Welcome to the "biography" page, originally written by our illustrious Ngoc in December 1997. I'm not sure I'm on enough of the same substances (legal, entirely legal - the sweet sap of insouciant youth  :-) ) to continue in quite the same energetic vein, but you will find a few updates to the original text (in black font) and hopefully a continuation fairly soon... it's not like this guy takes it easy or anything, if you miss a beat it's danged hard to catch up. In the interim, for the very latest news (archived, too, if you missed those beats) I refer you to the News & Notes. (July 2000)

Sooo.... lashings of apologies that this entertaining bio has not been kept up (altough I have done my best with the Fact Sheet and the Awards. It's not like there haven't been a further six years of excitement in KB's life, but somehow I haven't been able to fit the prose in (apart from not being half as amusing as our Ngoc!). So you'll have to check out the News & Notes Archive for details and the Special Events and Projects Archives for an overview of the work of subsequent years.


Name: Kenneth Charles Branagh
Birthdate: December 10, 1960
Height: 5' 10" (with fluffy hair)
Weight: Ranges from scrawny-as-a-stick to chubby bunny
Parents: William and Frances
Siblings: William Jr (Ken's elder by 5 years), Joyce [Harper] (younger by 10)
Pets: Fish (they live in his lake. Incidentally, Ken was accused of participating in the mass execution of thousands of fish in a pond at Blenheim Palace. Subsequently cleared of "Fish Murder" charges
Relations: Emma Thompson (ex-wife); Helena Bonham Carter (long-term, but now former gal-pal); married Lindsay Brunnock in a secret ceremony on 25(?) May 2003
Place of residence: A house in Sunninghill. No stalking, please. Although, if you do and happen to get some good snapshots, DO let me know :)**
Notable talents: acts, directs, writes, sings Beatles songs very badly - but Porter and Gershwin songs rather well, in a self-described "light baritone"

**I'm jokin', joshin', kiddin' around with ya here. No, really, I am. NO STALKING!!

Bancroft Gold Medal, Royal Academy of Dramatic Art
Society of West End Theaters' Award for Most Promising Newcomer of 1982
Plays and Players Award for Best Newcomer of 1982
National Board of Review, Best Director (Henry V)
Evening Standard Award for Best Film of 1989 (Henry V)
BAFTA Award for Best Achievement in Direction (Henry V)
1990 European Award for Best Young Film of the Year (Henry V)
European Actor of the Year (Henry V)
Academy Award nominee, Best Actor (Henry V)
Academy Award nominee, Best Director (Henry V)
Academy Award nominee, Best Short Film (Swan Song)
D.W. Griffith Award for Best Director, (Henry V)
N.Y. Critics Circle Award, Best Director (Henry V)
Irish Poet Award
Honorary Doctor of Letters (D.Litt.), Queens University, Belfast, 1990
Will Award (Smithsonian Institute)
Grammy nominee, Audio Recording (Hamlet)
Evening Standard Peter Sellers Award for Comedy, (Peter's Friends)
British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) Michael Bacon Award for Outstanding Contribution to Cinema 1993
Official Order of the Arts (government of France)
Member of the Board of Governors of the British Film Institute
"Osella d'Oro", Venice Film Festival, l995 (In the Bleak Midwinter)
Film Excellence Award, 11th Annual Boston Film Festival, 1995
Screen Actors Guild nomination for Best Supporting Actor, (Othello)
San Diego Film Critics Society, Best Actor (Hamlet)
Academy Award nominee, Best Adapted Screenplay (Hamlet)
Producer's Guild Oscar nomination: Best Picture (Hamlet)
Evening Standard Special Jury Prize (Hamlet)
Shakespeare Guild's Golden Quill - Sir John Gielgud Award for Excellence in the Dramatic Arts, 2000
Empire Film Awards Inspiration Award, 2000
Honorary Doctor of Letters (D.Litt.), University of Brimingham, Birmingham, England, 2001


Ken was born on December 10, 1960 in Belfast, Northern Ireland, the second of three children in a working-class Protestant family. They moved to Reading, England when he was 9 to escape the Troubles brewing at home. He had a bit of an identity conflict in England, which led to him adopting an English accent at school while "remaining Irish at home." As a young lad he was into sports, captaining his school's rugby and soccer team, and journalism, writing children's book reviews for the local paper. But when at 15 he saw Derek Jacobi play Hamlet he decided he wanted to be an actor.

At eighteen he was offered places at the top drama schools in Britain: the Central School of Speech and Drama and the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. He chose to attend the latter, whose principal Hugh Crutwell would later serve as an acting consultant on many of his film projects. Straight out of drama school he played the second lead in the West End production of "Another Country", a performance for which he won heaps of awards, acclaim, and accolades. But it was his role as Henry V for the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) a couple of years later at age 23 that secured his position as one of the hottest new talents of the British stage.

