Branagh Sought For Epic Role (Belfast Telegraph, July 24 1999)
KEN Branagh is being headhunted by Picture Palace Films to star in Rebel Heart, a television epic set at another tumultuous time in Irish politics.
Branagh, who has had to call off a visit to his native Belfast this month, is wanted for the part of idealistic Michael Collins supporter Ernie Coyne, who signs up to fight for his revered leader in the Irish rebellion.
If he accepts, it will be Ken's biggest role back on his home patch since he made his name in Graham Reid's series of Billy plays in the mid-80s.
Rebel Heart, which is also a poignant love story, taking in the period between 1916 and 1922, is being shot by Picture Palace in the Republic for BBC Northern Ireland, for screening on the BBC1 network in the second half of 2000.
While under fire in the first doomed insurrection of 1916, Ernie meets Ita Feeney, a young woman who in spite of her beauty is also a sharpshooter.
"They fall in love but in the war that follows their loyalties are in conflict and divided," explained one of the producers, Malcolm Craddock today.
"This is the once-in-a- lifetime opportunity a producer dreams about a screenplay that has the power to stop an audience in its tracks. We can't wait to get started."Anna Friel, now playing on Broadway, and another star with Ulster connections is being sought for the part of Ita.
BBCNI controller Pat Loughrey was preening himself today on landing the deal which will bring Rebel Heart to the screen as his station's exclusive.
Branagh was due in Belfast to present prizes awarded by his Renaissance Theatre but pressure of business is keeping him in London and his friend Derek Jacobi has agreed to take his place.
Ken's latest movie The Wild Wild West, in which he co-stars with Will Smith, opens in Belfast on August 13.
10th Anniversary of Henry V - Ken-Friends project
Last year, Ken-Friends (the online mailing list for Branagh fans) raised over $2,700 for the Ulster Association of Youth Drama (UAYD), the Belfast-based theater group for youngsters of which Branagh is patron.
This year's fundraising effort coincides with the 10th anniversary of Branagh's directorial debut, Henry V -- heralded by many as the film most responsible for the Shakespeare surge in cinema at the end of the millennium :). A t-shirt/sweatshirt commemorating its release will be produced and sold by Ken-Friends, with all proceeds going to the UAYD (probably as a scholarship to a deserving student). We again invite non-list members to participate in this project; you can view the t-shirt design at:
http://www.cam.org/~renata/newkenshirt.html (the list address will be replaced with a quote from Henry V, which one we are still in the process of deciding :)
E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for an order form or if you have any questions.
Wild Wild Jest (Fort Worth Star-Telegram, July 9 1999, *thanks to Jessica S)
In the latest Will Smith summer blockbuster, Wild Wild West, respected British thespian Kenneth Branagh plays Dr. Loveless, a sadistic evil mastermind with no legs. (That must be what happens when you fool around on Emma Thompson. Either that or Ken is going for the Gary Sinise Legless Veteran Acting Award.) Actually, Dr. Loveless is a lot like Austin Powers' Dr. Evil, the summer's other sadistic evil mastermind. Both men obviously went to evil medical school, and both are the best things about their respective movies. But the similarities don't end there:
Loveless: No legs.
Evil: No hair.
Loveless: Wants to take over the United States.
Evil: Wants to take over the world.
Loveless: Makes grand entrance in a big Abraham Lincoln head.
Evil: Makes grand entrance in a Big Boy statue.
Loveless: Makes lots of gratuitous sex jokes.
Evil: Makes lots of gratuitous sex jokes.
Loveless: Is half a man.
Evil: With Mini-Me, is a man and a half.
Loveless: Threatens civilization with giant mechanical tarantula.
Evil: Threatens civilization with giant laser.
Loveless: Demands 1 kilogram of gold.
Evil: Demands 1 meeeeellion dollars.
Loveless: Second-in-command has only one ear.
Evil: Second-in-command has only one eye.
Loveless: Uses an Asian assassin.
Evil: Uses a Scottish assassin.
Loveless: Headquarters in Spider Canyon.
Evil: Headquarters in Starbucks.
Loveless: Has a bevy of beautiful, scantily clad evil foreign chicks.
Evil: Has, um, Frau Farbissina.
And pardon me, but I just have to rant for a moment about the reams of sexual content in Wild Wild West, which is only rated PG-13. Please. I don't need to see that much of Salma Hayek unless it's time for her annual exam.
