Branagh 'Humbled' to Get Award

Telegraph & Argus, 10 March 2008
By Will Kilner

Kenneth Branagh, one of the most famous figures in modern British cinema, described the Bradford International Film Festival (BIFF) as a "focus for energy and excitement" during his first visit to the city.

The Belfast-born actor and director headlined at the festival at the weekend and told the Telegraph & Argus he felt "humbled" to be presented with a BIFF Lifetime Achievement Award.

Mr Branagh shared the stage with Tony Earnshaw, head of film and programming at the National Media Museum, to talk about his wide range of work during his career in television and film.

In an interview with the T&A, he said: "I am very happy to be part of Bradford International Film Festival and am proud to see that it features some of my work.

"The organisers have kindly put on a tribute to my work so I am here to give a screen talk with Tony to answer any questions the good people of Bradford may have about any of the things I have done.

"I have heard a great deal about the museum. The first thing I saw when I arrived was a statue of JB Priestley, which is fantastic.

"He is a favourite writer of mine and he has given me hours and hours of pleasure, so I am pleased to be here under his shadow.

"This is my first time in Bradford, although I have read about the area in JB Priestley's fictional accounts."

Branagh, now 47, was dubbed "the new Olivier" as a young actor. He said he was excited to see that some of his earlier lesser-known works were part of the festival.

When asked about the direction his career has taken, Branagh said he had always tried to follow his instincts by choosing to get involved in things he personally would enjoy going to watch.

"It needs to be compelling and entertaining. It doesn't matter what genre it is. You are always looking for something that keeps you turning the page and keeps you hooked from beginning to end," he said.

Mr Branagh picked out Danny Boyle, who he worked with on 'Alien Love Triangle', and Richard Curtis, from 'The Boat That Rocked', as two of his favourite directors. "They have the ability to create a hard-working but harmonious atmosphere in which people can do their best work," said Branagh.

He said he had been inspired by many people throughout his life, with childhood idols including Bert Lancaster, in 'Birdman of Alcatraz', and Al Pacino, in 'Dog Day Afternoon'. Asked about his award and the Bradford festival, he said: "You can't help but feel grateful and humbled to receive something like this.

"My observation of having been at a number of festivals over the years is that you often see how festival activities can create a focus of energy and excitement.

"They are a real shorthand for getting to understand and making connections with different cultures because the range of films is strikingly eclectic and wide-ranging across cultures and subject matters.

"It's no mean feat getting hold of these films and for the people involved to come and be part of it.

"At these festivals, for example, you can suddenly find yourself talking to an Icelandic director about animation and how they have been influenced by Japan, so it becomes a crucible of discussion and ideas."

In his spare time, Mr Branagh said he enjoyed watching Tottenham Hotspur football club, which he has supported since being a boy. "I am a Spurs fan and I assume most people in Bradford probably are!" he joked.

"I was at the League Cup final and it was a sensationally blissful afternoon."

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