Monstrous Talent: Baron Branagh Hopes To Stop Critics

Daily Mirror, October 27 1994
by Samantha Norman

There are times when Kenneth Branagh feels almost as reviled as the monster in his pounds-30 million epic Frankenstein.

For reasons known only to themselves, a large number of people in and out the movie industry are irritated by Branagh's achievements.

"They seem to believe I get up in the morning and think: 'I know - today I'll make a movie that will really annoy them'," says the star and director of Henry V and Peter's Friends.

"Occasionally I wonder what I have done - I mean, I haven't killed anybody, have I?'

The knockers had better be prepared to be irritated again.

Frankenstein, starring Branagh as the Baron and Robert De Niro as the creature, opens on November 4 and - dare I say it - may yet turn to be a monster hit.

Honour But even if Branagh's critics come chasing him again with burning torches held aloft, he won't be too concerned.

He had the singular honour of being picked by movie godfather and Franenstein producer Francis Ford Coppola to direct this latest version of Mary Shelley's Gothic tale.

And he surprised himself by winning the friendship and complete support of the imposing De Niro.

"In the early days I found myself sitting in a New York cab with the Godfather on one side and Raging Bull on the other," says Branagh. "I was flattered, of course, but I kept saying to myself 'This is not for real.'"

De Niro, not one to appreciate the luvvy side of acting, was at first suspicious.

"I think he expected me to leap into the room in a ruffled shirt and tights," laughs Branagh.

"He thought I might be riding the old worthy ticket and be a bit pretentious, so it was a question of obtaining his trust."

De Niro also checked out Kenneth first.

"He saw all the films I'd been in and then watched all the telly stuff. He liked Henry V very much and Peter's Friends. I was particularly pleased that he congratulated me on a specific scene in the film for which I'd received some vicious reviews.

"The curious thing was that he only really started to trust me when he found out that I was Irish. Somehow he felt more comfortable."

Branagh, married to Oscar-winner Emma Thompson, says the atmosphere on set was wonderful - thanks largely to the usually solemn De Niro.

He turned out to to be a great giggler and remarkably helpful to a cast who might have been intimidated. This included Helena Bonham Carter as the Baron's love interest Elizabeth and John Cleese as his tutor.

Branagh says: "There was one scene where John was obviously nervous and also feeling a bit unwell that day. "Actually Robert had no need to be there because we were shooting John's part only, but he stayed and shouted his lines from off-stage with even more energy than usual to get a good performance out of John."

Kenneth now hopes this dark, interesting brew will finally soothe his critics. If not, he can always set the monster on them...

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