Kenneth Branagh, born Kenneth Charles Branagh, is a popular Shakespearean actor and director. Some of his most popular thespian and directorial work include, “Much Ado About Nothing”, 2011’s “Thor”, and “Wild Wild West”.
Branagh was born in Northern Ireland on December 10, 1960 to middle- class workers William and Frances Branagh. He was raised in England from the age of 9 on up after his family fled Ireland due to Ireland’s troubles. As a child he appeared in many school productions, which perhaps encouraged him to pursue his craft. For his university training, Branagh was educated at the world-renown drama school, the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, where he earned a BA in Fine Arts.
After university, Branagh became a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company. His staring in the company’s production of “Henry V” helped Branagh attain recognition. In 1987, Branagh left the Royal Shakespeare Company due to his being unhappy to form his own company called, the Renaissance Theatre Company. The company and Branagh received a great deal of recognition for the adaptations of a great many of Shakespeare’s masterpieces. During this time, Branagh met his first wife, Emma Thompson, a famous Shakespearean actress in her own right. The two would go on to star together in many of Branagh’s productions from 1989 to 1995, when they divorced.
At the age of 28, Branagh wrote his autobiography titled “Beginning”. Many critics noted the book as being egotistical and published way too early in the young actor’s career. However, Branagh’s career was at an all time high at this point, so perhaps it wasn’t ill-timed.
The high in his career soon became a low with his production of “Frankenstein” in 1994. The film received horrid reviews and has been attributed to the reasoning behind his and Thompson’s divorce the following year. However, in 1996 Branagh came back with a stellar production of “Hamlet” with an all star cast. The film garnered great reviews despite its 4 hour length.
The years following, Branagh acted in mediocre films and received very little of the stardom he had become accustomed to in the late 80s and early 90s. In 1999, Branagh portrayed the villain in “Wild Wild West”, which starred Will Smith. He received decent reviews for his performance, but at this point it seemed that Branagh’s golden touch had faded.
In 2002, Branagh’s luck appeared to change when he was cast in “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets”. The following year Branagh married his second wife, film art director Linsay Brunnock. He had met Ms. Brunnock through his former girlfriend, Helena Bonham Carter. Following his returned stardom with the Harry Potter series, Branagh came back as a big budget director in 2011 with his production of Thor, based off the Marvel comic. The yo-yo effect of Branagh’s career has finally started to hit a high point once again.