POP CULTURE QUIZ
Last week's question: Will you go see the new South Park movie?
This week's question: Should Kenneth Branagh stay away from silly action movies and stick to Shakespeare instead?
Bardgirl, The Herald (Scotland), April 1999
Don't ask Alicia Silverstone about her days as Batman's sidekick. These days she's a lot happier trying to master the Foxtrot in Kenneth Branagh's latest attempt to bring Shakespeare to the big screen. She talked to Barry Didcock
ALICIA Silverstone is limping. Not badly, but perceptibly. "It's Dicky Briers," says the 22-year-old, sinking into a chair and beginning the first of several yarns about Love's Labour's Lost, the film she's making with Kenneth Branagh and the aforementioned Briers. "Yesterday we had a really, really difficult day."
Actually the problem isn't one of on-set celebrity spats, rather the difficulty of the dancing scenes. After the antics of Batgirl, you'd think the Foxtrot would be easy for Alicia Silverstone. Not so, apparently.
"I just have no muscle in my body whatsover, which I thought was a fortunate thing until I started dancing. My neck, my shoulders, my legs, everything is killing me. I'm very damaged from that day's work."
Not that Briers is faring any better under Branagh. "Every time I walk by him he's going 'Bloody fucking Ken', saying how horrible he is," she says. "But it's all a joke."
Poor Dicky. She laughs - a croaky, neighing sound - and gallops on with the story, wobbling towards an endpoint which comes with her singing coach (the film is a musical version of the Shakespeare play, using songs by Cole Porter) telling her to look on the bright side. "He'd say things to me like 'You're going to be the best sex in town after this'." She laughs again - this time the mouth turns up and the nose wrinkles, making her a dead ringer for Elizabeth Montgomery. You half expect Agnes Moorhead to appear over her shoulder.
Bewitching they may be, these stories of Shakespeare, Dicky and the buttock- firming properties of dance lessons, but they're not why we're here. Blast From The Past, a romantic comedy in which Silverstone resurrects her habitual role as....[snip]
So for the time being, then, it's smaller projects which interest her. "If something challenges me or moves me in some grand way I'm going to do it immediately." There is one director she would drop everything for. "If Kenneth ever asks me to do anything I'll do it in a second."
And that may even include the Foxtrot.
More Shakespeare Movies Are on the Way BroadwayNow.com, March 1999
Kenneth Branagh has a film coming out soon that he knows you're going to love. It's got an all-star cast: himself, Alicia Silverstone and Nathan Lane. Plus, the screenwriter himself (or a fictional version of him) now a proven hit-maker with legions of fans worldwide -- William Shakespeare.
Having formed the Shakespeare Film Company, Branagh, who has directed and/or starred in movie versions of Henry V, Much Ado About Nothing and Hamlet, will direct three more Shakespeare-based films in the next three years, starting with a musical version of Love's Labour's Lost set to the classic songs of Cole Porter, George Gershwin, Irving Berlin and Jerome Kern.
After LLL, Branagh will do a Wall Street Macbeth and an As You Like It set in Kyoto, Japan.
"I have a very strong feeling for Love's Labour's Lost," Branagh told BroadwayNow. "It's a very bittersweet romance, a young play but very touching and very accurate. In a way it's a forerunner of Much Ado About Nothing because somehow Love's Labour's Lost is more fragile, and not as robust."
The revival of Shakespeare on film in recent years, culminating with Shakespeare in Love garnering major Hollywood honors, was nurtured in large measure by Branagh whose successful 1989 version of Henry V paved the way for such movies as Franco Zeffirelli's Hamlet starring Mel Gibson and Branagh's own Much Ado.
"Audiences are very much looking for spectacle and drama," says Branagh. "A lot of people see big, splashy [non-Shakespeare] films and come out and say the characters and story could have been stronger. People want to be moved and have a powerful emotional experience. And you get that with Shakespeare."
What other Shakespeare plays are left for Branagh to do? "Maybe down the line there's a chance to do King Lear," Branagh said.
What about the later plays like A Winter's Tale, The Tempest or Timon of Athens?
"They're a huge challenge for film directors because their structures are so weird," said Branagh. "But then nothing is impossible when you have the chance to employ some of the license that moving from one medium into another medium gives you. I adore Winter's Tale. I find it a heartrendingly beautiful play."
Branagh's 1995 film A Midwinter's Tale is not based on Shakespeare's play.
