Kenneth Branagh on the Personal Life of William Shakespeare Image

(thumbnail photo credit: Getty Images for Palm Springs International Film Festival)

You know that saying, “Never meet your heroes?” Well, actor/director Kenneth Branagh is taking on the Bard himself in All Is True (Film Threat Review). Branagh’s film gives us an imagined glimpse into the personal life of history’s most celebrated playwright, William Shakespeare. I spoke with Sir. Kenneth Branagh at the 2019 Palm Springs International Film Festival to talk about All Is True.

What are some of the themes you touch upon in your film, All Is True?
Kenneth Branagh: One is his search for making a little sense of his own life as he retires from his creative life, which has been 20-years long and highly successful. He has a family he hasn’t seen much, so maybe there’s been a sacrifice he paid in having that great success. He isn’t known so much for being a father and a husband and that there are things that he needs to atone for or make amends are situations that many people can recognize. Also, trying to find a degree of what you might call “normality” in the life of Shakespeare was another part of what we were going for.

“…he does ‘fess up to understanding that there is work to be done inside his family.”

As his professional life kind of winds down, he’s attaching himself to something personal.
Yeah, or attempting to. It’s an interesting question to think about. Consider a man who writes thirty-seven plays which across a lifetime. In the theater, that is an enormous amount. What does it feels like when that’s gone? Does he rush back to family? Does he feel unable to? Is he not fit for purpose as a normal human being? He may have become a great artist but turned into a poor human being. No, that price to pay for your worldly success is an interesting question I think about.

Now we live in a time today where our personal life can overshadow our art, so to speak. Was there a danger in doing that for Shakespeare’s legacy?
I think Shakespeare in this film is trying to negotiate the two, really. In a way he’s trying to find something creative in a life beyond his actual professional creative work.

What I admire about what he does in the film is he does ‘fess up to understanding that there is work to be done inside his family. There are conversations that must be had. They may not be resolved, but everybody’s story has to be heard. And in a way everybody’s story is so worth listening to, and whether the various narratives contradict each other or not … You might argue that “all is true,” just as the title suggests.

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