Today, City Connect celebrates the birthday of Kenneth Branagh who was born on 10 December 1960. Kenneth Branagh is an actor and film director from Northern Ireland. He is best known for directing and starring in several film adaptations of William Shakespeare’s plays. Kenneth Branagh has also starred in numerous other films and television series including Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and Wallander. He directed such notable films as Swan Song (Academy Award nominated for Best Live Action Short Film), Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (also starring) and the 2011 blockbuster action film Thor.
Kenneth Branagh was born and brought up in Belfast, Northern Ireland. At the age of nine, he relocated with his family to Reading, Berkshire to escape the Troubles. At school, he acquired an English accent to avoid bullying. On his identity today he has said, “I feel Irish. I don’t think you can take Belfast out of the boy,” and he attributes his “love of words” to his Irish heritage.
Kenneth Branagh is known for his film adaptations of William Shakespeare, beginning with Henry V (1989) for which was nominated for the Academy Awards for Best Actor and Best Director, followed by Much Ado About Nothing (1993), Hamlet (1996) for which he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay, Love’s Labour’s Lost (2000) and As You Like It (2006). As You Like It premiered in theatres in Europe, but was sent directly to television in the U.S., where it aired on HBO in August 2007. Branagh was also in Oliver Parker’s Othello playing Iago.
Notable non-Shakespeare films in which Branagh has appeared include Dead Again (1991) and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1994), both of which he also directed, Wild Wild West (1999), Rabbit-Proof Fence (2002) and Valkyrie (2008). He starred as Gilderoy Lockhart in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002). He also played the Minister, Dormandy, (a parody of PMG Tony Benn) in the film The Boat That Rocked (2009).
From 1989 to 1996 Branagh mostly directed his own films, but the commercial and critical failure of Love’s Labour’s Lost ended his directorial career for a time. In 2006, the same year that Branagh’s film version of As You Like It was released, he also directed a film version of Mozart’s opera The Magic Flute. Branagh has also directed the thriller Sleuth (2007), a remake of the 1972 film.
At a film promotion for Valkyrie in 2008, Branagh confirmed that he would be directing Thor, a film based on the Marvel superhero. Thor, Branagh’s return to big-budget directing, was released on 6 May 2011 and stars Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman and Anthony Hopkins.
Branagh is the star of the Wallander television series, adaptations of Henning Mankell’s best-selling Wallander crime novels. Branagh plays the eponymous Inspector Kurt Wallander and also serves as the executive producer of the series. The first three episodes were broadcast on BBC One in November and December 2008. Branagh won the award for best actor at the 35th Broadcasting Press Guild Television and Radio Awards (2009). It was his first major television award win in the UK. He received his first BAFTA TV on 26 April 2009 for the British Academy Television Award for Best Drama Series. For his performance in the episode One Step Behind, he was nominated in the Outstanding Actor, Miniseries or Movie category of the 61st Primetime Emmy Awards. The role also gained him a nomination for Best Actor at the 2009 Crime Thriller Awards. The second season of three episodes were filmed in 2009 and aired in January 2010 on the BBC and October/November 2010 on PBS in the US. Plans have been announced for a third season of six episodesâ€”the last three Mankell novels, as well as three original Wallander stories.
Branagh was married to actress Emma Thompson from 20 August 1989 until 1995. After their divorce, he was in a well-publicised relationship for several years with actress Helena Bonham Carter, whom he directed and starred with in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. In 2003, he married film art director Lindsay Brunnock, to whom he was introduced by Bonham Carter in 1997. He speaks Italian and is a lifelong supporter of Belfast football team Linfield, as well as Tottenham Hotspur.
Branagh was the youngest actor to receive the Golden Quill (also known as the Gielgud Award) in 2000. Alongside Roberto Benigni, he is one of only two non-American actors to be nominated for Oscars for acting, writing, and directing, and one of nine actors to have achieved this honour. The other seven are Orson Welles, Woody Allen, Warren Beatty, Clint Eastwood, George Clooney, John Huston and John Cassavetes.
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