Crowning Moment for Wacky Comic - Eddie Joins Up With Our Ken

Belfast Telegraph - 22 June 2003
By Brenda O'Neill

Belfast luvvie, Kenneth Branagh, plays a double whammy next month, when he takes to the stage and stars in a sure-fire hit children's movie, alongside wacky transvestite comic, Eddie Izzard.

Branagh, 42, is best known for his Shakespearean roles, and more recently as professor Gilderoy Lockhart, in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.

Filming on the new movie, 'Five Children and It', begins on the Isle of Man, in July. The story is based on the children's classic by E Nesbit, who also wrote The Railway Children.

'IT', tells the story of a group of children sent away to stay with their uncle, in a strange house by the sea. While exploring, they dig up an eight-thousand-year-old sand fairy, that is prepared to make their wildest dreams come true ? At a price.

'Five Children and It' is described as an action-packed summer movie, that blends magic, fun and perilous exploits, with strong family values. Eddie Izzard will voice 'it', the 8,000-year-old Sand Fairy, or Psammead, who grants the children one wish a day, with disastrous consequences. Branagh plays the role of the children's uncle, who provides the catalyst for the adventure, when he invites them to stay in his house by the sea.

The 20m-dollar movie will be brought to life, using a combination of computer animation and live action, and will be directed by John Stephenson.

Busy actor Branagh, is also learning his script for his role in the National Theatre's production of the David Mamet play, 'Edmond'.

It's been a hectic time for Branagh, who also secretly married his girlfriend, Lindsay Brunnock, on May 28. The couple met on the set of the epic drama Shackleton, two years ago.

In 'Edmond', Branagh plays a man who leaves his wife, and becomes involved in an underworld of illicit sex, violence and crime.

Nicholas Hytner, the National's artistic director, said the part of Edmond was "as challenging a role as anything in contemporary theatre". Hytner added: "He (Edmond) starts off an obedient middle-class white guy. and turns into a great howling mass of misogyny, racism and violence. It is a play that punches you in the face."

Hytner said of Branagh: "Dealing with people who've done movies, some of them simply turn into Americans, and they don't ever give you a straight yes or a straight no - but Ken isn't like that, he's still a theatre man. The reason he wants to do the play - apart from being here at the National - is that it struck him with huge force. He responded to the extremity of Mamet's writing. Great plays take to their extreme the furies and insecurities that drive all of us to some degree or other - and great actors want to be in those great plays."

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