Paul Scofield said recently in an interview that whenever he hears the words ‘Paul Scofield’ mentioned he has to pause a while to consider who is meant. Presumably this is not a condition that afflicts Kenneth Branagh at this time. His face has appeared recently as often as that of Richard Branson. Besides their healthy-sounding, fibrous first syllable, they also apparently share a quite astonishing inability to discern the difference between the unlikely, the improbable and the downright impossible.
Branson builds an international business empire working from a telephone kiosk and in an equally short space of time Branagh has built, from a dodgy second-hand car salesman’s attic in Harlesden, a massive reputation as the actor of his generation and the first successful Shakespearean company since the War. He has also managed to lay his hands on the £4,500,000 necessary to adapt and direct a film starring himself as Henry V. It is rather difficult for British film directors to lay their hands on such sums these days but as Kenneth Branagh has never directed a film before, that seems to solve that.
Nobody is more aware than Branagh of the pitfalls involved in sudden fame and triumph and if there is a certain note of apology in this engaging and impudent autobiography, it is the sound of a clever man covering his back. And rightly so, for already the air is heavy