Branagh continued: "As for The Tempest, I'm very fascinated by it. Timon of Athens is not quite my cup of tea."
But will these Shakespeare movies continue to be do well financially at the box-office? Ay ... there's the rub.
Branagh added: "Depending on the financial success of this latest crop of Shakespeare films, the world may open up a bit so that film companies can travel from location to location and give the appropriate amount of money to carry off the geographical ambitions of a play like Pericles. That might have very interesting possibilities. I think there's no point in doing Shakespeare plays unless you have something very specific to say, or have a very strong response to the play in terms of how you want to tell the story."
As Harley Granville Barker said about A Midsummer Night's Dream in his book "A Preface": "Treat this play how you will. There is no one whose interpretation must so much depend on that uncharted quality we call taste. One piece of practical advice may be offered. Let the producer first bring his work to completion upon Shakespeare's own terms and none other. If he can perfect the music of the play and the grace of the play's movement, not so much else will need doing. The rest of the adventure, if it must be made, is man's own affair."
Or in this case, Hollywood's.
Better watch out, Gwyneth (Sunday Times, April 11, 1999)
*thanks to Catherine Kerrigan
Alicia Silverstone could not be more unlike Gwyneth Paltrow. Yes, they're both blonde Americans, but where Paltrow is glacial cool, Silverstone bubbles with a natural warmth; she's healthy and rounded, with an acting style based on high energy rather than elegant pedigree. The comparisons may be unavoidable this winter, though, thanks to Harvey Weinstein, head of the American film company Miramax. If his gamble pays off, Silverstone could be basking in the high profile and rewards Paltrow is enjoying - though she would probably give a much less irritating Oscar speech.
Weinstein, fresh from his Oscar success with Shakespeare in Love, has been back to the same studio where that film was shot, Shepperton in Middlesex, to watch another experienced cast of British and Americans at work. Once again, he will be banking on Shakespeare and a beautiful actress working their magic. He has just bought US distribution rights on Kenneth Branagh's ambitious version of Love's Labour's Lost, with Silverstone in the female lead as the princess of France. "I can sense there is something really special here," says Weinstein. "I've already seen some of the results and I can hardly wait to see the whole thing."
Silverstone made her name four years ago playing a material girl from Beverly Hills in Clueless. She has since earned millions of dollars, runs her own production company and is still only 22. Why do a high-risk film of a lesser Shakespeare play, reset in the 1930s to the song and dance hits of the time? "It's Kenneth Branagh, Shakespeare and working in England. What more could I want? It may be the only opportunity I'll ever have to reach for something as important," she says. "I've never chased anything so hard." Branagh confirms: "She was so hungry for the part, with such energy and commitment. I was not specifically looking for a starry cast, but for actors with a huge capacity and appetite for singing and dancing, Shakespeare - and hard work."
Like the rest of the cast, Silverstone, who can earn $5m per film, has taken deferments - act now, get paid properly later, if the film is a success - so that most of the money can be spent on lavish sets (much of the cash is coming from French-owned Pathé Pictures, plus just over £1m in lottery funds). "Money was never an issue," she says. "I would do it for free, just to get a chance to learn."
Amid the mutual enthusiasm and praise, one hard fact stands out. Weinstein's business acumen for making huge profits out of films that are not obviously mainstream contenders means that Love's Labour's Lost could be big box office by Christmas.
The play, which Shakespeare wrote before his 30th birthday, also has the advantage of being perhaps his simplest comedy of love and romance. Four young noblemen swear to renounce women for three years. They promptly fall in love with the visiting princess and her three companions. The men's efforts to salvage their honour, in the face of much sharp-witted teasing by the women, has been abridged, switched to pre-second world war Europe and set to classics from Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, George Gershwin and Jerome Kern. Branagh has cast a good-looking but largely unknown American, Alessandro Nivola, who played the lead in the small-budget British film I Want You, as the king opposite Silverstone.
Also in the cast will be Branagh himself, Adrian Lester (Primary Colors) and Matthew Lillard (Scream), Natascha McElhone (The Truman Show) and Emily Mortimer (Elizabeth), plus the Italian Stefania Rocca. Richard Briers, Timothy Spall and the American Nathan Lane will also be dusting off their hoofing skills for numbers such as Let's Face the Music and Dance and Fancy Free.
