By Skye Huntington
Kenneth Branagh is a behemoth of the big film project, a man who subscribes to the ‘more is less’ principle of movie-making and has absolute faith in the essence that big budgets make successful movies.

It’s not a notion accepted by the purists of independent film. Yet, there is something so effortlessly pure and precisely positioned about Branagh’s output that you would struggle to argue against the fact he is one of the industry’s true exemplars and pioneers.

He was married to Emma Thompson from 1989 to 1995 and has been wed since 2003 to art director Lindsay Brunnock, whom he met during the shooting of Shackleton. After his divorce from Thompson, he was in a well-publicized relationship with Helena Bonham Carter for several years. 

Branagh has directed or starred in several film adaptations of Shakespeare’s plays, including Henry V (1989), for which he was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor and Best Director, Much Ado About Nothing (1993), Othello (1995), Hamlet (1996), Love’s Labour’s Lost (2000), and As You Like It (2006).  

Some of his other films include Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002), Valkyrie (2008), the blockbuster superhero film Thor (2011), Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (2014) and two Hercule Poirot whodunnit movies, Murder on the Orient Express (2017) and Death on the Nile (2022).

With a third Agatha Christie work that he has transferred to film, A Haunting in Venice, with Branagh, who was knighted in 2012, taking the lead of Poirot as actor and tending to producer and director duties.

