MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING FEATURE
Thompson & Branagh: ‘neat husband-and-wife ln-lokes.‘
even direct them. I don’t need Hollywood.’ Even if a body of work co-penned by Thompson and the Bard were to appear, you can be sure that there would be a role for Ken somewhere, as a footsoldier at least. When The List last featured her, back in I988, she would only hint that she was ‘spoken for’ when quizzed about her relationship with Branagh. Five years on, the pair are making their fourth big screen appearance together in a lively adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing. Branagh, as director, has brought Shakespeare’s comedy of love and deceit to merry life amidst the sun-
drenched hills of Tuscany. The film is also
notable for its brave mix of British thesps and Hollywood stars — namely Denzel Washington, Keanu Reeves and Michael Keaton — all of whom acquit themselves with honours. Thompson and Branagh play Beatrice and Benedick, headstrong antagonists who finally see sense and become lovers. lnevitably, there are neat little husband-and-wife in-jokes, but the film’s sharpest humour comes when they send sparks flying with rapier thrusts of Shakespeare’s verbal wit. Much Ado About
‘I decided thatl ; would use this ' opportunity to
play, for the first
time really, female anger andrageﬂ- Emma Thompson
Nothing gives further proof of Thompson’s comic ability demonstraed in The Tall Guy, Tutti Frutti and Peter’s Friends, although the attempt to develop her own solo television series Thompson just didn’t work.
‘It helps a lot that we know each other, because they know each other from before,’ she says of, respectively, her husband and the characters. ‘The relationship itself, it seems to me, is a fantastic blueprint for men and women because they meet on such equal ground. It’s rare that you see that in modern stories. There’s an awful lot to be Ieamed about love and about relationships, and about what frustrates men and women, what brings them together, how alike we are at the same time as being different, and how much we have to offer each other.
‘I imagine that when Beatrice was little, she played with the boys and, when they were taken off to learn how to joust and how to ride, she said, “I want to do that”, but was told that she couldn’t. That was the point at which she finally understood there was this bam'er: that, somehow, just because she was a woman, she was not allowed to fight, she was not allowed to defend herself or her friends or her country. I figured at that point she got pretty angry. I decided that I would use this opportunity to play, for the first time really, female anger and rage, which is not, generally speaking, found very acceptable. If I drink too much red wine, I tend to get into a rage about something, and I’ll choose someone — it doesn’t matter who — and just rail and rail and go on and on. There’s this constant thing that you keep trapped down most of the time, but sometimes it just has to come out. When you get angry, it’s seen as not very feminine, whereas of course it’s just human.’
Not an actress to sit back and bask in award- winning glory or snuggle into hubby’s shadow, Thompson has always had plenty to say for herself. The daughter of Scottish actress Phyllidia Law and Magic Roundabout man Eric Thompson, she began her stage career while studying English Literature at Cambridge University. taking part in the Footlights Revue. Her solo show Short Vehicle brought her to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 1984, and soon afterwards she starred with Robert Lindsay in the West End revival of Me And My Girl. Thompson’s ﬁrst awards came courtesy of BAFTA for two TV roles — in Tutti Frutti and Fortunes of War — and she also received critical acclaim for her portrayal of the Fool in the Renaissance Theatre production of King Lear, which ended its eight-month world tour at the Edinburgh Festival in 1990. She will next be seen rejoining Anthony Hopkins and the Merchant Ivory team in The Remains Of The Day, a before tackling the contentious role of Gerry Conlon’s crusading lawyer -- - e- i in an account of the Guildford bombing, In The Name Of The Father.
Even so, with the Oscar adding Hollywood ere to an already impressive career, she’s not getting complacent. The Shakespeare rewrites may just have been in jest, but she is putting pen to paper in order to adapt Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility for the screen and to create a host of juicy female roles for fellow actresses. Not one to let a spotlit platform pass by, even her Oscar acceptance speech included a few attacks at the skimpy parts offered to women.
‘What I said at the Oscars was that I hoped,
because they called it the Year of the Woman, that there would be more roles created to represent women the way that they are and not
women the way they seem to be in movies,’ she '
explains. ‘When you get to about 40-45, or indeed after the menopause, there’s that point when women become sort of non-beings - they’re no longer sexual beings and you feel as though somehow you’re going to be put out to pasture. And I can see that moment looming, so I want to prepare now. It’s much better in Europe, I have to say. European films do tend to present women somewhat more realisitically — right down to the armpit hair and everything.’ And there lies the crucial dilemma of showbusiness: Academy Award glory or the freedom to toss away the Gillette. Maybe the Branagh nameplate won’t be switching to a door in Beverly Hillsjust yet. CI Much Ado About Nothing opens in Scotland on Friday 2 7 August.
‘A BIT OF A PICNIC...’
leader of the pack: Denzel Washington flanked by Keanu
Reeves, Robert Sean Leonard, Kennett: Brennagb end otbers.
KENNETH BRANAGN, director and continued batchelor Benediek:
‘Having played it in the theatre, it felt like a country play. I felt it should be outside, it should respond to landscape, to nature, to grapes and wine and bread and cheese and sweat - the colours and smells of the countryside — to evoke that kind of sensual experience for the audience.’
KEANU REEVES, the twisted and bittered Don John:
‘I had a line as Trinculo in The Tempest where I had to say “Excellent!” . . . so [always thought of Bill and Ted as a kind of Shakespearean clown show in the way that they used the language and spiritual harmony. I read the play a bunch of
times with Mr Branagh, and tried to come up with
the emotions and thoughts for Don John, and speciﬁcs, and how I felt with all of the people I
was looking at and who I was surrounded with, to
cultivate an emotional and psychological realm.’
DENZEI. WASHINGTON, the noble Don Pedro: ‘When I saw Ken ’5 Henry V, I loved the film and said to myself I would love the opportunity to work with him. What do I get out of Shakespeare? An opportunity to grow as an actor. I like to do a lot of different kinds of roles, and obviously Shakespeare presents a different challenge than Malcolm X. It allowed me to prepare in an entirely different way — basically, drinking wine.’
KENNETH BRANAGII, on Michael Keaton’s rendition of loony sheriff llogberry:
‘This mod, psychotic policeman comes into the play at a moment when Shakespeare demands an injection of sheer silliness and a certain kind of danger. Michael and] were both determined that he should come on and be as mad as a hatter, be clearly several sandwiches short of a picnic, and therefore be that terribly dangerous combination
of a slightly stupid man who thinks he 's a genius. J
The List 27 August—9 September i99313