Silverstone is not the first leading actress to be swept along by Branagh's enthusiasm and brilliance for big-screen versions of the Bard, which began 10 years ago with Henry V. Kate Winslet played Ophelia to his Hamlet in 1996; Emma Thompson, then his wife, and Kate Beckinsale were in Much Ado About Nothing, set in Tuscany, in 1993. But much hyped Hollywood stars don't always shine well in such productions. Remember Keanu Reeves in Much Ado About Nothing?
For the moment, though, Silverstone is more concerned about her dancing. She limps into a London hotel, where we meet on her one free afternoon in a run of six-day working weeks. "I have not got a muscle in my body," she says. "I have not exercised properly for two years. So everything is hurting."
She has been introduced to bantering, Brit-fashion, on the film set. "My singing instructor shouts things to get me going like I can't repeat. I was rehearsing one number and he said: 'You're going to have the best sex in town after this.' " She has also become used to Branagh drily treating his long-time acting friend, Richard Briers, with mock contempt, and Briers reacting with much invective. "Kenneth tells him he's going to have to get a stunt double to perform his dance scenes," she reports. "Dickie just calls him 'that f***ing Branagh' all the time. I love it."
She is back on screen in Blast From the Past, opposite Brendan Fraser, which opened in Britain on Good Friday and took an impressive £700,000 over the three-day holiday. She plays Eve, who falls for Fraser's old-fashioned charms, nurtured by his parents (Christopher Walken and Sissy Spacek) after they are all locked away in a fall-out shelter for 35 years. "He's the sort of man who would appeal to a good woman," she says. "For stupid women, he would have no appeal at all. But that is what happens, thankfully, with maturity."
Silverstone feels the same way about maturing with Branagh and his Love's Labour's Lost. "I have had to grow into a role like this," she says. "He is so prepared and so passionate that I already know that I am going to miss working with him and saying Shakespeare's words. This film has been like a graduation."
Branagh pins hopes on love for the Bard The London Times March 23rd,1999 (thanks to Berni Williams)
Love's Labour's Lost is next, writes Adam Sherwin.
It was a night of triumph for British talent at the Oscars, but, as the champagne hangovers wore off, work resumed on the films that aim to repeat that success next year.
If the Bard retains his popularity with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science, Kenneth Branagh's Love's Labour's Lost could match the success of Shakespeare in Love. The Pounds 15 million adaptation of Shakespeare's romantic comedy is the biggest British film in production.
Branagh, who has already brought Hamlet, Henry V and Much Ado About Nothing to the big screen, began shooting at Shepperton film studios earlier this year. The cast includes Alicia Silverstone, Hollywood's latest glamour girl, and Paul Whitehouse, the star of the BBC comedy The Fast Show. Branagh plays Berowne as well as directing.
The film will receive Pounds 1 million of national lottery funding, awarded by the Arts Council, and further financial assistance from Pathe, a lottery funded film production consortium. Unlike Shakespeare in Love, the Branagh film can claim to be a home-grown product. Intermedia Films, the producers, said: 'We sold the rights around the world before filming, which gave us the money to make the film ourselves.'
Making a Song and Dance about the Bard (Baz Bamigboye, Daily Mail, Feb 12)
**thanks to Catherine
Shakespeare Sings! The actress Natascha McElhone gave me a taste of her singing talent as we sipped champagne at the Savoy Hotel. Ms McElhone is one of the ensemble cast rehearsing Kenneth Branagh's all-singing, all-dancing version of Love's Labour's Lost, which goes before the cameras on February 24.
The film is based on Shakespeare's tale of a king and three of his lords who swear to keep away from women and then promptly fall in love with a princess and her trio of ladies-in-waiting. Ms McElhone plays the noblewoman Rosaline and Branagh plays Berowne, the lord besotted with her.
'Rosaline tries to ignore Berowne's advances, and in the play she protests her indifference. But what Ken has done is to use songs to express these tensions.
'So we go into I Won't Dance Don't Ask Me, and there are many other numbers from the Irving Berlin and Gershwin era that will be used,' Ms McElhone told me.
As we sat together at the Evening Standard's film awards bash, she sang me a line from the song when I professed not to know the lyrics.
She can also dance. 'Well, if taking lessons in Irish dancing from the age of six to 12 means anything, then, yes, I can dance,' she added.
All the cast, including Adrian Lester, Alicia Silverstone, Matthew Lillard and Nathan Lane, have been having extensive choreographic sessions and voice lessons.
