The Shakespeare Superstar Returns

Mail on Sunday (London), January 19 1992
by Steve Clark

Kenneth Branagh is leaving Hollywood to make two new films in Britain.

The 31-year-old superstar felt homesick there - despite the success of his films Henry V and Dead Again - and missed his friends.

He said yesterday: 'I spent a year in Hollywood, enjoyed it enormously and was utterly thrilled the whole time - it was like being in a fairytale.

'I don't want to sound remotely sniffy about it as I had a great time. But it's not home and I missed my friends and I missed connections.'

The filming of the first of Branagh's two new films, Peter's Friends, will begin in London shortly. It is scheduled for cinema release late this year or early next.

Branagh, whose first feature film of Shakespeare's epic Henry V was voted Best Film Of The Year in 1989 by the Evening Standard Film Awards, described his new movie as 'a touching comedy about friendship.

'It is set in modern Britain and is very much a contemporary piece. It features mainly British actors and will be shot around London.'

The cast of the movie, produced by Branagh's own company Renaissance Films, reads like a Who's Who of British comedy and includes his wife Emma Thompson, Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie, Tony Slattery, Imelda Staunton and Phyllida Law.

Branagh directs and stars in Peter's Friend, which also features comedienne Rita Rudner, who wrote the screenplay.

He plays a character called Andrew, who goes to America to seek his fortune and marries an American played by Rudner.

In the summer he is set to direct and star in a second Shakespeare picture, Much Ado About Nothing, with Richard Briers.

Branagh said: 'The two films this year will be Renaissance films and both British films so everything is going great guns.'

Back in Britain he has taken on a massive workload. As well as filming, he will star in a new Radio Three production of Hamlet in April. And he will play Hamlet again for the Royal Shakespeare Company in December.

In May, he will take the title role of Shakespeare's Coriolanus at the Chichester Festival Theatre, alongside regulars from his Renaissance Theatre Company including Dame Judi Dench and Richard Briers.

'Hollywood allows you to see where you've come from,' he adds. 'But it's as simple as this: I'm very excited about projects in England, and I was less excited about being asked to live in America and do some other things.'

He has not ruled out returning to America. 'I would go back at the appropriate time for the appropriate project,' he said.

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