The impersonal, bureaucratic aspects of the RSC machine finally became too much for Ken, however, and he declined a second contract with the prestigious company. Instead, he and his "Another Country" buddy David Parfitt started to make plans to create a new company, which was named Renaissance (that's Re-NAI-ssance to you, mister) and was launched in 1987 with a rather inauspicious debut, actually: the Renaissance Theatre Company's premiere production "Public Enemy"--starring, written and directed by Ken himself--opened to mostly negative reviews and charges of megalomania on the part of our young auteur. Luckily, RTC's productions of "Twelfth Night" (directed by Ken), "Much Ado About Nothing" (starring Ken), and--to a lesser degree--"Hamlet" (also starring Ken) were met with critical acclaim. Our boy was duly labeled "the next Olivier", and along with it came the prerequisite over-hype and backlash.

During the hectic period of forming Renaissance, Ken continued to work in televison and film projects, one of them being the BBC mini-series "The Fortunes of War." His leading lady was Emma Thompson, and the two fell in love while shooting. They married three years later in 1989 (with Em wearing the most hideous dress known to civilization. I love Em to death, really I do, but that dress was beyond comprehension. Ya don't believe me? Check out a photo) and after catapulting into successful film careers became known internationally as "Ken and Em", the "Royal couple of British film". Their busy work schedules resulted in their spending a lot of time away from each other however, leading to their "growing apart", and they announced their separation on September 30, 1995. Ok, enough of Ken and Em, this topic just makes me sniffle. *sniffle* See?

Where were we? Renaissance...ok, no sooner than shortly after Renaissance became a reality did Ken begin to plan a film version of Henry V. (Did that sentence make any sense? More importantly, was it grammatically correct? Forgive me, it's a bit late in the night as I write this and I've had one too many Pepsi's...) That movie, as we all know, became a monster of a critical and international success, added lots more trinkets to Ken's trophy case, and led many a foolish British paper to comment on both Ken's rise and Olivier's death that same year with headlines like "The king is dead! Long live the King!" Puh-leeeeeeez. No one was more weary of the comparisons than Ken, who proclaimed that he'd "rather be known as the new Daffy Duck." I'm not sure if Daffy penned an autobiography at 28, but that's what Ken did. Beginning is a fun, breezy, extremely witty account of Ken's life up to the completion of Henry V but, as one critic noted, "while it says a great deal about what Ken has done, it reveals very little about who Ken is."

His next film was his first foray into big-time Hollywood studio filmmaking, Paramount Pictures' Dead Again. No, it wasn't Shakespeare, but it was film noir, and comparisons with Olivier gave way to comparisons with another auteur, Orson Welles. Geez, can't a guy star in, direct, produce, cast, and write his films without any fuss? Anyway, the movie was a commercial hit, and the "golden boy of British stage and screen", "boy wonder of British filmmaking", and Hollywood's current wunderkind continued his roll with the low-budget comedy Peter's Friends and the fun, romantic romp-in-Tuscany that was Much Ado About Nothing. What could stop this Branagh steamroller? It turns out the answer was $44 million and a monster called Frankenstein...

Mary Shelley's Frankenstein was one of the biggest films of 1994 and as they say, "The bigger they are, the harder they fall..." The critics skewered the movie en masse and American audiences stayed away--to be fair, this had a lot to do with TriStar's decision to release the film ONE WEEK before the opening of that other big-screen behemoth, "Interview with the Vampire". Faced with the choice of two hours with an ugly, grunting Robert DeNiro and some Shakespeare guy or two hours with Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt, the majority of moviegoers went with the latter. Plucky Ken weathered the most severe case of Branagh-bashing, however, and bravely continued to plug the film around the world. It eventually turned a profit and raked in a decent $106 million worldwide.

Perhaps to get as far away from the studio process as possible, Ken then went to the opposite end of the spectrum and self-financed his next film, a quirky, funny, personal little black-and-white comedy called In the Bleak Midwinter. He didn't act in that one, but did play Iago in Oliver Parker's film version of Othello shortly after. Around this time he left long-time agent Clifford Stevens at the little Paradigm Agency for the big-shot ranks of the powerful Creative Artists Agency (CAA), where he continues to be represented by Rick Nicita (who also reps Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer). He fulfilled a lifelong dream by filming Hamlet for the big screen. Uncut, four hours long and graced with an all-star cast, it was one of the "event" pictures of 1996 and was largely hailed by critics as a masterpiece. But the price of crack fell drastically around voting time, use of it in Hollywood skyrocketed, and as a result Academy members couldn't tell which bubbles they were filling in whilst voting. So Hamlet (my favorite movie in the entire world) went home empty-handed.

In 1997 Polygram Filmed Entertainment (aka "the studio that Ngoc would choose to blow up if she had a choice") was scheduled to release two Ken films, The Gingerbread Man and The Proposition, but for reasons that will give me a brain throb should I discuss them pushed back the release dates to early 1998. Which brings us roughly to the present. The year should be a good one for Ken fans, with five films scheduled to open. Anyhow, I could go on indefinitely with more objective description and analysis, but I'm sure this is all much more information than you cared to know. :) Plus, it's waaaaaaaaaaay past my bedtime...
*written by Ngoc Vu in December 1997