Actress starring opposite her real-life leading man (by Luaine Lee, Star Telegram)
BEVERLY HILLS - Starring in a feature film with your real-life sweetheart could be a problem. Not for Helena Bonham Carter, who is sharing the screen with her boyfriend, Kenneth Branagh, in The Theory of Flight. Bonham Carter, who was nominated for an Oscar last year for her role as the languorous femme fatale in Wings of the Dove, says that being intimate with her leading man only helped.
"There's a degree where you think, `Is this is too invasive?' But it wasn't. Also there was the question whether the British press is going to be more invasive than they already are. But we so wanted to do it, not because we wanted to work together but because we wanted to play those respective parts," she said.
"It was sort of a testament to that desire and our enthusiasm for it, so we did do it. But we were very suspicious at first. Was this a good idea?"
Bonham Carter plays a victim of ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly called Lou Gehrig's Disease). Branagh is the eccentric inventor who is charged with helping to care for her as part of the punishment for his errant ways.
Working with Branagh (she has done it once before) was, she said:
"Blandly nice, harmonious and easy. He was terrific. You know he's terrific. And he's got a good sense of humor, and he's fun."
Bonham Carter, 32, has a tendency to practice when she's off the sound stage. "At first I thought I'd do a Daniel Day Lewis (as in My Left Foot ) and be very methody. And by doing it all the time it would give me another dimension to my performance. Then I thought, `No way am I going to be able to do this,' because I got too stiff. Also I know Ken would never have put up with me if I'd just stayed in the wheelchair all day and asked him to do everything for me. It would not enhance our relationship."
Their relationship began when Branagh was directing her in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. Though she won't confirm they fell in love on that set (he was married to actress Emma Thompson at the time), she does say they became good friends then.
She insists she doesn't worry when Branagh is off shooting love scenes with other beautiful women. "It's a statement of your relationship. It's to do with the level of trust that you have and each relationship is different," she said.
"I don't think people break up relationships, I think it's to do with your own level of commitment. If you're destined not to stay together, you're destined not to stay together. It doesn't take another person."
Bonham Carter admits that she would like to have a child someday. "But not tomorrow. I'm very well aware it explodes your life. I've got a few more years. Having a child, it takes quite a lot of attention and time and you have a responsibility to this little life. I think that should happen when you're not going to resent the commitment."
You can't blame her for wanting to work. Next up for Bonham Carter is a co-starring role with two other hunks. She's filming Frightclub with Brad Pitt and Ed Norton. "I play the girlfriend," she said, grinning.
Ken's thank-you note
This is a brief message to all on the e-mail list to say a heartfelt thank-you to everyone who contributed to the magnificent donation for the Ulster Association of Youth Drama.
This was not only a spectacularly imaginative birthday thought, but a gift of real meaning for the youngsters in Belfast. It is a very good deed in a naughty world and I am thrilled on their behalf. Your money will be put to very good use.
Let me also say how grateful I am for the continued encouragement for my work. Although I stay away from internet information about myself, I am very touched by the level of interest and support that exists. I know from my snail mail bag that there is a phenomenally supportive group out there. The many kind wishes I have received over the years have been deeply appreciated. Thank-you.
I very much hope that over this coming year we shall be offering you some very interesting work. We shall certainly be trying our best, and no doubt I shall be hearing your reaction to it one way or another!
Once again my thanks for your tremendous generosity. A beautiful gesture, which will make a real difference to the people back home.
With warmest wishes,
Melanie Griffith on the CHARLIE ROSE SHOW January 14, 1999 (thanks to Samantha)
Melanie Griffith: Oh, Kenneth Branagh was very cool. It was funny because Woody Allen would get so frustrated and just be saying "No, no, no, no, no! Ken, you just don't get it. It was just so wild to watch this great Shakespearean actor--to watch the next Laurence Olivier be told he doesn't get it.
Charlie Rose: And then what would Kenny -- uh, how would Branagh react?
Griffith: He would just say, "Yes, sir" and then he would say to me, "What do I do--what am I doing wrong?"
CR: Did Woody say anything like that to you?
MG: No. And Kenneth would say, "How did Melanie do?" and Woody would say, "Great."
'Flight' Risk, Entertainment Weekly, January 8, 1999
Helena Bonham Carter reveals that the British tabloids almost ended her on-screen collaboration with love Kenneth Branagh
In her new movie 'The Theory of Flight' (opening Jan. 22), Helena Bonham Carter hangs up her Merchant and Ivory corsets to tackle another project with her longtime love, actor-director Kenneth Branagh ("Celebrity"). But even if 1994's "Frankenstein" collaboration wasn't enough to scare off the actress, she admits that another factor almost made her boot her honey off the project.
