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

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/2015/06/channing-tatum-magic-mike-xxl.jpg
Channing Tatum’s Reddit AMA Covered Everything from ‘Magic Mike XXL’, His “Bad” Acting in ‘Step Up’ and Frozen Poop
"I do get nervous to act, it kind of depends on what it is really." - Channing Tatum
http://www.dailyactor.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/true-detective-taylor-kitsch.jpg
Taylor Kitsch on Living Up to Season One of ‘True Detective’ and Sleeping on New York City Subways
"I had someone very close to me say to me that hopefully I’ll have many more ups and downs, not in just my career but in life. If you don’t have that, you’re not taking enough risks." - Taylor Kitsch
http://www.dailyactor.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/Sutton-Foster-Younger.jpg
Sutton Foster Talks Ageism and Her Need To Be Creative
"Even when I’m not working, I’m still working on something because I just want to create something." - Sutton Foster
http://www.dailyactor.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/brian-wilson-paul-dano-love-and-mercy.jpg
Paul Dano on Playing Beach Boy Brian Wilson: “I’ll probably never find a better acting job”
"Learning to play Brian’s songs, without question, brought me closer to the character." - Paul Dano on playing Brian Wilson in Love & Mercy
http://www.dailyactor.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/david-oyelowo-nightingale.jpg
David Oyelowo On Why He Became A Method Actor
“You can’t afford for there to be gaps in your pool of knowledge when it comes to a character, otherwise what ends up onscreen is generalized and unspecific" - David Oyelowo