It takes a lot of bravery for an actor to bare all when filming a movie, but even more so night after night live on stage. Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe famously performed naked in a 2007 theatrical production of Equus opposite Uncle Vernon Dursley star Richard Griffiths. But it turns out Gilderoy Lockhart actor Sir Kenneth Branagh was shamed when he went nude playing the patron saint of animals during his early acting career.
Appearing on The Graham Norton Show this evening, Sir Ken recalled how performing naked on stage was the only time his grandmother saw him act in the theatre.
The 61-year-old said: “It took a lot to get her to leave Ireland, but we finally persuaded her. I was playing St Francis of Assisi and had to be ‘reborn’ naked. My granny was in the front row with opera glasses, but I really went for it. When someone at the back shouted, ‘I’ve seen more meat on a dirty fork,’ my grandmother stood up, turned around and said to him, ‘Use the binoculars – it’s like a hot dog!’ She was always protecting me!”
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Sir Ken was promoting his new movie Belfast, a big Oscars contender that’s inspired by his childhood in Northern Ireland.
Asked what prompted him to direct this story, he said: “During lockdown everything became about re-establishing human connection. That sent me right back to my childhood at a very uncertain time in Northern Ireland and the need for human contact, for laughter and dance, and all the daftness we could grab at a dark time, and I tried to write it as truthfully as I could.”
The 61-year-old, who also returns as Poirot in Death on Nile next month, spoke of reuniting with Dame Judi Dench in their “incest theatre company”.
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Sir Ken added: “We have worked together 12 times now. We’ve practically done everything; we’ve been married, I’ve been her son, she’s now my grandmother in this film – it’s like the incest theatre company!” Adding, “I did a complete read-through for her before she agreed to do the part and about halfway through, I got very emotional and got choked up. She held the pause while I composed myself and then said, ‘I would be delighted to do it.’”
Belfast is in UK cinemas now and Death on the Nile lands on February 11, 2022. The Graham Norton Show airs tonight on BBC One at 10:35pm and streams on BBC iPlayer.
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