"We were apprehensive at first mainly because of the press," Bonham Carter tells EW Online. (The thespian couple has been tabloid fodder since 1995, when their relationship sparked immediately after Branagh's split from wife Emma Thompson.) "We discussed whether it was a good idea because the British press are going to make a big deal of it and use this as an invitation to comment more on us as a couple than on the film. They're hideous. They have nothing good to say about us. And we wondered if this might undermine our concentration, our commitment to the roles."
While Branagh's part as the self-absorbed Richard offered the actor a chance to flex his comedic muscle, he volunteered to leave the project. "Kenneth was very good about it, saying that if this doesn't feel right for you, I'll step out," says Bonham Carter. "But everybody else was so vociferous that he was right for it, and he was." Sounds like love.
Again and again, FORBES MAGAZINE 1/3/99
Kenneth Branagh and Emma Thompson once seemed destined to reign as the king and queen of Tinseltown. The Brit twosome met playing lovestruck young marrieds in the BBC's Fortunes of War miniseries in 1987. Of course they married off the set, and collaborated in Branagh's next four big-screen productions before splitting in 1996. This month you can catch Branagh in The Theory of Flight and Thompson in Judas Kiss, but the two were at their best in those early days when they looked like a second coming of Tracy and Hepburn.
Watch Dead Again, a 1991 mystery that works better in the living room than on the big screen. The over-the-top plot interweaves two mysteries: the first, an unsolved 1940s society murder, casts Branagh as a mad opera composer and Thompson as his beautiful bride; the second makes Branagh a modern-day Los Angeles gumshoe and Thompson a woman whose nightmares leave her mute and amnesiac.
Branagh and Thompson, still in the bloom of their early love, project a genuine chemistry. The supporting cast is first-class, too. Look for a riotous (and uncredited) Robin Williams as a foul-mouthed ex- shrink- turned-grocery-clerk. Derek Jacobi is also fine as an antiques dealer with a slight stutter, an impediment that recalls his bravura performance as the Emperor in I, Claudius.
To Branagh, Jacobi is more than just a fellow actor. After seeing Jacobi play Hamlet, the 15-year-old Branagh was inspired to study Shakespeare and follow the same path. Branagh slyly inserts arcane references to the Bard throughout Dead Again: A prison uniform bears the date 25101415--the date of Henry V's Battle of Agincourt. And yes, that's Laurence Olivier as Hamlet on the cover of a 1948 Life magazine. As for the film's chase scene, it just happens to take place on L.A.'s Shakespeare Bridge.
Dead Again does tend to pile it on a bit thick, and the plot gets more than a little confusing along the way, but that's why the rewind button was invented. It's good exuberant fun from the all-too- brief heyday of a great movie couple. Even if you've seen it before, this is one flick that's worth watching again.
'Betty' for Branagh
December 22, 1998 by Andrew Hindes and Chris Petrikin for Variety
HOLLYWOOD (Variety) - Kenneth Branagh has signed on to direct and star in The Betty Schimmel Story a fact-based drama about love and the Holocaust.
The DreamWorks picture revolves around a a 1930s Eastern European woman who promised to marry her childhood sweetheart. Separated from him by World War II, and believing he died in the Holocaust, she married another man. Years later the pair were briefly reunited after Schimmel learned that he was alive -- and that her husband had been hiding the truth from her.
According to insiders, DreamWorks co-founder Steven Spielberg became interested in the project when he first heard the story of Schimmel, who is the mother of comedian Robert Schimmel. The script was written by Ivan Fila and Greg Poirier. Fila was at one point attached to direct the picture.
Branagh's directing credits include ``Hamlet,'' ``Othello,'' ``A Midwinter's Tale'' ``Mary Shelley's Frankenstein,'' ``Dead Again'' and ``Much Ado About Nothing.''
As an actor, he recently starred in Woody Allen's ``Celebrity.'' He next appears onscreen opposite girlfriend Helena Bonham Carter in ``The Theory of Flight,'' which is scheduled to open in New York and Los Angeles on Wednesday.
