Good Morning, America interview transcript

ABC, November 15, 1998

LISA McREE, Host: "The play's the thing," that's what Shakespeare once said. And now in Woody Allen's new movie "Celebrity," Kenneth Branagh, certainly no stranger to Shakespeare, plays a writer betting his screenplay will be the thing to make him famous. And when he meets up with a certain hot young actor, the stakes get really high.

(clip from "Celebrity") ACTOR: You shoot crap?

KENNETH BRANAGH, Actor: I don't, no.

ACTOR: I'll teach you, man.

KENNETH BRANAGH: I mean, I know the rules, but I didn't bring much money, not realizing that I would be here.

ACTOR: Oh, really, well, I'll advance you the cash, (inaudible). From our royalties, right?

KENNETH BRANAGH: That's very generous of you.

ACTOR: Listen to me. I wanted to talk to you about the opening.


ACTOR: You know, I mean, it feels a little -- feels a little rushed.

KENNETH BRANAGH: It's definitely rushed. It just -- it needs way more, well, build up, (inaudible)...

ACTOR: No, no, no, no, not buildup.

KENNETH BRANAGH: Not buildup, but (inaudible)...

ACTOR: Character development, you know what I mean?

KENNETH BRANAGH: Sure, absolutely.

ACTOR: Who is this guy Sonny?


ACTOR: I mean, why does he need to score so badly? You know what I'm saying?

KENNETH BRANAGH: You have such a feel for this material, it's...

LISA McREE: And Kenneth Branagh joins us now. I understand that you did shoot this scene in Atlantic City.

KENNETH BRANAGH: I did, yes, it was...

LISA McREE: And...

KENNETH BRANAGH:... my first trip to Atlantic City. I'd never seen anything like it. It was like a parallel universe.

LISA McREE: Well, could they find you to shoot your scenes? I understand you got lost at the tables a couple times.

KENNETH BRANAGH: Well, no, I think that's just tittle-tattle (crosstalk) LISA McREE: Tittle-tattle. You and Leonardo weren't -- I heard you were...

KENNETH BRANAGH: (inaudible)...

LISA McREE:... doing a little gambling.

KENNETH BRANAGH:... I don't really understand the rules, you know, but I understand it involves losing a lot of money, so I tried to stay away from that, because my mother would shout at me if I did.

LISA McREE: Did you enjoy making this movie with Woody Allen?

KENNETH BRANAGH: Very much so, yes. I've always been a huge fan of his, and he was extremely generous, and -- with his time, and funny. And, you know, he has a very clear vision of what he wants, and you reshoot a lot, and he rewrites a lot. But it was very exciting to be part of it.

LISA McREE: When you say clear vision of what's -- what he wants, I can't help but notice with every Woody Allen movie I see, where Woody is not in the movie itself, there's somebody playing Woody. And you did a fine Woody Allen impersonation in this movie. Was that intentional? Is that him saying -- is this -- he directs you to be like him.

KENNETH BRANAGH: He didn't really. I mean, I think you're right that there is always a lot of him in the movies, whether it's just because his writing's so distinct, it's so particular kind of Woody Allen Manhattan, probably not the real Manhattan, but a Manhattan that's very recognizable, very, very funny. And both men and women speak in this comic voice. It's full of one-liners...

LISA McREE: This rambling sort of (inaudible)...

KENNETH BRANAGH: Yes, a lot of stuttering and a -- you know, suddenly everybody's neck gets locked and their shoulders go up, and you start moving your hands from the elbow, and...

LISA McREE: But is it just the writing, or is it when he directs you, he's saying, "And then I want you say this," and you just pick it up?

KENNETH BRANAGH: Well, he sometimes -- when he's stuck for a way to tell you how to do it, he will do it for you, which is always a killer, because he's so funny, he has this sort of rubber body and rubber face, he's a natural clown.

LISA McREE: Right.

KENNETH BRANAGH: So almost anything he does is funny. He used to be surprised, I'd laugh in his face as he would do something for me, because he -- I mean, being a comedian, of course, he's deeply serious, so...

LISA McREE: Right.

KENNETH BRANAGH:... he -- in a way, he doesn't know how funny he is. But he wouldn't exactly do that, but there's no question, he has a really strong -- he's very musical, as you know, so he has a strong sense of rhythm and a -- you know, a master sense with comedy. So when he says, "You're going to do that," or "It needs to come in like that," or, you know, "Be very quick with that line," then of course you're going to do what he tells you.

LISA McREE: This movie is about fame, and the price of fame. And you've had your experience with that. Your life, your personal life has been all over the magazines and the tabloids, and people can't get enough of that sort of thing. Have you found that price to be worth it?

KENNETH BRANAGH: Well, I think -- it's easy to exaggerate the level of interest people have in one's life. I don't think people all over America are waking up wondering what I'm up to, and once you start...

LISA McREE: But I was in England last -- I must say, I was in England last summer, and every magazine I picked up was you, are you with Helena Bonham Carter, and, you know, what about your ex-wife, and...

KENNETH BRANAGH: Well, it's just -- I don't spend the summer picking up those magazines, I'm here to tell you, because it's easier just to get on with things and accept it as a -- as part of the territory. I think probably that side of things, which has always been the case for actors or people in the public eye to deal with, has probably intensified more than one could have imagined say, even 10 years ago, with the proliferation of media.

But I think that you -- if you choose to live your life at least in some way quietly around that, if you try to produce whatever normality you think you want to live by, then you just -- you deal with that. And it blows hot and cold. There's always somebody else that they' re interested in, so I...

LISA McREE: You do try to be a normal guy. I understand you went jogging in Central Park yesterday, and you got lost.

KENNETH BRANAGH: I did get lost. Now, I love New York, I love Central Park, but I did have a bit of a problem. I was suddenly in the -- running around the reservoir. I don't know how I ended up there.

And aside from getting lost, I kept thinking of that scene in "Marathon Man," do you know what -- Laurence Olivier's torturing Dustin Hoffman, saying, "Is it safe?" "It's very safe, it's completely safe." "Is it safe?" I'm thinking, Where is he? Laurence Olivier's going to step up from that pumping station. All the diamonds are going to...

But I couldn't -- there seems to be a fence all the way round that reservoir. What's the problem? So -- but I found a way out. It' s just that...

LISA McREE: Well...

KENNETH BRANAGH:... you keep looking around. Is that the Dakota building, or is that the -- is that -- I keep looking for landmarks, and I thought I was going south and I was heading west. But that's my sense of jogging direction.

LISA McREE: We're glad you found yourself.

KENNETH BRANAGH: Well, I found my way here, didn't I?

LISA McREE: I understand that you have a dental appointment to go to, so we must let you go.

KENNETH BRANAGH: That's right, yes, but it's very safe, it's very safe, the dentists.

LISA McREE: Kenneth Branagh, great love -- luck with "Celebrities" and everything else too.

KENNETH BRANAGH: Thank you very much, Lisa.

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