Sir Kenneth Branagh has been fascinated by William Shakespeare since he was very young. In fact, he hitchhiked to his fabled home in Stratford-upon-Avon when he was in high school. In our recent interview (watch the exclusive video above), he reveals, “When I was 16, it was a journey I didn’t even realize I was starting on was trying to make a connection between the man and this great icon… I was walking around in a place of the man we know to be William Shakespeare lived and seeing the work he produced in that theater. Little did I know I was going to spend the rest of my life trying to get closer to him.”
While Branagh has appeared in many films and plays based on the works of Shakespeare, he now takes on the daunting task of playing the celebrated author in “All Is True.” He also directs the movie, which focuses on the final years of his life after his Globe Theatre has burned down and he moves back home from London to be with his family. He wants to retire and spend time with his wife Anne Hathaway (Judi Dench) and daughters Judith and Susanna. Will is also mourning the death of his young son Hamnet from many years earlier.
Branagh first heard of Shakespeare when he was just a child. Of those earliest memories, he says, “The word was associated with being a cultural medicine, if you like. I come from a working class background, and my parents didn’t go to the theatre and didn’t know who Shakespeare was. I think it was a degree of intimidation. The first encounter was on television when I was growing up in Belfast. That was to see Richard Chamberlain on television, a popular actor who had a great success as “Dr. Kildare,” and was quite the heartthrob and playing Hamlet.”
The first big award success for Branagh was for his 1989 feature film debut in Shakespeare’s “Henry V,” which brought him Oscar nominations for Best Actor and Best Director. He won that latter category at the BAFTA Awards. He has had nine BAFTA bids in total, also winning the Michael Balcon Award in 1993 and twice for his TV work on “Wallander” (2009, 2010). At the Academy Awards, he has had three additional nominations for the live short film “Swan Song” (1992), for writing “Hamlet” (1996) and for his supporting role as Laurence Olivier in “My Week with Marilyn” (2011).
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