Sir Laurence Olivier’s Advice to a Young Kenneth Branagh: “Have a bash and hope for the best”
Let’s be honest: what current actor would you pick to play fifty-year-old Sir Laurence Olivier in a movie? There’s really only one logical choice to play such a significant Shakespearean actor: Kenneth Branagh, also fifty, who is likewise known for his Shakespearean roles.
Branagh, who appears as Olivier in My Week With Marilyn, which chronicles a period during the time when Olivier was directing and co-starring with Marilyn Monroe in the 1957 film The Prince and the Showgirl.
It’s important to note that the teenaged Branagh wrote Olivier for advice about a difficult role while going to acting school. Olivier, however, replied not with technical advice but a note that said “have a bash and hope for the best.” While acting as Olivier Branagh reflected on that advice, especially when in came to reenacting Olivier’s difficulties with dealing with Monroe on the set. He explains, “I suppose what his simple remark belied was just the feeling one senses in his dealings with Marilyn, that sometimes you just have to do it. Don’t talk about it or prepare it. That was one of the problems between them. He believed you show up and give it your best and your best ought to be good enough, and she (Marilyn) believed you didn’t show up until you were going to be superb.”
Overall, Branagh was impressed by Williams’ transformation into Monroe. He raves, “She immersed herself in everything to do with the technical: look, walk, sound of the voice. She seems, in any given scene where she was being Marilyn, to make this imaginative leap into her own actor’s estimation of what she thought the real Marilyn was. I admired her very much for how should could do everything people expected of her. She was immersed and very focused.”
My Week With Marilyn is now playing in limited release.