A graduate of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, Kenneth Charles Branagh made his West End acting debut in ‘Another Country’, for which he won the Society of West End Theater’s Award for "Most Promising Newcomer". Numerous stage appearances followed, including the RSC’s ‘Henry V’, ‘Love’s Labour’s Lost’ and ‘Hamlet’.
In 1985 he founded the Renaissance Theatre Company. Productions which Branagh either wrote, starred in, or directed include ‘Public Enemy’, ‘Twelfth Night’, ‘The Life of Napoleon’, ‘Much Ado About Nothing’, ‘As You Like It’, ‘Hamlet’, ‘Look Back in Anger’, ‘Uncle Vanya’, ‘King Lear’, ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ and ‘Coriolanus’.
Branagh directed the hit stage comedy ‘The Play What I Wrote’, which transferred from London’s West End to Broadway and received a Tony nomination. He returned to the stage in ‘Richard III’ at the Sheffield Crucible to great acclaim, and to the London stage with Mamet’s ‘Edmond’ at the National Theatre.
His first venture into film met instant success. His 1989 production of ‘Henry V’ won a score of international awards, including Academy Award nominations for Best Actor and Best Director. Branagh was subsequently invited to Hollywood to direct and star in ‘Dead Again’, which was a huge international hit. He next directed the ensemble film ‘Peter’s Friends’, which won the Evening Standard Peter Sellers Award for Comedy.
His second Shakespearean film success was ‘Much Ado About Nothing’, and in the same year his short film of the Chekhov play ‘Swan Song’ received an Academy Award nomination.
He went on to direct Robert De Niro in the financially successful ‘Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein’. His black-and-white film ‘In the Bleak Midwinter’ (A Midwinter’s Tale) opened the 1996 Sundance Film Festival and won the prestigious Osello d’Oro at the Venice Film Festival.
His critically acclaimed full-length version of ‘Hamlet’, in 70mm, received 4 Academy Award nominations. Branagh’s fourth Shakespeare film adaptation was a 1930’s musical version of ‘Love’s Labour’s Lost’.
More recently, Branagh directed HBO Films’ ‘As You Like It’, a film of Mozart’s opera The Magic Flute, and ‘Sleuth’, written by Harold Pinter and starring Jude Law and Michael Caine. His other film work includes acting roles in: Pat O’Connor’s ‘A Month in the Country’, Oliver Parker’s ‘Othello’, Robert Altman’s ‘The Gingerbread Man’, Woody Allen’s ‘Celebrity’, Danny Boyle’s ‘Alien Love Triangle’, Paul Greengrass’s ‘The Theory of Flight’, Barry Sonnenfeld’s ‘Wild Wild West’, Philip Noyce’s ‘Rabbit Proof Fence’, and the second Harry Potter film, ‘Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets’ – Branagh starred as Gilderoy Lockhart, Professor of Defence Against the Dark Arts, with a richly comic performance.
Branagh appeared in three outstanding television dramas: ‘Shackleton’ for Channel 4 and A&E; ‘Conspiracy’, for which he won an Emmy as Best Actor and a Golden Globe nomination; and ‘Warm Springs’, in which he played FDR and was nominated for an Emmy, a Golden Globe and a SAG Award.
In 2008 he filmed a lead role in the new Richard Curtis comedy ‘The Boat That Rocked’ and returned to London’s West End in the title role of Chekhov’s ‘Ivanov’. Several critics lauded his return to the stage, with the Daily Mail, Guardian and Independent awarding five-star reviews. His adaptation of the lead character led to statements such as "performance of the year" being made and Quentin Letts, the Daily Mail's theatre critic, mentioned his "world class talent". However, in a rather shocking outcome, Branagh's comeback performance did not win him a Laurence Olivier Award nomination, although he secured the Critics' Circle Award for Best Male Performance.
Branagh went on to star in a major BBC TV crime series as Detective Kurt Wallander from Henning Mankell’s best-selling thrillers, with the first three films being aired on BBC One in November and December 2008. The role won him a British Academy Television Award for Best Actor and a Broadcasting Press Guild Award for Best Actor, with three nominations including a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor also coming in. The same year also saw him co-star with Tom Cruise and a host of other fine British actors in Bryan Singer's historical thriller ‘Valkyrie’.
More recently, he directed the adaptation of Marvel Comics' 'Thor' (2011) as well as 'Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit' (2014). Next up is 'Cinderella', due for release in 2015.
A multilingual actor, Branagh is married to Lindsay Brunnock, a film art director he wedded in 2003. This is his second attempt at marriage, the first one being with British actress Emma Thompson. The two tied the knot in August 1989, but the union ended in divorce in 1995.