Sir Laurence Olivier’s Advice to a Young Kenneth Branagh: “Have a bash and hope for the best”

  • Pin It

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

In an interview in The Star, Branagh talks about playing Olivier and working with Michelle Williams, who also immersed herself in her own role.

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.”  Ever the perfectionist, Branagh got into the role as one of his acting idols by not only listening to Olivier’s recordings while in the makeup chair (getting that perfect Olivier cleft chin, of course), but by visiting Olivier’s home at the time, where he lived with then-wife Vivian Leigh.  But perhaps the greatest perk was working with Michelle Williams, who — even more than Branagh — immersed herself in her role.  Branagh points out that in regard to Williams as Monroe, “It’s a very difficult role and one she arrived at having a master-class amount of detail. She was an encyclopedia.  Michelle is who I went to with all questions on Marilyn. She was the on-set research resource.”

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.

Leave a Reply

http://www.dailyactor.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/watch-andy-serkis-talks-motion-c.jpg
Watch: Andy Serkis Talks Motion Capture, His Career and More
This week saw the release of the final film in The Lord of the Rings saga, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies. Out of the dozens of actors who appeared in the series, the one whose career was most defined by the six-film franchise is Andy Serkis, who portrayed Gollum in the series […]
http://www.dailyactor.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/dan-stevens-summer-in-february.jpg
Dan Stevens Recalls When Shia LaBeouf Disrupted One of His Broadway Performances: “I wish I’d had a broadsword then”
Though Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb is billed as the final movie in the fantasy series, it still incorporates some new blood into the mix alongside franchise favorites like Ben Stiller and Robin Williams. The most significant new addition is Dan Stevens of Downton Abbey, who plays Lancelot. Lancelot doesn’t realize that […]
http://www.dailyactor.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/bradley-cooper-the-elephant-man.jpg
Bradley Cooper Takes A Grad School Dream To The Broadway Stage With, ‘The Elephant Man’
Bradley Cooper is proving to be an actor who wants a career defined by strong work. Instead of solely relying upon franchises like The Hangover, the Oscar nominee is mixing it up again between the big screen and the stage. Cooper is starring in The Elephant Man on Broadway this theatre season. It’s a role […]
http://www.dailyactor.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/bob-balaban-a-delicate-balance.jpg
Bob Balaban on Being a Character Actor: “It’s what I do and who I am and I really enjoy it”
With Glenn Close and John Lithgow in the cast of Broadway’s A Delicate Balance, it’s okay if you didn’t notice that veteran actor Bob Balaban is also in the cast. Balaban, who is probably best known for his roles in Christopher Guest‘s mockumentaries and for his supporting roles in dozens of other films, has returned […]
http://www.dailyactor.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/michael-c-hall-hedwig.jpg
Michael C. Hall on His Broadway Life After ‘Dexter': “There was a desire to perform an exorcism”
When it was announced that Michael C. Hall was replacing Andrew Rannells in Hedwig and the Angry Inch on Broadway, it was a bit of a surprise. It wasn’t that people thought Hall couldn’t pull off the role of a transgender rock star — he was previously on Broadway as the Master of Ceremonies in […]