While you might now know him best as the fantastical filmmaker behind works like Thor and beloved actor in works like Dunkirk, Kenneth Branagh got his screen start adapting one of our most beloved writers’ works for the screen: William Shakespeare. Yeah, ever heard of him? Branagh has directed and starred in wonderful film versions of Shakespeare’s Henry V, Hamlet, Much Ado About Nothing, and many more. When speaking to our own Steve Weintraub about his upcoming Disney+ film Artemis Fowl, Branagh hinted that future Shakespeare films are never far from his mind: and that they might be animated.
Weintraub began by asking if Branagh was “close” to making another one. Branagh’s response reminds me a little of a certain Incredible Hulk:
I’m always close to doing another one, you know. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about animated Shakespeare, but I always wait for the moment when the desire to do it becomes an absolute need and not just a want, not just a sort of desire but an absolute persistent need, because that’s how you’re probably going to achieve it. And so animated Shakespeare, King Lear is a project that’s been circling me for quite some time. These things I know also benefit from sort of long term marination. I try and do that and listen to the universe as to whether there’s a moment to try and put your foot down on the accelerator if you’re in a position to do anything about that. So yes, I’ve been close, but so far the time hasn’t arrived for another one thus far.
First of all: I need to see a Branagh-directed King Lear film, and I need it yesterday. The play is one of my favorites of Shakespeare’s, a tragedy about a mad king who forces his daughters to vie for his affection in hopes of gaining the crown next, and Branagh’s take on it could plunge into darkness in fascinating ways (maybe get Thor star Anthony Hopkins to play the title role?).
Second of all: An animated Shakespeare film from Branagh? Hello, yes please! Would that be King Lear or something else? Here’s what the film maestro had to say:
An obvious one that actually came into my mind a lot when I was doing Artemis Fowl was A Midsummer Night’s Dream, simply because the use of magic by Shakespeare in that play is such a fantastic invitation to the human imagination. And so the world of visual effects as we now know it can find a way to interpret a character like Puck saying, “I’ll put a girdle ’round the earth in 40 minutes” in ways that could really give you such a cinematic thrill in all sorts of forms. Animation, IMAX animation, who knows. So I continue to enjoy noodling and percolating.
Wowie and zowie. A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Shakespeare’s wonderfully whimsical fantasy comedy (starring a certain Gregory Lawrence as Bottom in a certain fifth grade production back in the day), would make a phenomenal animated film, especially if you frame that sucker for IMAX screens. Maybe working with Christopher Nolan, lover of IMAX cameras, has rubbed off on Mr. Branagh.
So, to recap, we need a Branagh King Lear and animated Midsummer Night’s Dream as soon as possible.