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Sir Kenneth Charles Branagh is an Irish-born actor, producer, screenwriter, and director who is known for his film and TV adaptions of Shakespearean plays as well as cinematic blockbusters like Thor and Cinderella. Kenneth Branagh has donned many professional hats, some to critical acclaim. Although much of his work has been in theatre and film, Branagh has been involved with the TV industry. He played the titular roles of Hamlet and King Lear in BBC’s radio broadcasts and has also dabbled into voice acting as a narrator of several audiobooks.
Kenneth Branagh’s Early Life, and Rise to Fame
Branagh was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland on December 10, 1960, to working-class Protestants. His family moved to Reading, England when he was only 9 years old to get away from violent religious conflict now known as The Troubles. He quickly adopted an English accent to avoid bullying at school. While in his teens, he went to see a performance of a Shakespeare play and it affected him so deeply that he decided to pursue the craft.
He appeared in numerous school productions and went on to study at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, gaining exceptional reputation and the Bancroft award, which he leveraged to join the Royal Shakespeare Company. Branagh co-founded the Renaissance Theatre Company, his own drama outfit, with David Parfitt.
Kenneth Branagh was one of the new waves of actors who were nurtured by RADA. While at the academy, he starred in several productions including Henry V which he would later adapt into a film that marked him as a stage actor with undisputed talent.
His drama organization, the Renaissance Theatre Company presented Twelfth Night, As You Like It, Look Back in Anger and other plays which made Branagh popular as an interpreter of the works of Shakespeare. He went on to direct and star in several film adaptations of the plays, including Henry V (1989) for which he was nominated for Best Actor and Best Director for the Oscars, Much Ado About Nothing (1993), Othello (1995), Hamlet (1996) which received four Oscar nods, and Love Labour’s Lost (2000) which was poorly received and nearly ended his career.
He also directed two non-Shakespearean films during this period — Frankenstein (1994) and A Midwinter’s Tale (1995). Branagh, an acclaimed stage presence decided to enter into the world of blockbuster commercial success as actor and director. He joined Marvel Comics as the director behind Thor (2011) where he brought his dramatic sensibilities to the fore in a legendary cosmic adventure that raked $449 million globally.
Kenneth Branagh worked his magic again in the live action interpretation of Cinderella an adaptation that earned over $542 million at the box office.
7 Interesting Things To Know About The British Actor
1. He is the first man to be nominated for five different categories in the history of the Academy Awards — Best Director and Best Actor in a Leading Role for his work in “Henry V”, Best Adapted Screenplay for “Hamlet”, Best Live Action Short Film for “Swan Song”, and Best Actor in a Supporting Role for “My Week with Marilyn”. He is also one of only two non-American actors to be nominated for Academy Awards for acting, directing, and writing, the other is Roberto Benigni.
2. Branagh is the youngest actor to play the lead role in Shakespeare’s “Henry V” in the history of the Royal Shakespeare Company. He was only 23 years old at the time.
3. He has received several awards during his lifetime for his theatre achievements including the Laurence Olivier Theatre Award for Most Promising Newcomer in 1983, London Critics Circle Theatre Award in 1988, the Gielgud Award for Excellence in the Dramatic Arts in 2000 (the youngest actor to ever receive it), the Evening Standard Theatre Award for Best Actor in 2004, and the Lifetime Achievement Award at the RomaFictionFest on July 10, 2009.
4. He is one of only 13 actors in the history of the Oscars to get an Academy Award nomination for portraying a real-life king, and the last actor to have a nomination for his role in a Shakespeare film.
5. Branagh’s 2008 movie Valkyrie grossed 200 million dollars globally, making it the fifth highest-earning World War II movie of all time.
6. Othello (1995) is the only Shakespeare film adaptation which Branagh starred in, but did not direct himself. It was directed by Oliver Parker.
7. His role as Berowne in “Love’s Labour Lost” was first performed by the legendary writer, Williams Shakespeare himself, in the late 1500s.