, six onscreen - and we can count that high, honest), Kenneth Branagh has turned his attention to another of the classics, Mozart, with the news that he is all set to produce a big-screen version of 'The Magic Flute', the two-act comic opera about sorcery and, as you'd expect, an enchanted wind instrument.

Thankfully, Branagh isn't planning to de-musicify it, since the story is a bit barmy at best. It follows Prince Tamino and Papgeno, a birdseller and sidekick as they battle evil forces to rescue Princess Pamina. And yes, we know that doesn't sound like the best plot ever, which is why we're so pleased that we can concentrate on the fabulous music rather than the story.

However, the twinkly tunes mean that you can't just hire any old actor - you really need someone who can, y'know, sing - and preferably hit the high notes to boot. For that reason, Branagh has hired proper opera types, namely Joseph Kaiser as Tamino, Ben Davis as Papageno, Rene Pape as wise priest Sarastro, Lyubov Petrova as the Queen of the Night (nothing to do with Whitney Houston, never fear) and operatic newcomer as Amy Carson as Princess Pamina.

There's no word yet on an expected release date for the film, but Branagh will have to finish work on his adaptation of 'As You Like It' before he gets going. We'll keep you up to date as we learn more.

What they're saying about Ken...

David Oyelowo, from an article in the Sunday Times about "what's good about Britain" (28 August 2005):

"I'm proud of our multicultural society, where curry is the nation's favourite dish. When my dad arrived in Britain in the 1960s, you would never have seen a black actor as a Shakespearian lead. Thirty years on, he saw his son as Henry VI with the RSC. I'm proud of our theatrical tradition. The generosity and can-do attitude of people such as Kenneth Branagh and Dame Judi Dench is always amazing. But I'm not proud that we've lost our faith as a nation - I think it's left us cynical. And I don't like our culture of fame for fame's sake. Not at all."
Alicia Silverstone, Contact Music, 19 August 2005:
Hollywood star Alicia Silverstoneis desperate to team up with Kenneth Branagh again because she thinks he is the greatest director in the world.

The 28-year-old actress insists she would appear in any movie if the legendary British director was at the helm because she their 2000 collaboration LOVE'S LABOUR'S LOST her finest work to date.

She says, "My favourite film I've ever done was Love's Labour's Lost... "If Kenneth Branagh had a movie for me every year, I'd feel very settled.

"But he hasn't made one since 'Love's Labour's Lost'. So if you could just have a word with him..."

Patrick Doyle, from a lovely, long article in the Evening Times, August 2005
He eventually got a role in TV's 'The Monocled Mutineer' but, disillusioned with acting, was on the verge of giving up altogether when Kenneth Branagh offered him the job of musical director of his production of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night.

The musical side eventually won out, and his first film score was for Branagh's Henry V, in 1989. He still regards it as his finest achievement. He said: "It was the biggest chance I had, and I grabbed it with both hands."'

Another short review of The Goebbels Experiment, by Kyle Smith in the New York Post, 12 August 2005
Kenneth Branagh's fierce narration of Joseph Goebbels's diaries makes "The Goebbels Experiment" a visceral documentary. Seeing what Hitler's propaganda minister saw, hearing only his diary entries and what he heard, we effectively live inside the monster's head. The film is nearly as powerful as last winter's "Downfall," though those unfamiliar with the history of the Third Reich don't get any context.

As he did in the HBO film "Conspiracy," Branagh makes a brutally convincing Nazi, his readings bringing out Geobbels's viciousness as the boasts grow increasingly empty: "I believe the war against Moscow will be our greatest coup," he says in 1941.

Later, after the invasion of the U.S.S.R. proves disasterous, he looks for someone to blame: "The propoganda -- very much against my will -- seemed to assume that the campaign in the East had already been won." As the end approaches, it's a pleasure to see him tour the wreckage of Berlin and start to squirm.

