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Kenneth Branagh biography

Kenneth Branagh is celebrated as a 'wunderkind' of the British stage and one of his country's leading film figures. He was born in Belfast in Northern Ireland. He moved to England with his family at ten and began his love affair with Shakespeare, reading 25-cent paperback volumes of Shakespeare as an escape from the school bullies who made fun of him for his Irish accent. Branagh excelled at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, where he won the Bancroft Gold Medal for his "Hamlet". He become a star of the acclaimed 1984 BBC trilogy "Too Late to Talk to Billy", "A Matter of Choice for Billy" and "A Coming to Terms for Billy" on British TV and he joined the Royal Shakespeare Company at age 23, opening its season at Stratford as the youngest "Henry V" in the company's history. He also wrote and directed his first play, "Tell Me Honestly". Branagh supposed that the RSC is too large, so he founded the Renaissance Theatre Company with David Parfitt and Prince Charles as a royal patron. It broke up in 1994. He continued acting in high quality British TV ventures such as seven-part drama "Fortunes of War", where he acted for the first time with his future wife Emma Thompson. He travelled to the USA and played in a thriller, "Dead Again", in which he played a role again opposite Thompson. The film was a commercial success, but Branagh did not fall in love with Hollywood and returned home to make "Peter's Friends". In the same year Branagh also directed "Swan Song" that was an Oscar-nominated story based on Čechov novel. Branagh went back to his first love adapting "Much Ado About Nothing" with Thompson, Denzel Washington and Keanu Reeves. The reviewers called him as a clever propagator of Shakespeare for modern movie audiences when he paved the way for movies as Baz Luhrmann's version of "Romeo and Juliet" and "Shakespeare in Love". Then he co-operated with Francis Ford Coppola and a major star Robert De Niro on Mary Shelley's ”Frankenstein”, where Kenneth played Dr. Victor Frankenstein. Critical and popular responses were less than enthusiastic for this somewhat especial conception of the classic novel. Therefore Branagh returned to Shakespeare. He won critical acclaim for his "Othello" and also won praise for writing and directing "A Midwinter's Tale". Branagh followed with his own big screen version of "Hamlet", that goes on in the 19th century. He chose many Hollywood stars e.g. Kate Winslet, Jack Lemmon.

For his "Hamlet", the first film to use the complete Shakespearean text, Branagh won his fourth Oscar nomination (Best Adapted Screenplay) but the four-hour film failed to make back even half of its investment. In 1998 Branagh collaborated with director Robert Altman and they shot movie "The Gingerbread Man". Then he was selected to play in Woody Allen's "Celebrity". That year Branagh performed in "Theory of Flight".
In 1999 he acted in "Wild Wild West" where he represented legless Dr. Arliss Loveless, who was Will Smith's enemy. In 2000 he lent his voice for the leading characters in the animated film "The Road to El Dorado" and then gave his voice as the narrator of the Oscar-nominated animated short "The Periwig-Maker".
During 90´s he became quite favourite actor. He was casted e.g. in the comedy "How to Kill Your Neighbour’s Dog" and in the based-on-fact movie "Rabbit Proof Fence", which is about three Aboriginal girls who wanted to freedom in 1930´s. On TV Branagh was successful in an Emmy-winning performance as Reinhard Heydrich in the HBO original "Conspiracy". His last step was into the fantasy sphere as the conceited Defence Against the Dark Arts Professor Gilderoy Lockhart in the "Harry Potter and the Chambers of Secrets" in 2002.

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