A much-loved face rarely off our screens, Sir Kenneth Branagh has 
directed and starred in some great British films, including Henry V, Murder on the Orient Express and the 
Harry Potter series.

Now the 59-year-old 
reveals it was his childhood 
in Belfast that spawned his love of storytelling.

‘There were a lot of us. 
My mother had 11 siblings, my father had five, so I had dozens of cousins. We would all meet in each other’s houses and, of course, this is in 
the pre-internet, pre-large-numbers-of-television-channels age, so when we did meet, the members of the family would start telling stories.’

He affectionately recalls 
that the tales would grow taller as the gatherings wore on, starting at ancient Belfast and ending at giants and trolls.

He adds, ‘I grew up with 
a real sense 
of delight in storytelling, 
along with 
a complete lack of concern about whether the story in question was true or not – as they say, the Irish have never let the truth get in the way of a good story!’

It’s a memory he has woven into the most recent film 
he has directed, entitled Artemis Fowl. The movie, based on the series of young-adult novels of the same name by Eoin Colfer, features a 12-year-old boy genius whose search for his missing father takes him into 
a secret fantasy world. All good fun 
for the under 
12s, but it does seem 
a somewhat unexpected choice from 
a man who has played such powerful roles as Hamlet and epic explorer Shackleton.

‘Not at all,’ he says briskly. ‘I think that part of the 
journey in life is discovering who you are, and that is 
often at its most revealing when you are a child. I like 
to meditate, and part of what meditation teaches you is 
a self-remembering – which 
is, basically, trying to find 
a way to access that part 
of you that was there when you were small. There was 
a clarity about the way 
in which you understood sometimes very complex things, which later in life your own so-called sophistication gets in the way of.’

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As for working with the younger actors – in particular Ferdia Shaw as Artemis and Lara McDonnell as LEPRecon officer Holly Short – he says it was nothing short of an education.

‘They were miles ahead of what I would have regarded myself as being at that stage, in terms of their awareness 
of technology, the quality of their imagination, their ability to process the idea of multiple worlds that a story like this offered up. This is not a generation to patronise, condescend to or really attempt to teach anything to – you listen and you leave it 
to them to play with the story.’

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the film won’t be getting a cinematic release 
or premiere and will instead be streamed on Disney+, 
but Kenneth, who has been isolating in his Berkshire countryside home with his film art director wife, Lindsay Brunnock, and the family dog, is looking on the bright side.

‘I’m walking my dog even more than I used to these days,’ he admits, during 
the nationwide lockdown. ‘And I do find it amazing when I do so to look up at 
the sky, or into the trees, and remember that, whatever is this weird sense of isolation that I am feeling right now, 
it is also being experienced by most other people all 
over the face of the planet.’

He concludes, ‘We’re 
all in this together, and 
I sometimes find that quite moving to consider.’