It's difficult to imagine now, but there was a time--call it in the early 1990s--when Kenneth Branagh was the biggest young celebrity in Britain. He wasn't yet 30 when he directed and starred in Henry V in 1989, but people were already comparing him to Laurence Olivier. As a director, he had an eye for imposing images and unpredictable performers. His marriage to and divorce from co-star Emma Thompson set off a London tabloid frenzy, yes, but it was cut from a better cloth than the usual football wife scandal. Branagh was going to go places as an actor and a director.
And he has. Just not the places most people expected. Case in point: his new movie Thor, which has opened to solid reviews this weekend, is about a blond superhero with a hammer. If the thought of the ex-next great Shakespearean actor tackling such a project sounds silly, well, that's been a Branagh specialty over the past 15 years. Some of his goofiest contributions as an actor and director include:
Dead Again (1991)
The mashup of gothic horror and Raymond Chandler is probably Branagh's best movie as a director. It's also insane, jumping back and forth between past lives, phony psychics, Robin Williams, and an unsolved string of scissor murders from decades earlier. As with future projects, it also expects us to ignore that the Bogart role is being played by Kenneth Branagh. (Maybe the filmmakers hoped the audience would be too busy admiring the stark black-and-white imagery to notice.)