No Shakespeare this time round for KENNETH BRANAGH. Today he's sporting a Georgia accent and bringing John Grisham’s The Gingerbread Man to the screen with Robert Altman.
Words: Hannah Fries
‘Afternoon.’ says Kenneth Branagh as he enters the room. He has the manner of a man who has popped into the corner shop for a pint of milk rather than one about to be grilled about his life and work. Self- confidence is the Branagh hallmark. and a relaxed and easy demeanour seems to come attached.
In The Gingerbread Man. which is directed by Robert Altman. Branagh plays a American lawyer who gets lured into a complex web of deceit. It’s a modern film noir and a generic departure for both actor and director. ‘I think I was about four millionth choice for the part.‘ Branagh admits casually — and indeed why would anyone think of him when casting for a man from Savannah. Georgia?
‘The first thing I was up against was the accent of
my character. Rick Magruder.‘ he says. ‘I suppose I had a bit of a cliched idea that the Southern accent was all a bit. you know. yee-hah Texan kind of thing. But there’s a lot of subtleties. a lot of Scots and Irish inﬂuences. It was tricky because Robert Altman likes to improvise and that’s when you start using expressions that find you out.
‘I did a stupid thing once when my character’s
50 THE lIST 23 Jul—6 Aug 1998
'Losing my Irish accent was a little bit about self- preservation.’ Kenneth Branagh
. 3'?“ . t ~»‘
Law and order: Kenneth Branagh. Daryl Hannah and Embeth Davidtz in The Gingerbread Man
kids are locked in the back of a car. I thought I was being a bit marvellous and got a bit carried away with myself. improvising. I’m banging on the back of the car going. "'I'hey’re in the boot. they‘re in the boot". And he goes. “('ut. cut. 'I'runk. trunk. What the fuck is a boot)". I practised the accent off set. speaking to the real Savannah people. But you feel a bit of a ‘nana. and people say. "What‘re you talking like that for. you‘re the Shakespeare guy. right‘.’".‘
Branagh will always be the Shakespeare guy. So far he has either directed. produced. written or starred in [Iv/Irv I'. .I’Illt'll .'I(/() About ADI/1mg. ()I/n'l/u and Hum/e1. With this behind him. it tends to be overlooked that Branagh. champion of English heritage. is not actually Iinglish.
'Losing my Irish accent was a little bit about self- preservation.‘ he admits. ‘My family moved to England from Belfast when I was nine. The Troubles were pretty intense at that time. We moved from an area where there was a big support network of brothers and sisters for my mother and father. to a slightly better house in a slightly more lower middle class area in Reading. But we were pretty isolated.
‘People literally couldn‘t understand us. The first day in school I just repeated myself again and again and again. After a while. that got me down. but I felt very ashamed of losing my accent. so I would be English at
and be Irish because I was so afraid of upsetting my mother. My brother went to school the first day and came back speaking in an English accent and never changed it. It caused tremendous ruptions in the family.'
To what degree this experience taught him to be an actor. we can't know. It does seem no coincidence. though. that the man who took English heritage off the bookshelf. dusted it down and whisked it to
Hollywood for popular treatment. was raised I
Selected release from Fri 24 Jul. See review.
school and I‘d come home i
The column that snaps the clapper-
board. CALIFORNIA'S PALM SPRINGS
International Short Film Festival Is chock-full of Scottish productions this year. Not one, not two, but ten Scottish shorts will be making their 3 way to the States for the bash,
which runs 29 Jul—4 Aug.
Included in the line-up are Lynne Ramsey's BAFTA and Cannes winner
Gasman, The Jealous Sister,
Unexplained Phenomena. Little Sisters and, appropriately enough, California Sunshine. Five other films screen out of competition at the
festival — Thicker Than Water,
Waterloo, Santa Claws, Magic
Moments and the documentary
When I'm 21.
APPLICATION FORMS ARE available for the next batch of Tartan Shorts awards. Script are invited from
writer/producer/director teams who have yet to make a feature debut.
The closing date for the BBC
. Scotland/Scottish Screen backed project is Fri 4 Sep, and forms are
, available from Judy Anderson,
Scottish Screen, 74 Victoria Crescent
Road, Glasgow, G12 9JN (0141 302
RIDLEY SCOTT, KATHY Burke and Lenny Henry are three of a five- member panel judging entries for the Orange Prize for Screenwriting and the Pathé Production Prize. This joint initiative aims to seek out new British talent, promising that the
winner will be produced by Pathé
' Pictures and is guaranteed to appear on UK cinema screens through the
company’s distribution arm.
The deadline is Wed 30 Sep, when
three winners of the £10,000
Orange Prize for Screenwriting go
forward to compete for the Pathé
' Production Prize. Submissions must be contemporary British stories
falling into the categories of
comedy, thriller or love story, and the competition is open to all first- time feature filmmakers over the
age of 18, residing in the UK.
Information is available on 07970
Waterloo: Scotland goes to Palm Springs