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Kenneth Branagh cements status as Hollywood star


Kenneth Branagh during the Hand And Footprint Ceremony at TCL Chinese Theatre on October 26, 2017 in Hollywood, California. Christopher Polk/Getty Images/AFP Christopher Polk / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP

Kenneth Branagh joined the galaxy of screen icons to leave their mark on Hollywood on Thursday as he plunged his hands and feet into cement at the TCL Chinese Theater.

The Northern Irishman was hailed as the new Laurence Olivier at the start of a 35-year career that has seen him move from Shakespearean stage actor to movie star and acclaimed director.

Considered one of the most talented British actors of his generation, he has five Oscar nominations — all in different categories — and a further five nods at the Golden Globes, although both prizes have eluded him.


“It’s very, very touching,” the 56-year-old told AFP after planting his bare feet in the cement on Hollywood Boulevard, in a ceremony attended by “Murder on the Orient Express” co-stars Josh Gad and Leslie Odom Jr.

“If you come here as a kid and you’ve walked these streets and counted these names and these footprints, really you never imagine to be part of it, so being part of it is really a big thrill.”

Branagh listened to recordings of Olivier reading the Bible to perfect his idol’s clipped 1950s tones in “My Week With Marilyn” (2011), for which he earned his last Oscar nomination, for best supporting actor.

His first nods came in 1989 — best actor and director for “Henry V” — and three years later he was nominated again for best live action short film for “Swan Song”, before another nod for the adapted screenplay of “Hamlet” (1996).

Kenneth Charles Branagh was born on December 10, 1960 to a Protestant family in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The family moved to Reading, west of London, when Branagh was nine to escape the sectarian unrest gripping the city.

He trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and won acclaim for his early performances, including the Royal Shakespeare Company’s 1984 production of “Henry V”.

The actor has also tackled roles on the small screen including “Conspiracy”, “Shackleton” and most recently “Wallander”, in which his performance as a Swedish detective earned him his first television BAFTA award in 2009.

Branagh was married to Emma Thompson, his co-star in several films, from 1989 to 1995 and then had a relationship with British actress Helena Bonham Carter. He married film art director Lindsay Brunnock in 2003.

Branagh described 20th Century Fox’s backing of the upcoming “Murder on the Orient Express,” his 16th directing project, as an “adventurous and courageous” departure from the usual superhero fare.

“From preview audience responses, it seems that they are really ready for something that has a different kind of scope,” Branagh told AFP.

“It takes you on that train, introduces you to a lot of very interesting characters that are all beautifully played by really significant actors and I think people are ready for that escapist moment.”

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