After escaping the poverty of his childhood in Belfast, Branagh eventually moved to London and studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, leading to work in the Royal Shakespeare Company where he met his mentor, Derek Jacobi.
Over the years, Jacobi has appeared in many of Branagh’s movies.
At the age of 23, Branagh joined the Royal Shakespeare Company, and he became the youngest actor in the company to play the lead in Shakespeare’s Henry V.
His film adaptation of Hamlet (1996) was the first to use the complete Shakespearean text. It gave Branagh his fourth Oscar nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay, but the film failed to make back its investment at the box office.
After his marriage to Emma Thompson ended in 1995, Branagh was in a relationship with Helena Bonham Carter, whom he directed and starred with in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.
Kenneth Branagh is the first man to be nominated in five different Academy Award categories. The nominations were for Best Director and Best Actor for Henry V (1989), Best Live Action Short for Swan Song (1992), Best Adapted Screenplay for Hamlet (1996), and Best Supporting Actor for My Week With Marilyn (2011).
Branagh has been a fan of “Thor” since childhood. When Marvel Studios finally selected him as the director of Thor (2011), they sent him the entire collection of the Thor comics series for reference material.
He allegedly refused the appointment of Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 1994.
He joins a growing group of A-list celebrities who have declined British honors, including David Bowie, John Cleese, Albert Finney, and Vanessa Redgrave.
Branagh is one of just eight actors to be nominated for Oscars for acting, writing, and directing. The other seven are John Huston, Orson Welles, Woody Allen, Warren Beatty, George Clooney, John Cassavetes, and Roberto Benigni.
The shadow of Laurence Olivier has filtered through Branagh’s career. He and Olivier played Henry V and Hamlet and directed themselves in both films.
Branagh also directed Sleuth (2007), a remake of the 1972 film that starred Olivier. And he played Olivier in My Week With Marilyn (2011), for which he was nominated for the Best Supporting Actor Oscar.
Branagh was originally cast as the lead for Amadeus (1984), but was eventually replaced by American actor Tom Hulce.
He was also considered for the roles of FBI agent Jack Crawford in Silence of the Lambs (1991) and Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace (1999).