The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 16.0962  Monday, 23 May 2005

From:           Richard Burt <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Friday, 20 May 2005 21:06:12 -0400
Subject:        Branagh Filming As You Like It

Branagh returns to a labour of love
(Filed: 17/05/2005)

Kenneth Branagh's mission to make Shakespeare accessible took a blow
when his film of 'Love's Labour's Lost' flopped, but now he's back with
a Japanese-inspired 'As You Like It'. He talks to John Hiscock.

Five years have passed since Kenneth Branagh last steered William
Shakespeare to the screen with an all-star, singing, dancing version of
Love's Labour's Lost that not only failed to find an audience, but
performed so dismally that it torpedoed his plans for two more
Bard-based frolics.

Branagh: 'I'm trying to make Shakespeare accessible and inspire the
opposite of reverence'

Undeterred, Branagh changed direction and took roles in other films,
television productions and on the London stage. Now he feels enough time
has elapsed for him to return to his first love.

So, with financing in place, enthusiastic producers and an intriguing
cast, the man often described as "the new Olivier" is once again
immersed in Shakespeare, this time directing an ambitious,
Japanese-influenced film of As You Like It. . . . .

His approach to As You Like It has been influenced by his voluminous
research into Japanese literature and his interest in the English
adventurers who went to Japan in the 19th century. Although it is being
filmed at Shepperton and on location in West Sussex, Branagh wants to
invoke what he calls the beauty and simplicity of the Japanese
landscape, while making the Forest of Arden a much wilder, more surreal
place. He is also taking advantage of the Japanese setting to borrow
from the martial arts world and to underline the dangers inherent in the
play which he feels are often neglected in stage productions.

"The research is an enormously enjoyable part of it," he said.
"Sometimes I think I'd rather spend six months doing the research and
not do the film."

Not in this case, however. Even after 25 years in showbusiness, Branagh
has retained his capacity for wonder.

"I find it miraculous how these things get done," he marvels. "You spend
a year, 10 years, 15 years trying to get it together and it's absolutely
amazing that one morning we have a call sheet and we begin to shoot As
You Like It.

"I shoot one actor for a bit and then someone else and someone else and
I'll put it together and somehow at the end it becomes this big thing
with 600 people watching it and you think, 'How on earth did this happen?' "

Variety's Michael Fleming reports that the adaptation will be set in the
late 19th century and that it is being financed by HBO. Branagh himself
is likely to take a small role - possibly that of the court jester,
Touchstone - and Adrian Lester (who appeared in Branagh's musical
version of Love's Labours Lost), Brian Blessed and Jimmy Yuill are also
said to be taking supporting roles.

AS YOU LIKE IT begins Principal Photography
22 April 2005

Principal photograph on the feature film adaptation of William
Shakespeare's AS YOU LIKE IT beginhs today.  Directed by Kenneth Branagh
- and marking his fifth Shakespearean screen adaptation - AS YOU LIKE IT
features a cast that includes Kevin Kline (De-Lovely, Oscar(r)-winner
for A Fish Called Wanda), Bryce Dallas Howard (The Village), Adrian
Lester (The Day After Tomorrow), David Oyelowo (BBC 1's Spooks), Alfred
Molina (Frida), Janet McTeer (Tumbleweeds) and Romola Garai (Vanity
Fair). With a setting inspired by 19th Century Japan, AS YOU LIKE IT
will shoot on location near London and in studio at Shepperton Film Studios.

Shakespeare's lightest and most delightful comedy, AS YOU LIKE IT
celebrates the enduring power of love in all its many disguises.  Witty,
playful and utterly magical, the story is a compelling romantic
adventure in which Rosalind and Orlando's famous courtship is played out
against a backdrop of political rivalry, banishment and exile in the
Forest of Arden.

Commenting on inspiration and intentions for AS YOU LIKE IT, Branagh
said: "I visited Kyoto, Japan for the first time fifteen years ago and
felt the sublime landscape and fascinating culture could be an inspired
setting for this quintessential romantic comedy.  With sumo, martial
arts and cherry blossom we hope that the drama and the joy can combine
to produce a wonderfully enjoyable film."

Branagh has previously adapted and directed the following works of
Shakespeare for the screen:  Love's Labour's Lost, Hamlet, Henry V, and
Much Ado About Nothing. Henry V earned Branagh a BAFTA Film Award for
Best Director, along with Oscar? nominations in both the Best Director
and Best Actor in a Leading Role categories. Branagh's additional
directing credits include Dead Again, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, In
The Bleak Midwinter and Peter's Friends.

AS YOU LIKE IT is a production of The Shakespeare Film Company, financed
by HBO Films. AS YOU LIKE IT is directed by Kenneth Branagh and produced
by Branagh, Judy Hofflund and Simon Moseley. Joining Branagh once again
will be twice Oscar nominated Composer Patrick Doyle (Hamlet, Sense and
Sensibility) and Oscar nominated Production Designer Tim Harvey
(Hamlet). Director of Photography will be long-term Branagh
collaborator, Roger Lanser (Much Ado About Nothing). Editor is Neil
Farrell (Love's Labour's Lost, Hamlet). Costume Design will be by
Susannah Buxton (BBC's Tipping the Velvet).  Make-up Designer will be
Oscar(r) and BAFTA Film Award winner Jenny Shircore (Elizabeth).

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