Branagh Prepares to Lead Alicia A Merry Dance, by Baz Bamigboye, Daily Mail 12/04/98
Kenneth Branagh is preparing to face the music and dance. Alicia Silverstone, of the cool movie Clueless, will dance cheek to cheek in Mr Branagh's all-singing, all-dancing version of Shakespeare's Love's Labour's Lost, which begins filming in February.
Set in the glamorous world of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, it is adaptation of the Bard's tale about four men, one a king, who propose to closet themselves from women for three years - and then fall for the first young women they meet. Adrian Lester, who was a big hit opposite Emma Thompson and John Travolta in Primary Colors, and American actor Matthew Lillard - who can be seen in the film Dead Man's Curve - will join Branagh as the three lively lords who attend the king.
Funnyman Nathan Lane, the voice of Timon the Meerkat in Lion King, is cast as Costard the Clown. Ms Silverstone - Batgirl in the dreadful Batman and Robin - has the role of the French princess.
"They have to be able to sing, to dance, do Shakepeare and be good team players," says Mr Branagh of his cast, which he is still assembling for the film, financed by Britain's Intermedia Films.
"Shakespeare's Love's Labour's Lost is very lyrical and includes two songs. But in this version, we will probably have numbers such as The Way You Look Tonight, I'm In Heaven and Let's Face The Music And Dance."
Helena Bonham Carter article snippets from MOVIELINE, December 1998 (thanks to Renata)
"Why was your mom sitting next to you at the oscars and not Kenneth Branagh?" [snip] "The press in England is horrid to us," Bonham Carter says sadly. "They never stop clamouring on. So we are very careful not to go to big things together, like the Oscars or something of that nature." [snip]
"I once saw an article where you said you wouldn't work with Ken again." [snip]
"I think what I said was that I wouldn't go out of my way to look for a project for the two of us. But the Theory of Flight was something that I knew I had to do the minute I read it. The script was so funny and so smart, and I couldn't believe that it was being offered to me - that I didn't have to audition or beg to be seen. About a week after I read it I was banging on to Ken about how excellent the script was. Ken picked it up and read it and said "Oh, this is excellent". I said 'Yes, that's what I've been saying'. And he asked if the boy had been cast." [snip]
Bonham Carter blushes. "Well, actually, Ken didn't say it like that. He probably said, - here she lowers her voice to imitate Branagh - 'Has the male lead been cast yet?' I doubt he used the term boy."
[snip] "But anyway, Ken was sort of hinting around about the part, and I said, "Do you think you are right for it?". Because I thought there was another actor who was more right for the part. What we did was, we auditioned together, so we could see how it would work. We also thought that maybe we knew each other too well and that we wouldn't be able to believe the lie with each other. But of course we just laughed all the way through the audition, because we found it very funny. He was obviously very right for it. And everybody else was absolutely, categorically sure that he was right for it. My only worry was that our relationship would upstage film, that there would be more written about us working together than the film itself."
[snip a bunch of stuff about the story and characters] at the end of which exchange HBC says "Ken's the lead..."
"Wait," I say. "Are you saying you're 'the girl'?" Bonham Carter turns red. "I guess we're both the leads. The Theory of Flight is about how gravity is tying them both down. I don't want to give away too much, but I am very excited about this film."
Sunday, November 1, 1998
LEASE IS UP FOR WILD WEST STAR (LA Times)
Actor and director KENNETH BRANAGH, who stars in Woody Allen's upcoming movie "Celebrity," is just finishing up a six-month lease of a home in Bel-Air, where he has been living while filming "The Wild Wild West," co-starring Will Smith and Kevin Kline. Branagh, 37, plays the villainous Dr. Arliss Loveless in the movie version of the popular TV series "The Wild Wild West." The movie is due out next summer. "Celebrity," co-starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Winona Ryder, will open in theaters nationwide this month. Branagh also stars in John Grisham's "The Gingerbread Man," which opened in July.
A leading figure in the British film industry, Branagh played Iago to Laurence Fishburne's "Othello" (1995) and starred in "Hamlet" (1996), for which he won the first writing Oscar nomination for a film based on a work by Shakespeare. In October, he announced plans to adapt, direct and star in a series of films based on the works of Shakespeare.
He leased a country-style home with three bedrooms and a gym in about 4,500 square feet. The home also has a pool and is on a golf course. The recently renovated home was leased at $10,000 a month. Branagh was married to actress and director Emma Thompson from 1989 to 1995. He has been linked romantically since then with actress Helena Bonham Carter, with whom he co-stars in "Theory of Flight," which is scheduled to be released on Christmas Day.
