The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 9.1029 Thursday, 22 October 1998.
From: Neth Boneskewy <
Date: Wednesday, 21 Oct 1998 13:02:52 -0700
Subject: Re: Branagh
Justin Bacon:<<I doubt there are many in this world who would dispute
that FRANKENSTEIN was an absolutely horrid film.>>
"Io credo che saro sempre d'accordo solo con una minoranza di persone."
(That's my tiny bit of Italian.)
I like Branagh's Frankenstein, but I'm not sure I can dispute anything
with someone who can define a movie with the delimitation "absolutely".
I have difficulty believing in absolutes-I can't maintain the requisite
zealotry. This is a wide, wide world-I'm impressed by your confidence
that it is not a world chock-full of people willing to disagrees with
<<Branagh seems to have a split personality. His smaller, artsy films
are really pretty good, and often don't involve him as an actor at
I only know of a single Branagh-directed movie where Branagh is not
involved as an actor, In The Bleak Midwinter. Unless you're also
thinking of Swan Song, his Oscar-nominated short documentary? -- but
that would only make two. Is this what you mean by "often"?
<<Moreover, his work among a team of Shakespeare actors, among whom he
either not the most senior or just not the director (i.e., Henry V, the
BBC Hamlet) are very good as well. It's the larger films, which he
directs and acts in from the position of being a star, that seem to
Do I understand your references here? Since Branagh had nothing to do
with the BBC teledrama of Hamlet, you are referring to the radio
broadcast of 1992, which Branagh co-directed and starred in? And Henry
V is not a small artsy film nor a large flagging one, yet somehow it is
a film where Branagh "directs and acts in from the position of being a
star"? About H5, most people manage to say things like "masterpiece"
and "The evolution of English theatre comes full flower in Kenneth
Branagh's production of Henry V." Also I don't understand your use of
the word "senior"-are you talking about age? I guess Branagh has never
been the eldest geezer in any of his productions . . . is this
significant? Or are you indicating that Branagh has done his best work
as a supporting actor? Because whether it's Hamlet on the radio or H5
the Movie, Hamlet and Henry are the guys with the most lines, which
gives them (and Branagh) all the seniority.
<<In fact, there was very little reason even to cast himself, apart from
the obvious fact that every actor wants to do Hamlet.>>
Every actor? I wouldn't presume to speak for every actor on this planet
but it's been pretty well documented that this particular actor has been
captivated by Hamlet since his teens (anyone familiar with this same
fascination?) I suppose we could ignore or make light of the fact that
Branagh had constructed half of his life towards this end, which was the
movie he filmed in 1996. If I wanted to make an attempt at a bit of
ludicrous effrontery I might choose to say "Huh-you shouldn't have
bothered" to an artist who finally finished his long-sought,
most-desired creation. But even if I thought his creation was deeply
flawed, I don't think I could summon up the hubris to tell him that he
should have hired someone else to do it for him.
<<And this is just the problem-acting and directing the same films,
Branagh is able to indulge himself, in a way that even James Cameron
Really? I would have thought that even Mary Shelley's Frankenstein can
hardly measure up to James Cameron and his 120 million dollar indulgence
that is Titanic, especially when you consider that MSF was finished on
time within the contracted 40 million dollar budget, give or take two
million-while Titanic took twice the time and more than twice the money
that it was budgeted for. But nothing succeeds like excess-if we are
going to use James Cameron as a yardstick for Branagh, all we can
observe is that Branagh has not been indulgent enough, not in the
least. Maybe he'd do better to stage LLL on a really big boat that gets
sunk by an iceberg, and hire the DiCaprio kid? Or re-write the final
scene to accommodate a nuclear explosion, helicopters, and a Harrier
<<The suggestions by someone on this list>< that this tendency of
to star himself in order to attract funding makes a lot of sense and
explains a lot of things. Still, I'd really like him to make a
Shakespeare film with the budget that Ian McKellen had for Richard III.
Maybe it would turn out as good.>>>
Twas a good thing that Branagh didn't hire Jim Carey for the Second
Gravedigger-Carey's price tag is reportedly 20 million per picture, and
he would've blown Branagh's entire budget for Hamlet. But still, 18
million for a 4-hour Hamlet was pretty extravagant, wasn't it?
Especially for a 4-hour Hamlet that features the talents of Brian
Blessed, Julie Christie, Derek Jacobi, Gerard Depardieu, Richard
Briers, Nicholas Farrell, Michael Maloney, Billy Crystal, Rosemary
Harris, Charlton Heston, Jack Lemmon, Rufus Sewell, Robin Williams, Kate
Winslet, and one of my personal favorites, Simon Russell Beale-plus
blink-and-you'll-miss-them cameos by Richard Attenborough, John Geilgud,
and Judi Dench. Oh, and lest we forget-starring Kenneth Branagh.
And I guess it's pretty obvious they all did it for the big money.
To change the subject almost entirely, do y'think Ethan Hawke will make
a cool Hamlet, is Bill Murray the perfect casting for Polonius, do
y'like Sam Sheppard as the Ghost, and can you conceive of Kyle
MacLachlan as Claudius?
PS. Since this is my first post to the list, maybe I should beg pardon
this once for the heavy-handed irony-and mention that flippancy is my