He has been on the big screen in the Big Apple doing Shakespeare a lot over the years but Kenneth Branagh is finally going to make his first appearance on the New York stage in Macbeth next summer. Fresh from a run this summer of the infamous Scottish play at the Manchester International Festival, the recently knighted actor will both co-direct and take on the lead role in the play at NYC’s Park Avenue Armory in June 2014. The actor will be joined in the New York Macbeth at the 55,000 square feet Armory by former ER star and former Royal Shakespeare Company member Alex Kingston. The actress also played Lady Macbeth in the UK version of the play last month. “I am delighted that we have the chance to recreate Macbeth in this epic setting,” said Branagh in a statement today. Though well known for his film turns in Henry V, Much Ado About Nothing, As You Like It and 1996’s Hamlet, for which the Thor director was nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay at that year’s Oscars, Macbeth is not only Branagh’s first onstage performance in New York but his first Bard performance since a 2002 role as Richard III.
Branagh To Tackle ‘Macbeth’ In Manchester
Kenneth Branagh is returning to the stage in his first Shakespeare role for more than a decade. In summer 2013, Branagh will take on Macbeth at the UK’s Manchester International Festival, the BBC reports. Branagh, who was recently knighted at Buckingham Palace, will give 17 performances as Macbeth in a new production by Emmy and Tony Award winner Rob Ashford. Branagh directed a film adaptation of Shakespeare’s Love’s Labours Lost in 2000, four years after his Oscar-nominated direction of a big-screen version of Hamlet. In 1995, he played Iago in Oliver Parker’s feature of Othello and in 1993 directed and starred in Much Ado About Nothing with his then-wife Emma Thompson. The first feature that brought him great acclaim in the U.S. was 1989’s Henry V for which he was nominated as Best Actor and Best Director.
Actor-director Kenneth Branagh has been knighted by Queen Elizabeth who also recognized actress Kate Winslet as a Commander of the British empire. Stage and screen veteran Branagh will now be known as Sir Kenneth. “I feel very humble about it, I feel elated about it,” he told the BBC. Branagh is currently directing and co-starring with Chris Pine in Paramount’s Tom Clancy reboot Jack Ryan. Winslet will be seen next in the ensemble comedy Movie 43 that opens January 25. Additionally Take That frontman Gary Barlow, a judge on the British version of X-Factor, received the Order of the British Empire.
Paramount’s ‘Jack Ryan’ Resurrecting Tom Clancy’s Hero Finally Set For 4th Quarter 2013; Keira Knightley Cast As Chris Pine’s Love Interest; Prequel Story Starts Trilogy
EXCLUSIVE: Deadline can now confirm the cast for this long gestating, highly anticipated action thriller that will be the first of an anticipated franchise trilogy. It resurrects the popular Tom Clancy character of CIA analyst Jack Ryan last seen on film in 2002 and now played by Chris Pine in the role already made famous by Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford, and Ben Affleck. After various starts and stops, bad luck and good fortune, Deadline also has learned that Jack Ryan finally has come together for a release in the 4th quarter of 2013.
Paramount chose to wait for Pine to complete the second installment of Star Trek in this contemporized original prequel story that picks up Ryan before he joined the CIA. (Paramount long ago locked in Pine after he played Captain Kirk.) His love interest and the female lead is Keira Knightley. Paramount was intensely searching because it’s a high profile role — an older version of the character was played by Anne Archer in the Harrison Ford films — and involves options that would potentially put the actress in three pictures.
As Deadline previously reported, Kevin Costner has an invented but key role as does the film’s director Kenneth Branagh who will play the Russian villain plotting to wreck the U.S. economy. Paramount began talks with the Thor helmer to replace the once-attached Jack Bender. Paramount courted Costner to become a linchpin in not only Jack Ryan but also the spinoff franchise Without Remorse based on Clancy’s 1993 novel. (The studio is now courting The Dark Knight Rises villain Tom Hardy to star, with Christopher McQuarrie rewriting to direct.) The deal that came together envisions Costner potentially headlining his own film as William Harper, a true blue American idealist who recruits and mentors both Ryan and John Kelly from Without Remorse. Kelly later becomes CIA operative Clark.
Paramount like every studio is looking to build tentpoles and has a good opportunity for more than one here by cross-pollinating characters Ryan and Clark like The Avengers successfully keeps doing.
Branagh recently described the movie as “an original story that allows us to understand how Jack Ryan develops into a CIA analyst, before joining, and perhaps even joining, the CIA. It’s a very contemporary action thriller set in the here and now.” its launching point is mentioned in Clancy’s The Hunt For Red October book and film: a terrifying helicopter crash that nearly killed Ryan when he was a 23-year-old Marines platoon leader and the only member to survive.
Paramount Pictures and co-financier Skydance Productions went top shelf to get the franchise relaunch to the starting line and hired David Koepp for 7-figures to redraft the script by Adam Cozad known as Moscow. Cozad was a screenwriter without a screen credit and yet now is in the middle of some of the bigger projects in town.
