Kenneth Branagh Takes a Break

Entertainment Online, January 1998
by Jeff Hayward

Kenneth Branagh has taken a break from directing and returned to acting, with a role in Robert Altman's thriller The Gingerbread Man.

The film, in which he plays a southern lawyer, has just opened in America. His last directing job was Hamlet in 1996. He says: "At the end of Hamlet I was just pooped." The film ran for four hours, after all - a trial for cast and audiences alike. "It's great to be just a freelance actor again."

Belfast-born Branagh has ideas for films he wants to direct, but there is nothing in the pipeline. He says: "There's nothing that is leaping strongly enough to the forefront of my mind.

"Certainly nothing that would make me want to cope with the prospect of 12 to 18 months of ongoing anxiety."

He has directed four movies and says it's a draining job.

The Gingerbread Man (due for UK release in May) was a battlefield of egos, he says, after witnessing the power struggle between Altman and the Polygram studio.

Polygram temporarily took control of the movie from the maverick, award- winning director during the post-production process. Altman finally wrested back control.

The clash between director and studio riveted Hollywood - and Branagh.

Polygram was not at all happy with Altman's darker version of the movie, adapted from the book by John Grisham.

Branagh, adept at avoiding controversy, says: "The strange thing about this power struggle is that it sprang from a strong belief in the movie on both sides.

"Altman brings an unsettling, strange atmosphere to the film - it's exciting to watch."

Branagh's Memphis lawyer is hired by a southern woman to prevent her estranged husband from stalking her.

Branagh's future film projects include Woody Allen's as-yet-untitled new movie, co-starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Winona Ryder. Then he will be seen in the melodrama The Proposition with Madeleine Stowe.

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