×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Branagh embraces the challenge in Olivier portrayal

Eye on the Oscars: The Actor - Kenneth Branagh in 'My Week With Marilyn'

Kenneth Branagh playing Laurence Olivier?

In some ways, it seemed perfect match. Both were consummate Shakespearean actors who broke out into movie stardom; Branagh received Oscar noms for two Bard adaptations for which Olivier won Oscars (“Hamlet,” “Henry V”). And yet, for a film such as “My Week With Marilyn,” which uses celebrity as a means of exploring identity, it could come off as, well, gimmicky.

“?’Gimmicky’ and ‘Hollywood feng shui’ are both good ways of putting it,” Branagh says with a laugh. “It does seem impossibly inappropriate in some way. I’ve been compared to Olivier over the years, almost always unfavorably, so why would I put myself in that position? But producer David Parfitt brought me the script and I trust his taste. He knows me well enough to know that I’d be wary of it, so there had to be something to it beyond the obvious.”

The film follows the making of Olivier’s frothy comedy “The Prince and the Showgirl,” underscoring the battles between the imperious director and his ethereal, deeply troubled star, Marilyn Monroe (Michelle Williams), as seen through the eyes of a set gopher (Eddie Redmayne).

“Beneath the film’s gossamer lightness, there are some interesting ideas at work there,” Branagh says. “At that point in his career, Olivier was becoming fossilized as an institution. He wanted Marilyn to renew him. I had a chance to bring some authenticity to this. I got hooked and disregarded all the things that were spooky, mad or gimmicky about it.”

Director Simon Curtis helped contextualize the era for his cast.

“He was absolutely encyclopedic in his knowledge and feel for the context of this story. America was so incredibly exotic and Britain was on the way to losing an empire,” Branagh says. “He laid all of that out, and it was helpful to feel that era in your bones.”

The actor got into character by spending his time in the makeup chair (having a prosthetic chin affixed) listening to an audio performance of Olivier reading the Bible. “It was a wildly dramatic vocal performance, to hear about God via Sir Laurence. When I was done, I’d open my eyes and he would be starting to appear.”

Return to the main page >>

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • AMC theater

    AMC Entertainment Introducing On-Demand Movie Service

    AMC Entertainment will introduce an online video store in the United States on Tuesday. Adam Aron, AMC’s president and chief executive, said that the AMC Theaters On Demand will offer about 2,000 films for sale or rent after their theatrical runs — much like Amazon or iTunes. Disney, Warner Bros., Universal, Sony and Paramount have [...]

  • Scarlett Johansson poses for photographers upon

    Scarlett Johansson 'Pushing' for All-Women Marvel Movie

    After the epic battle scene in “Avengers: Endgame” depicted the female superheroes uniting to protect Spider-Man from Thanos, Marvel fans started wondering if they’ll ever see the women unite for a standalone movie. “Captain Marvel” star Brie Larson generated even more buzz when she told Variety that she and other female co-stars have approached Marvel [...]

  • Ivana Lombardi Netflix

    Annapurna Film Head Ivana Lombardi Named Director of Indies at Netflix (EXCLUSIVE)

    Annapurna Pictures president of film Ivana Lombardi is moving across town to Netflix, after almost a year in her role at Megan Ellison’s company. As of Nov. 6, Lombardi will serve as director of independent films at the streamer. She will report directly to Lisa Nishimura, Netflix’s vice president of independent film and documentary features. [...]

  • Zoe Kravitz 'Big Little Lies' TV

    Zoe Kravitz to Play Catwoman in 'The Batman'

    “Big Little Lies” star Zoe Kravitz has been tapped to play Catwoman, the antiheroine and sometime love interest of the Caped Crusader, in Matt Reeves’ upcoming “The Batman.” Kravitz will star opposite Robert Pattinson as Batman. Pre-production on the Warner Bros.-DC Comics pic is expected to start this summer. No official start date has been [...]

  • Hadley Robinson Amy Poehler

    'Little Women' Actress Hadley Robinson to Star in Amy Poehler's 'Moxie'

    “Utopia” and “Little Women” actress Hadley Robinson has been tapped to star in Amy Poehler’s next directorial effort “Moxie.” Lauren Tsai is also on board to co-star in the Netflix movie. “Moxie” follows a teenage girl (Robinson) from a small town who is inspired by her mother’s Riot Girl past and starts a feminist revolution [...]

  • Samara Weaving

    'G.I. Joe' Spinoff 'Snake Eyes' Adds 'Ready or Not's' Samara Weaving

    Samara Weaving will join Henry Golding in the “G.I. Joe” spinoff, “Snake Eyes.” Haruka Abe, Ursula Corbero, Iko Uwais and Andrew Koji have also boarded the Paramount, Skydance and AllSpark movie. “The Captain” director Robert Schwentke is helming and Brian Goldner is producing. Evan Spiliotopoulos, who wrote “Beauty and the Beast” and “The Huntsman: Winter’s [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content