What's even more exciting -- for Bard lovers -- is his recent announcement that he will perform Shakespeare for the first time in over 10 years!
He will be playing Macbeth at a deconsecrated church in Manchester to audiences limited to 300 at a time. Wow!
From what I can learn, the audience will not be removed from the action, but rather it will an "immersive" experience. Any of you who have read my blog at all know that this is how Shakespeare's plays were originally performed, and it is exciting to think that Branagh will push that envelope.
Also, not long ago he stated that he wanted to make a 3D Shakespeare film. I have not heard of any further developments as far as that is concerned, but if he is doing Macbeth, and is thinking of yet another Shakespeare film... then it would seem that we are in for some good times ahead.
Is there another artist who has done so much with Shakespeare in our time? I don't know about you, but Shakespeare in my time is defined almost wholly by Branagh.
I've seen some great performances -- Al Pacino in Julius Caesar, Denzel Washington as Richard III at the Delacorte in Central Park, Kevin Kline as Hamlet, Christopher Walken as Coriolanus -- and I have seen about every film version of the plays. I watched Sir Laurence Olivier's films, and I love them.
But Kenneth Branagh is in another category altogether.
I would say that he made Shakespeare more accessible to me in my life than any other artist.
And don't get me started on his version of Hamlet. I saw it in the movie theatres four times! I've lost count of the number of times I've seen it on VHS, then LaserDisc, then DVD.
In the last several years I became concerned that he might never do anymore Shakespeare. I had hope, but with every passing year, I became more doubtful.
Today, I am thrilled that he is returning to what he so obviously loves -- and I can't wait to see whatever Shakespeare he has planned.
I do hope that he films that version of Macbeth, and shares it with the rest of the world.
But I wonder if he would be willing to really challenge himself as far as Shakespeare is concerned.
I have written versions of Hamlet, Richard III and The Merchant of Venice that redefine them and solve the mysteries surrounding them. They are entirely different than any Shakespeare I have ever seen, and nothing like what Branagh has done.
I often wonder what more can we expect from Shakespeare, when all we seem to do is to adapt his plays over and over again, in period costumes or modernized, without addressing what the plays really mean, and why Shakespeare wrote them in the first place.
I like to call my versions un-adaptations, since they are stripped of all modern context and meaning, and take us back to see the plays as they were first performed by Shakespeare himself, and his fellow actors. They are the world premieres of the plays. And the way they were originally performed for an Elizabethan audience was as "immersive" as you can get.
Many people may think that watching Shakespeare is hard, and the stories are difficult to follow. The versions I have written can be understood by anyone.
I am confident that my new versions would attract an audience larger than previous Shakespeare audiences, for the very fact that they are so much easier to understand.
I can think of no better artist than Branagh to introduce the world to the plays as they really were -- bawdy, hilarious and political.
From everything I know of him, he has a great sense of humor and he wants nothing more than to share his love of Shakespeare with the world.
Finally, I hope you all join me in raising a glass today, and wishing him a very happy birthday!
Kenneth Branagh and 3D Shakespeare?