AFP, published on Monday, March 28, 2022 at 09:24
With his distinguished accent and his many adaptations of Shakespeare, Kenneth Branagh appears to many as a typical Englishman. He took “Belfast,” a movie tribute to his hometown that he fled as a child, to remind the world that he was Northern Irish and won an Oscar in the process.
The 61-year-old actor-director did not win the Oscar for best director on Sunday, but managed to win the award for best original screenplay, the first of his rich career, for his film “Belfast” which tells the story of the outbreak of violence in Ireland. of the North in the late 1960s through the eyes of nine-year-old Buddy.
It was at this age that Kenneth Branagh, born on December 10, 1960 to a Protestant family in Belfast, moved to England to escape the “troubles” that tore Northern Ireland apart for three decades. His family then moved to Reading, West London.
In November, when the film was released, Branagh explained that the idea had come from “this silence that many of us have experienced” with the confinements linked to the coronavirus pandemic.
But the British director drew heavily on his experience of “another lockdown”, that of a Protestant boy growing up in Belfast with Catholic neighbors and “the street barricaded on both sides”.
“Belfast” opens with a scene of street violence in the summer of 1969, when militant Protestants attacked Catholic families to drive them off the streets where the two communities had lived together for so long.
This Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay “is a great honor for a great city and fantastic people,” he declared Sunday night in Hollywood, statuette in hand for having written, he says, “a story about the search for joy, for hope in the face of violence, in the face of loss”.
Even before the awards were handed out, Kenneth Branagh had already broken a record by becoming the first person to be nominated in seven different Oscar categories since the beginning of his career.
But with this film with accents of a love letter to his hometown, Kenneth Branagh won an Oscar at the age of 61, which, although it seems like a consolation prize, had eluded him for many years.
First nominated by the prestigious academy in 1990 for his film adaptation of Shakespeare’s ‘Henry V’, he was hailed as the ‘new Laurence Olivier’, an English actor and director who died last year after having adapted the same piece in 1944 .
In 1984, Kenneth Branagh, who had joined the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, had already been acclaimed on stage for his role as Henry V in the play of the same name.
At 19, he had written to Laurence Olivier for advice before playing the part the actor had played before him. “Try it and tell yourself that everything will be fine,” the master had replied to the disciple.
In 2012, what was then considered the best British actor of his generation was nominated for an Oscar for best supporting role, reincarnating his model Olivier in “My week with Marilyn”, by Simon Curtis.
– Irish accent –
He was also nominated for an Oscar in 1996 in the category of best adapted screenplay for “Hamlet”, a four-hour movie about the river where he combined the facets of screenwriter, director and main actor.
It is also noticeable on television. Producer of the series “Wallander”, in which he plays the role of a Swedish detective, Branagh received the Bafta (British Film and Television Awards) for best series and best actor in 2009.
His private life has not escaped the spotlight. He was married from 1989 to 1995 to actress Emma Thompson, with whom he starred in several films. He has been remarried since 2003 to artistic director Lindsay Brunnock.
In 2012, he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II and given the title “Sir Kenneth” both for his role in the world of British cinema and for the Northern Ireland community.
He, who had lost his Irish accent during childhood -because he “didn’t want to be noticed” in England-, says that he now realizes that theater and cinema are for him a way to reconnect with his roots.
During interviews to promote his latest film, he effortlessly reverted to his Belfast accent, emphasizing that he felt Irish and not English.