Kenneth Branagh: Sir Anthony Convinced Me To Play Sir Laurence

Kenneth Branagh

Kenneth Branagh as Sir Laurence Olivier in My Week With Marilyn

You know if you get a mirror, and then you put a mirror up in front of it, and you get endless reflections, tailing off into green infinity? That’s got to be what it’s like to be an actor playing a famous actor, right? Especially if you’re recreating a moment when that actor plays someone else.

Kenneth Branagh is someone who could tell us about the experience, having recently played Sir Laurence Olivier in a low-budget movie called My Week With Marilyn. It’s the story of Colin Clark, who was employed as Marilyn Monroe’s assistant for a week in 1957, during the shooting of The Prince and the Showgirl, which also starred a spectacularly grumpy Sir Laurence.

The film stars Michelle Williams as Marilyn, and was shot while Kenneth was finishing directing work on Thor. And it was while talking to another knighted thespian, Sir Anthony Hopkins, on the set of that film that he decided to take on the role of Sir Laurence.

He told Forbes: “I ran at it with a relish for acting which was borne out of partly, literally seeing Tony Hopkins at work, and the others, but also talking to Tony, who had worked with Olivier himself.”

“[He] knew him well, and had many war stories, many intimate observations of the way Olivier was, and that to some extent gave me the confidence to try and do it.”

So, to recap, we’ve got an actor advising an actor on how to play an actor in a film in which an actor acts. See what I mean? Green infinity… everywhere!

Who’s better though, Sir Anthony or Sir Laurence. Tell us here.

Fraser McAlpine

Fraser has been writing and broadcasting about music and popular culture for over 13 years, first at the Top of the Pops website, and most recently for the NME. He also wrote BBC Radio 1's Chart Blog and reviews albums for BBC Music.

He is Anglophenia's current resident Brit, blogging about British slang and running around the Mall taking snaps of the crowd at the Royal Wedding, as well as reigniting a childhood passion for classic Doctor Who and cramming as much music in as he can manage.

Fraser invites you to join him on Twitter: @csi_popmusic

See more posts by Fraser McAlpine