Kenneth Branagh

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BornSir Kenneth Charles Branagh
December 10, 1960 (age 56)
Profession Actor, Film Director, Film Producer, Screenwriter, Television Producer
Spouse Emma Thompson
Parents William Branagh, Frances Harper
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Sir Kenneth Charles Branagh (born 10 December 1960) is an actor and film director from Northern Ireland. He has directed or starred in several film adaptations of William Shakespeare's plays including Henry V (1989) (for which he was nominated for the Academy Awards for Best Actor and Best Director), Much Ado About Nothing (1993), Othello (1995), Hamlet (1996) (for which he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay), Love's Labour's Lost (2000), and As You Like It (2006).

He has also starred in numerous other films and television series including Fortunes of War (1987), Wild Wild West (1999), The Road to El Dorado (2000), Conspiracy (TV) (2001), Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002), Warm Springs (TV) (2005), Valkyrie (2008), Wallander (TV series) (2008–present), and My Week with Marilyn (2011) as Laurence Olivier (Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor); and directed such notable films as Dead Again (1991) (also starring), Swan Song (1992) (Academy Award nominated for Best Live Action Short Film), Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1994) (also starring), The Magic Flute (2006), Sleuth (2007), and the blockbuster superhero film Thor (2011).

Branagh has been nominated for five Academy Awards, five Golden Globes, and has won an Emmy and three BAFTAs. He was appointed a knight bachelor in the 2012 Birthday Honours and was knighted on 9 November 2012.

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Branagh, the middle of three children, was born and raised in Belfast, the son of working-class Protestant parents Frances (née Harper) and William Branagh, a plumber and joiner who ran a company that specialised in fitting partitions and suspended ceilings. At the age of nine, he relocated with his family to Reading, Berkshire, to escape the Troubles. He was educated at Grove Primary School, Whiteknights Primary School, then Meadway School, Tilehurst, where he appeared in school productions such as Toad of Toad Hall" and Oh, What a Lovely War!. At school, he acquired an English accent to avoid bullying. On his identity today he has said, "I feel Irish. I don't think you can take Belfast out of the boy," and he attributes his "love of words" to his Irish heritage. He is known to have attended the (Amateur) Reading Cine & Video Society (now called Reading Film & Video Makers) as a member and was a keen member of Progress Theatre for whom he is now the patron.

Branagh went on to train at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.

Branagh achieved some early measure of success in his native Northern Ireland for his role as the title character in the BBC's Play for Today trilogy known as the Billy Plays (1982–84), written by Graham Reid and set in Belfast.

He received acclaim in the UK for his stage performances, first winning the 1982 SWET Award for Best Newcomer, for his role as Judd in Julian Mitchell's Another Country, immediately after leaving RADA. Branagh was part of the 'new wave’ of actors to emerge from the Academy. Others included Jonathan Pryce, Juliet Stevenson, Alan Rickman, Anton Lesser, Bruce Payne and Fiona Shaw. In 1984 he appeared in the Royal Shakespeare Company production of Henry V, directed by Adrian Noble. The production played to full houses, especially at the Barbican in London. It was this production that he adapted for the film version of the play in 1989. He and David Parfitt founded the Renaissance Theatre Company in 1987, following success with several productions on the London 'Fringe', including Branagh's full-scale production of Romeo and Juliet at the Lyric Studio, co-starring with Samantha Bond. The first major Renaissance production was Branagh's Christmas 1987 staging of Twelfth Night at Riverside Studios in Hammersmith, starring Richard Briers as Malvolio and Frances Barber as Viola, and with an original score by actor, musician and composer Patrick Doyle, who two years later was to compose the music for Branagh's film adaptation of Henry V. This Twelfth Night was later adapted for television.

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Branagh is known for his film adaptations of William Shakespeare, beginning with Henry V (1989), followed by Much Ado About Nothing (1993), Hamlet (1996), Love's Labour's Lost (2000) and As You Like It (2006). As You Like It premiered in theatres in Europe, but was sent directly to television in the U.S., where it aired on HBO in August 2007. He was rumored to have been under consideration for the role of Obi-Wan Kenobi in the Star Wars prequels.

Notable non-Shakespeare films in which Branagh has appeared include Dead Again (1991) and Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1994), both of which he also directed, Wild Wild West (1999), Rabbit-Proof Fence (2002) and Valkyrie (2008). He starred as Gilderoy Lockhart in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002). He also played the Minister, Dormandy, (a parody of PMG Tony Benn) in the film The Boat That Rocked (2009).

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Branagh was married from 20 August 1989 until 1995 to actress Emma Thompson, with whom he starred in Fortunes of War among other projects. After their divorce, he was in a well-publicised relationship for several years with actress Helena Bonham Carter, whom he directed and starred with in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. In 2003, he married film art director Lindsay Brunnock, whom he met during the shooting of Shackleton.

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