Shakespeare With a Twist: Interview

TV Guide, 20-26 August 2007
By Erica Silberstein
**Thanks Nancy

Nobody does Shakespeare quite like Kenneth Branagh. For his latest Bard-based project, the Emmy-winning native of Ireland directs Shakespeare's "As You Like It" (HBO, 9/8c), and sets it in 19th-century Japan. The former Royal Shakespeare Company member spoke to us from the set of his new movie "Valkyrie" in Berlin.

Why adapt this particular play?
It's funny and romantic and rather magical. Although some critics dismiss it as being a little frivolous, a little frothy, I found it to be very beautiful and very life-affirming. I [also] wanted to return to a Shakespearean comedy.

Do you think the film's Asian setting will appeal to people?
I hope so, and I think one of the exciting things about being on HBO is that suddenly, there's a different audience. It's more available, and I think it's going to be very interesting to see if it does appeal.

What Shakespeare character do you relate to most?
I find myself very empathetic with {Rosalind from 'As You Like It']. I certainly admire her capacity to love life... I love the characters in Shakespeare who just teach you a little bit about how to live.

So you've no ties to Hamlet then?
[Laughs] Big ties to Hamlet! But he's so vast as a character. That's always been my sort of ongoing, underlying kind of obsession with Shakespeare.

You've been compared to Kevin Kline, who stars in 'As You Like It'. Do you two have any similarities?
He's a very good friend, and I'm a huge admirer of him as an actor. I think [we] share a genuine love for both mediums; for theatre and film, and a determination to try and work in both.

Was Shakespeare onto something -- is all the world really just a stage?
It's a very interesting question. I love it that we've made a film of [the] play that contains those famous lines. The great thing about Shakespeare is that he knows that it's a very good question to ask, and I guess I'm going to keep on trying to answer it.

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