Paramount is in talks with Thor helmer Kenneth Branagh to replace Jack Bender as the director of the long gestating Jack Ryan relaunch that Chris Pine will star in after completing the second installment of Star Trek. David Koepp has been rewriting the script.
Kenneth Branagh’s wickedly funny portrayal of Sir Laurence Olivier in the Weinstein Co’s My Week With Marilyn has earned pretty much every awards-season nomination available and also landed him an Oscar nom for Best Supporting Actor. It’s fitting, as comparisons with Olivier have dogged Branagh throughout his career: Early on, he was touted as “the next Laurence Olivier,” and like Olivier he founded his own theatre company before going on to direct and star in movie versions of Shakespeare’s Henry V and Hamlet. While married to Emma Thompson, the two were compared to Olivier and wife Vivien Leigh, the reigning monarchs of British theatre. Branagh admits all the Olivier comparisons gave him pause before accepting the role. AwardsLine contributor Tim Adler caught up with the actor in Sweden, where he is filming Wallander for the BBC, based on the bestselling Swedish detective novels.
AWARDSLINE: When you were a teenager you wrote to Laurence Olivier for acting advice. Why? And what advice did he give you?
BRANAGH: I was 19 years old at the time. I was struggling with a role in Chekhov’s The Three Sisters playing the doctor, Chebutykin. Olivier had played him in a famous production that became the only film he made after The Prince And The Showgirl. He often blamed Marilyn for putting him off directing for the best part of 20 years. I remember asking Olivier if there was a painting or a book or a piece of music that in some way had inspired his performance, and he wrote back and said, “Yes, there had been all these things,” but it was up to me to find my own. His simple advice was just to “Have a bash and hope for the best.” In a way, it didn’t matter what he said. Here was a letter that I put up in my bedsit kitchen in north London with the letterhead of Laurence Olivier. Not only was he the unquestionable leader of his profession, he was also somebody kind enough to throw a few words of encouragement to a young actor.
Although there are some young Hollywood turks trying to break through in an ‘Extremely Large and Incredibly Close’ race for the Best Supporting Actor Oscar, 2011 may eventually become known as the year of the veteran. Acting legends with decades of iconic screen performances and Oscar winners dominate the field of frontrunners in one of Oscar’s most crowded and intriguing categories. With names like Christopher Plummer, Max von Sydow, Ben Kingsley, Nick Nolte, George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Albert Brooks, Kenneth Branagh, Tom Hanks and Robert Forster in the mix, the pedigree of contenders for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role is formidable indeed. But could a relative newcomer like Jonah Hill or Patton Oswalt swoop in and take the whole thing? Here are the major players.
CHRISTOPHER PLUMMER, BEGINNERS
Plummer turns 82 this month and is enjoying a major resurgence in a film acting career that goes back to 1958, when he made his debut in Stage Struck. Since then his fine screen roles have often been eclipsed by his own stage-struck ways with a number of memorable performances in the theater including a couple that won him Tony Awards. He only just received his first Oscar nomination two years ago for The Last Station, but with his touching role as a 75-year-old widower who finally decides to come out of the closet, he may grab the actual statuette this time. An effective, if small, supporting role in The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo only adds to his chances.
MAX von SYDOW, EXTREMELY LOUD AND INCREDIBLY CLOSE
With a life spent before the cameras for over 60 years, the 82-year-old von Sydow is an acting legend whose work ranges from several landmark Ingmar Bergman films to the harrowing Exorcist. Yet like Plummer (who is just eight months his junior), he incredibly has been Oscar-nominated only once, for 1987’s Pelle the Conqueror. But his touching and completely wordless performance as a distant grandfather in Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close could finally be his ticket to the Kodak stage.
KENNETH BRANAGH, MY WEEK WITH MARILYN
Another acting icon, Laurence Olivier, is also part of this year’s supporting race — but in this case he is being channeled by none other than Olivier fan and student Kenneth Branagh, who portrays Olivier in 1956 as he was directing and starring with Marilyn Monroe in The Prince And The Showgirl. Branagh has tackled many Olivier screen roles like Henry V and Hamlet (he even directed the remake of Olivier’s Sleuth), but taking on the actual persona of the man himself was particularly challenging and puts him — and his mentor — right back in the Oscar race.
BEN KINGSLEY, HUGO
Already an Oscar winner for 1982’s Gandhi, Kingsley effectively takes on the role of film pioneer Georges Melies in Martin Scorsese’s valentine to the early days of movies. With a total of four nominations split evenly between lead and supporting categories, Kingsley is an Academy favorite who once again creates a memorable character, one with great meaning for the filmmakers who will be voting. Will being the only serious candidate in a 3D movie also separate him from the pack?
ALBERT BROOKS, DRIVE
Until now Brooks was only known for comedy — those he wrote and directed and those he starred in. He was even previously Oscar-nominated for his hilarious supporting turn in 1987’s Broadcast News. But none of his previous work prepared critics and audiences for his nasty, villainous Bernie Rose in the noirish thriller Drive. But his brilliant interpretation and cool new screen persona should deservedly win him a second Oscar nomination.