Photography notes:
'Degrees', Andy Gotts' book of celebrity photos that includes two of Kenneth Branagh [see the results of the Compendium's call for "what Ken saw (or heard) while Andy Gotts was taking his picture" here] will be available on October 6th. The 'Degrees' exhibition begins September 30th and continues until October 29th in London.

On the preview night there will be an auction of prints that have been signed by the featured actor, to raise funds for diabetic research. Lots include: George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Kate Winslet, Jude Law, Michael Caine, Tom Hanks, Minnie Driver, Ewan McGregor, Julia Roberts, Kirk Douglas, Patrick Stewart, and many more! The preview night will be by invite only but we will be taking bids via the internet until 27th September.

Degrees is loosely based on the 'six degrees of separation theory' and the world famous cinema game 'The Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon'; this is the theory that you can connect ANY actor you can think of to Kevin Bacon.

Andy Gotts has had extraordinary access to the world's most famous faces. Over 100 A-list actors feature in this fascinating collection of photographs and anecdotes. Each actor Gotts photographed then suggested a best friend, or someone they really admired, as the next person. This gives a wonderful chain of 'who knows who'. Dustin Hoffman suggested Brad Pitt, Brad suggested George Clooney, George suggested Julia Roberts, Julia suggested Susan Sarandon, Susan suggested Paul Newman, Paul suggested....etc.

Two weeks before he died Sir Alan Bates wrote a text for Andy Gotts - it was his last penned work - and is included as a foreword. Sir Alan had suggested Pierce Brosnan as his 'connection', and Pierce has written a tribute to him. As an afterword, Kevin Bacon himself plays the 'six degrees' game, linking himself back to Sir Alan Bates, by just using the actors photographed for the book.

Andy Gotts' percentage from the sale of this book will be donated towards the 'Degrees' project to raise funds and awareness for diabetes research.

And... you'd best be sitting down or have the smelling salts ready when you click on the link below...
Kenneth Branagh's is one of the 100 portraits by Cambridge Jones featured in the book OFFSTAGE, celebrating the RADA centenary - just published. You can see Kenneth's portrait here.

Signed copies of the photographs are being auctioned to raise money for RADA's bursary fund. Information for bidding is at www.cambridgejones.com/auction/auction.htm. You can also order a limited edition, signed copy of the book and bid on a copy signed by all the subjects through this website.

Here's what the Cambridge Jones said about Ken in the book:

"Ken came around to my house in Chelsea and, for some reason, I was expecting a cavalcade and entourage. Instead, he walked in off the street and said, 'Hi'. This, for no explicable reason, made me more nervous that I have ever been for any other portrait session ever. I basically thought I had made a fool of myself although I knew the pictures were fine. Imagine my surprise when a few weeks later, Ken's PA calls to say 'Ken really likes the way you work and wonders if you would like to do something with him for his new film.' Relief was not the word."

Good works department:
Contact Music, 28 August 2005

Tea Lovers Branagh, Lapaglia + Shatner Decorate Pots

Kenneth Branagh, Anthony Lapaglia and Willian Shatner are showing off their artistic skills by decorating teapots for charity.

The trio of actors are among the stars who have revamped crockery for an upcoming auction at the third annual EMMY Awards Nominees Tea Party on 17 September (05).

Bidding on the pots will take place throughout the posh luncheon at the Park Hyatt hotel in Los Angeles on 17 September (05) and proceeds from the auction will benefit the educational outreach and scholarship of the British Academy of Film + Television Arts/Los Angeles, the co-organisers of the tea party.

Other stars taking part in the teapot designing include actor Ian McShane, funnyman Sacha Baron Cohen, aka Ali G, and writer Helen Fielding.

Too bad there is no photo of the pots... Maestro Branagh's artistic endeavours are always sincere and rather touching, (you'll remember the clock and the squirrel) and occasionally quite poetic (you'll remember the jetty).

Photo finish: glam headshot and "If this were an American car I'd be driving - and running you down!  :-) More soon, I hope!
(5 September, thanks Pat, Deborah, Catherine, Paula, Virginia, Jude, Ukelelehip)