With a career spanning more than 40 years, Kenneth Branagh has become a regular fixture on our film and television screens. This lengthy career has brought with it tremendous success: five Academy Award nominations, five BAFTA wins, a Golden Globe, and a knighthood, to name but a few of his many accolades. Branagh’s recent release Belfast has been met with overwhelmingly positive reviews from critics so join Orla as she reflects on his career right from his debut up until now.
Branagh’s screen debut began in minor television roles, but his major breakthrough was directing and starring in Henry V in 1989. Throughout his career, Branagh has had a penchant for turning Shakespeare works into film; in fact, he has been part of six stage-to-screen Shakespeare productions. My personal favourite of these productions is his role in Othello (1995), with Laurence Fishburne playing the eponymous character and Branagh playing the iconic Machiavellian villain, Iago.
One of the early star-studded films he directed was Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1994), with the likes of Robert De Niro, John Cleese, and Helena Bonham Carter – the latter of whom he began a highly publicised affair with during his marriage to the legendary Emma Thompson. Whilst the film strays from the true plot of Shelley’s novel, and was met with mediocre response from critics, it did receive a nomination for an Academy Award for Best Makeup.
One of the first roles where many young people encountered Branagh, including myself, was in the second film of the Harry Potter franchise performing in the role as the pretentious and bogus Gilderoy Lockhart. In the same vein, Branagh undertook further antagonistic roles in Jack Reacher: Shadow Recruit (2014) as Russian tycoon Viktor Cherevin and in (the confusing and slightly tedious) Tenet (2020) as Andrei Sator. Clearly, he has a natural aptitude for playing darker roles.
Whilst he can play the ‘bad guy’ successfully, he also is very entertaining in his ‘good guy’ roles. Branagh had a smaller role in Dunkirk as Commander Bolton and plays the eponymous detective Hercule Poirot in Murder on the Orient Express and in the upcoming Death on the Nile, which is possibly the release I am most excited for in 2022.
Kenneth Branagh is undeniably a talented actor, director, and producer whose movies have garnered widespread recognition and acclaim. It is difficult to pick a favourite Branagh film due to the number of successful projects he has been involved in. As a film fanatic I am very excited to see his future projects and where his career will take him.
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