Kenneth Branagh. If the name doesn’t ring a bell, kindly have your hearing checked. Cuz the Belfast-born actor, director, producer and screenwriter is widely regarded as one of the finest actors alive. Period. (He’s also way, waaay better than quite a few dead ones. Like anyone affiliated with Michael Moore.)
Indeed, Kenneth Branagh has a breadth and depth of ability rarely seen in modern-day thespians. He’s equally at home on both stage and screen. Drama and comedy*. And all points in between.
I mean, Kenneth Branagh made Shakespeare cool. That’s why he’s this week’s Friday Fun feature.
Now if “Shakespeare” is enough to make you jump up and run screaming from the room, here’s a tip: Don’t. Cuz I’m willing to bet you already love the Bard. Or at least a portion of an all-time favorite: Henry V.
How do I know? Well, does Band of Brothers ring a bell? You know. That 2001 Tom Hanks/Steven Spielberg TV mini-series about Easy Company and WWII. Guess where the title came from? Hint: It wasn’t Tom or Steven.
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.
Our hearts are in the trim…
Although Shakespeare penned this work nearly 200 years after the Battle of Agincourt (1415), it remains the finest dramatic interpretation of what courage and leadership mean to fighting men. And nobody does this remarkable speech like Branagh. Trust me on this. I’ve heard the St. Crispin speech by Olivier, Gielgud and Burton. Branagh outshines them all. By far:
Now. Tell me that wasn’t fun.
Branagh directed and starred in Henry V (1989) at age 29, which co-starred his then-wife Emma Thompson. The film brought him Best Actor and Best Director Oscar nominations. He should’ve won both.
* His 1993 adaptation of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing (Branagh, Emma Thompson, Denzel Washington, Keanu Reeves and Michael Keaton) is hilarious – in a 1600s sort of way.
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|Attribution: Giorgia Meschini|