STRIPLV: With the release of A Haunting in Venice, you return to the persona of Hercule Poirot,  just as you did in Death on the Nile. This character works well for you. Did you ever think, at times, it might not happen?
BRANAGH: There wasn’t really an option for it not to happen. We were all so totally invested in it at every turn, as were the financiers, that we were so far down the line. Obviously, we have had issues along the way, but pretty much every movie production does. What we went through is nothing new. The circumstances were, and the delay was prolonged, but you have to always factor in the concept that challenges and obstacles will come along. It’s just how you deal with them that counts, and what we are emerging with now is, in my opinion, cinematic luxury, with stories that we know and love being presented in a way that shapes so much style and opulence of the era and in incredible locations. For Death on the Nile, I don’t think we even really pushed the marketing so much, certainly not in the sense of hyping the thing out of all reasoning. That definitely wasn’t the intention. I think, instead, the reality is that these are either the sorts of movies that people want to see or don’t want to see. There are no floating voters to snap up.
STRIPLV: Do you still hang on to reviews?
BRANAGH: I think every actor does, yes. And when you’re acting, plus directing, producing, and a few other things, you cannot pretend you’re not wholly invested in the elements.
STRIPLV: Even at the heights of cinematic greatness, do you find bringing new projects to light and releasing them challenging?
BRANAGH: I haven’t got to my age and experience within this industry without remembering to be realistic, but when you’re choosing to be a vehicle of such a brilliant and much loved and respected writer like Agatha Christie still is, that helps a lot. I don’t think murder mysteries and thrilling stories like hers are ever going to die! So, as long as you can put a good and acceptable piece of work together, the audience is always going to go with you.
STRIPLV: And the idea for this latest Poirot release is based on Agatha Christie’s 1969 book Hallowe’en Party. 
BRANAGH: It was certainly in the back of my mind all along this journey that we’ve been on, yes. Although, I wasn’t planning for it to be the next on the list to be written on the slate, so to speak. It just sort of happened during a conversation. My mother was a huge fan of Agatha Christie, and it was something that I wanted to do for her memory, as well. I’d like to think that she would appreciate this, and Death on the Nile, and Murder on the Orient Express, and be proud of my efforts, all of our efforts, on this project.
STRIPLV: What must you do to get into the characterization of Hercule Poirot?
BRANAGH: Lots of research, lots of looking at how other actors have gone about the character, but also, lots of searching and yearning for originality. There is no point in me being the same Hercule Poirot that, say, David Suchet would be. You have to be your own character. You have to really study Agatha Christie’s words and accept that the interpretation we have seen on our screens before is only one interpretation. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a bloody good one, but if all you felt you were going to do was replicate what someone else had done on screen, then you really should just go home and put a film on. You must believe you can do something different and, yes, without sounding arrogant, better. Otherwise, don’t bother.
STRIPLV: But budgets for these movies are up to 100 million. The pressure has always been high to make them work.
BRANAGH: Hugely. They are big, big projects, and you have to believe the commitment will pay itself back, both financially and artistically. The thing with these films is that they could have been made on the cheap. In fact, they are stories that have been told in many different ways and never with this sort of backing, and that’s fine. But I think for us, they are such iconic stories, albeit often confined to stage or screen. In truth, what that extra finance gives you is detail and delivery. It’s the fine details that really begin to shine when you have a bigger budget to play with. It’s the luxury of doing something really good and knowing you have the time to go back and take another look at something if it hasn’t quite come through the way you had expected. It’s quality control.
STRIPLV: You’ve worked with an intelligent cross-section of actors and actresses. Who, across the years, has impressed you most when perhaps you didn’t expect them to? Or you did expect them to, but they went an extra yard further?
BRANAGH: Wow, that’s a difficult question to answer. How can I do all the actors and actresses I’ve worked with justice by just naming a couple? Okay, if I had to pick two right now, I would probably say Chris Pine is a smart, sexy lad, but he’s also complex and intelligent. He’s got wit, which always goes such a long way in this industry. Above and beyond that, though, he doesn’t take himself too seriously. He has a bit of a twinkle in his eye, and he could make you believe that he really is the character he is portraying. You can assume that all actors do that, but they don’t. What I probably admire most about him is his commitment. He will either lose that drive for detail as his career goes on or will move in completely the other direction and become a perfectionist. Take it from me: it’s better to be the former rather than the latter.
STRIPLV: And an actress?
BRANAGH: I’ve really admired Keira Knightley. When she was cast for Jack Ryan, she had a real reputation up to that point of only really appearing in iconic period dramas. I saw her really step out of herself in taking on the role of Cathy Muller, and I was blown away. I mean, I have always thought she was just a terrific actress. There’s a kind of intelligent, witty kind of quality in her work. She was really a joy to work with and has forged a real and proper career in addition to being a great beauty who has made great period films because they sometimes go together. She looks wonderful in some of the things we have seen her in visually. People think, somehow, it’s easy, but she’s got a rigorous attitude toward her work, and she just happens to be a breathtakingly beautiful woman, as well.
STRIPLV: We live in an uncertain era that seems a world away from these Agatha Christie stories.
I know what you mean, and it’s frightening to think how, in such a short space of time, the whole world has changed. Obviously, technology is really the thing that has moved us away from that 1930s era, and I do understand when people become philosophical or maudlin about this romantic past age that, clearly, we are never going to get back. What I would say to that is, yes, it was a romantic era, but we have substituted that for a new era of entertainment and connectivity and, actually, knowledge. Life is also incredibly more convenient now. In the past to do the most basic things without technology could actually become profoundly different. People were largely uncontactable; people could lose their lives on the Nile and almost get away with it!
STRIPLV: Back in time, when you were that young, admiring Shakespearian director, did you want to make these big Hollywood productions? Or is it circumstance?
BRANAGH: It’s an evolution. When I started in the British film industry, it was really a famine at that time, so few movies were being made. These days, there are sets the size of Soho. You can’t get in. People are having to find spaces outside of studios because of the tax incentives, and the investment in filmmaking here is so huge, but I remember back then, it was very hard to even think you would be in a movie. Nowadays, that’s changed so completely, so one’s attitude towards it has changed. The industry has had a tough time of it over the past 18 months, but there is renewed optimism and exciting times and movies ahead!
A Place to Be:
Kenneth Branagh projects traverse the globe

This England

Branagh played the United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson in a limited television series, a drama about the ensuing events surrounding his government and the first wave of the Coronavirus outbreak in 2020.

The Road to El Dorado

Directed by Bibo Bergeron, this animated adventure comedy from DreamWorks saw Rosie Perez, Kevin Kline, Edward James Olmos, Tobin Bell, Armand Assante, and Elton John all voicing for the 2000 film.


Christopher Nolan’s brilliant 2017 action drama is based on the real-life events of the World War II battle. The allies are surrounded by the Nazis and evacuated, with Branagh playing Commander Bolton.

Death On The Nile

When a couple’s honeymoon in Egypt is cut short, Belgian detective Hercule Poirot (Branagh) tries to solve the riddle of who murdered the newly wedded wife. It was the second time the Irish actor had played Agatha Christie’s super sleuth, but not the last!