Emma Thompson article snippets from NOW! magazine, August 1998 (thanks to Nicky)
For someone who's enjoyed so much professional success - she's the only British actress under the age of 40 to have won 2 Oscars - Emma Thompson has also suffered more than her fair share of heartache. First there was the end of her 6 year marriage to Kenneth Branagh, which shattered their image as the perfect acting couple.
"Believe me, it was no easy decision to end the marriage to Ken," she says. "But what can you do if you only spend three months of the year together? It was being apart so often that killed our marriage.
"I tried so hard to make my relationship with him work. Now I'm not so sure I see a reason to marry again."
Branagh and Emma were dubbed the golden couple when they married nine years ago. Rarely were they out of the limelight as their sucess and happiness caught the public's imagination. This time around, Emma has sought to keep her relationship with Greg [Wise] more private. She and Greg, who's 5 years her junior, are rarely seen in public and seldom attend showbiz parties. The same can be said for Branagh, who has forged a publicity-shy relationship with Oscar nominee Helena Bonham Carter.
While gossip at the time of their break up alleged that Branagh had become close to Helena before his marriage ended, there is no animosity on Emma's part. "Ken has his life and I have mine," she says simply. "But we're on good terms and we still talk to each other sometimes."
And how does she feel about his relationship with Helena? "As far as I know, marriage is on the cards and I wish them the best of luck."
Woody on Ken, New York Daily News, Nov 16, 1998
Q: When you were directing "Celebrity," were you aware that Kenneth Branagh was playing Woody Allen with all the ellipses, fluttering hands and nervous tension?
A: I wrote Kenneth Branagh a letter when I sent him the "Celebrity" script. I said to him, "This part is not me. If I was younger, I would definitely not play it. When I was writing the thing, before I thought of you, I had someone like Alec Baldwin in mind. I think he would have been great doing it, but he was not available and I want to be completely upfront about this. But this is definitely no way me. It requires a younger and more attractive person than me. Even when I was younger, I wasn't attractive enough to play this part. I need someone who's got more flair."
And, of course, Kenneth is a great actor and I thought it would be a breeze for him. And then as he was doing it, I would go over to him and say "You know, it seems to me that you're doing me. A lot." And he'd say, "I hear what you're saying, don't worry." And then guys on the crew would tell me that he was doing me. And I just sort of threw in the towel and felt, that's how he sees this character. This is how he sees him, and this is a great Shakespearean actor. What's the smartest thing to do here? Do I try to force him into a different mold, or do I go with his take on the character?
In the end, I had so much respect for him as an actor that I felt, look, I don't wanna sit down and say we gotta reshoot everything and you gotta do it my way. So that's what happened.
Q: It must have been a little disconcerting to direct someone who was essentially doing you.
A: I was amazed! He's a great mimic.
Q: His interpretation adds a sort of irony to the film, because your celebrity has rubbed off on his take of the lead character.
A: That is ironic. But I'll tell you a funny thing. Kenneth made a movie years ago, an ESP murder mystery with Emma Thompson. In part of that movie, the way he put his glasses on or something, I remember saying to Mia, "This guy is doing me." This was 10 years before I met him.
Allen Skewers Pop Culture with Celebrity, BPI 11/18/98
...Allen doesn't play a role in ``Celebrity,'' which, as usual, he wrote and directed. But the film does contain a Woody Allen performance from Branagh. As the ambitious, hustling and ultimately semi-tragic journalist, Branagh gives us his take on the famous Allen persona _ the neurotic, stuttering New Yorker. It's almost as if Branagh is attempting to channel his director in a performance that has already divided the critics.
``I've been a great fan of Kenneth Branagh for years,'' Allen says. But he didn't consider him for the role at first because he wasn't sure Branagh did an American accent. Then Allen saw clips from last year's Robert Altman thriller ``The Gingerbread Man,'' in which Branagh played a Southern attorney, and he deemed Branagh's accent ``flawless.'' Allen says he did not direct Branagh to play his character with Woody Allen mannerisms. ``In fact,'' Allen says, ``I wrote him a note saying, `If I were your age [Allen is 63, Branagh 38], I could never have played this part.' I wrote it for a more attractive person. Kenneth seemed to me attractive to women, and he gave off an intellect, so I cast him. He played it the way he did _ I guess that kept him interested for the ten to 12 weeks we shot. I would never interfere with what made him happy to give me the performance.''
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