Kenneth Branagh Gingerly Plugs "The Gingerbread Man"

Hollywood Online, January 1998

With a new movie in the theaters, Britain's Kenneth Branagh has been out on the publicity trail. Best known as today's greatest champion of William Shakespeare, Branagh is nonetheless proud of "The Gingerbread Man," a contemporary film noir directed by Robert Altman, and he understands that his work on the picture includes selling it at the crucial time of release. That means sitting for interviews with literally hundreds of entertainment reporters, which will filter their way into virtually every home in America.

You are now reading one outgrowth of Branagh's push behind "The Gingerbread Man," but the single most crucial one was probably his chat with David Letterman on "The Late Show." "Hysterical and cold" is Branagh's terse summation of the experience.

"It's hard not to feel the pressure," he reports. "Everybody wants it to be funny. If you're an actor, it's just a bit easier if you've got a script. So you're very much hoping that your anecdote muscles are twitching in the right places. Being good on it really depends on your state of mind. You just hope that you're sufficiently at ease to be yourself. Obviously, it's heightened by the hysterical atmosphere of the crowd, which gets under the skin a little bit. Anyway, it's always lovely when you've done it."

Whether he makes his big appearance with Letterman or arch-rival Jay Leno isn't Branagh's call. He just goes where the studio which has paid him so many millions of dollars to make a movie tells him to go. And unlike many stars, he doesn't really mind, except for a wee bit of performance anxiety. Even when his marriage to Academy Award winner Emma Thompson was breaking apart in public, Branagh sucked it up and did his promotional duty.

"I've always genuinely believed that it's important to communicate your enthusiasm for what you do," he explains. "That's an honorable tradition, from people jumping on the back of carts and delivering handbills on village greens. It just seems more important nowadays, with advertising costs being so expensive. You need to be out there, given the glut of films coming out, just to wave your little flag."

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