BRAD PITT, THE TREE OF LIFE
Pitt is a double threat this year. He’s already won the New York Film Critics award given for both Moneyball and The Tree Of Life, and ever since its debut in Cannes, Terrence Malick’s Palme d’Or winner has sparked Oscar buzz for Pitt’s effectively low-key change-of-pace and critically acclaimed work as a 1950s-era father. Could he become one of those rare thesps who score both supporting and lead actor nominations in the same year? Don’t bet against it.
JONAH HILL, MONEYBALL
Pitt’s co-star in Moneyball who was best known for his antics in movies like Superbad enjoyed his first taste of awards buzz for shedding several pounds and shrewdly underplaying the whiz-kid genius who comes up with an inexpensive formula to create a winning baseball team. Going head to head with Pitt, Hill proved he could hold his own just as he did in last year’s lesser-known Cyrus.
KEVIN SPACEY, MARGIN CALL
Although the film was well-received at its Sundance debut, Margin Call was not considered a major awards contender, even by its own distributor. That has changed with several early awards and Oscar talk for two-time winner Kevin Spacey, who has spent a lot more time in recent years running London’s Old Vic rather than on his own film career. A change-of-pace performance won raves and could put Spacey back in the front row at the Oscars.
PATTON OSWALT, YOUNG ADULT
Perhaps best known as a stand-up comedian and the voice of the lead rat in Pixar’s Ratatouille, Oswalt is quickly establishing his credentials as a serious actor, first in the critically acclaimed indie film The Big Fan and now on a larger scale as a lonely man whose life was defined by an unfortunate incident in high school. His scenes opposite Charlize Theron are awkward, funny, poignant and memorable.
EXCLUSIVE: After a rousing response to the New York Film Festival premiere of My Week with Marilyn last Sunday, The Weinstein Company has added the film to this weekend’s Hamptons International Film Festival. My Week With Marilyn will screen …
Is Marilyn Monroe finally headed toward that Oscar nomination which eluded her during the actress’ all-too-short film career? In an odd twist of fate, yes. With the world premiere Sunday night of The Weinstein Company’s My Week With Marilyn at the New York Film Festival, another presumed awards contender is out of the gate. And if I were Meryl, Glenn, Charlize, Viola, or any other lead actress Oscar hopeful, I would be nervous: Michelle Williams as Marilyn is that good. Sexy, vulnerable, fragile, alluring, seductive, delectable, complex, and all things in between, she nails it and certainly has claimed a spot among the top five if not frontrunner status for the Oscar itself. She also flawlessly sings a couple of Monroe standards as bookends for the film. Marilyn herself never managed to get any kind of Oscar recognition. Now, oddly, Monroe and her unique appeal could figure strongly in the 2011 Best Actress race as channeled through Michelle Williams.
I saw the film Sunday night at a small last-minute screening in Beverly Hills timed to coincide with its New York premiere. (Sony Classics did the same thing for Carnage when it opened NYFF over a week ago, just as Fox Searchlight did when The Tree Of Life premiered in Cannes.) It makes us die-hard West Coasters feel included in the hoopla, I guess. At the very least it’s smart Oscar strategy: an Academy acting branch member I talked to afterwards was totally under Williams’ spell.
The movie due for release November 4th is directed by British tv producer/director Simon Curtis. It is, along with Midnight In Paris, The Artist and The Descendants, one of the most purely entertaining films I’ve seen so far this year. I would imagine it will have great appeal for the same voters who supported Weinstein’s Best Picture winner The King’s Speech last year. But realistically its best shot is in performance and some below-the-line categories like Costume Design and Art Direction. I have to confess that, after seeing some selected footage that was shown at the Weinstein party in Cannes last May, I had my doubts about Williams as Monroe. But those concerns were completely erased in the context of the entire film where she gets to show three distinctly different sides of the star without ever drifting into impersonation. Williams had doubts, too, when she was making the film last year in England. When I did a phone interview with her between takes and talked about her nominated turn in Blue Valentine, I asked about playing Marilyn. But she fumbled through an answer and could not articulate what it meant then, much like the real Monroe when she was making the real film-within-the-film.
As Deadline told you yesterday, Marvel Studios needs a director for Thor 2 with Kenneth Branagh departing, but they have got a writer. Marvel has set Don Payne, one of the credited scribes on the first film, to script …
Sony Pictures has acquired Shadow Runner, a pitch for an action thriller that will star Thor’s Chris Hemsworth. Beau Flynn and Tripp Vinson will produce through the Contrafilm banner with ROAR’s Will Ward. Studio’s keeping the fictional project under wraps, but this deal has taken awhile to come together, and its original genesis was an idea by Drive scribe Hossein Amini. The inspiration was an incident in which an Israeli assassination team targeted a Hamas leader whom the Israelis believe murdered several soldiers and helped stockpile Iranian-made missiles. He was tracked to Dubai, and the Israelis managed to smuggle in an entire 17-person hit team to take him out in the corridor of a five-star hotel. The operatives were captured on a hotel security camera trailing after the victim, reemerging and getting on the elevator after he was killed. I’m told that the film won’t replicate those events, but Hemsworth will lead an elite team of operatives who take on impossible tasks. Amini will be exec producer.