Once upon a time, Kenneth Branagh was hailed as the new Laurence Olivier. Back in early 1990, Branagh was nominated for two Academy Awards for directing and starring in Henry V, an adaptation of William Shakespeare's play that back in early 1947 had earned Olivier a Best Actor nomination and an Honorary Award for “his outstanding achievement as actor, producer and director in bringing Henry V to the screen.”
More Olivier comparisons followed as Branagh went on to tackle Much Ado About Nothing (1993), Othello (1995), and Hamlet (1996). The latter two had served as prestigious Olivier vehicles: Best Picture Oscar winner Hamlet (1948) earned Olivier a Best Actor Oscar and a Best Director nomination; the originally made-for-television Othello (1965) received several special big-screen showings and ended up earning Olivier his seventh Best Actor Oscar nod. (Note: Olivier had the title role in Othello; Branagh played Iago to Laurence Fishburne's Othello in the 1996 version.)
Branagh even had his own Vivien Leigh in the form of wife and frequent co-star Emma Thompson.
Now best known as the director of the worldwide blockbuster Thor and of the upcoming Thor 2, the 50-year-old Kenneth Branagh is no longer compared to Laurence Olivier. Or at least not as frequently. Movies such as Theory of Flight, Alien Love Triangle, The Gingerbread Man, and Celebrity helped to all but destroy the Branagh-Olivier connection.
But maybe those comparisons will return thanks to Simon Curtis' My Week with Marilyn, in which Branagh quite literally steps into Olivier's shoes.
Back in 1957, Marilyn Monroe traveled to England to star opposite Laurence Olivier, fresh off of a Best Actor Academy Award nomination for Richard III, in a period romantic comedy adapted by Terence Rattigan from his own play, The Prince and the Showgirl. Despite (or perhaps because of) all the publicity and high hopes surrounding the odd pairing of diamond-loving Lorelei Lee and soliloquy-obsessed Hamlet, The Prince and the Showgirl was considered both an artistic and a box office misfire.
In My Week with Marilyn, Branagh brings Olivier back to life while Michelle Williams incarnates the very blonde and very difficult Monroe. Eddie Redmayne, Tony Award winner and Kristen Stewart's co-star in The Yellow Handkerchief, plays Colin Clark, Olivier's assistant at the time and on whose diary the film is based.
The My Week with Marilyn cast also includes Julia Ormond as Olivier's then wife Vivien Leigh (talk about offbeat casting), Judi Dench as Sybil Thorndike (more offbeat casting), Dominic Cooper as producer Milton H. Greene, Dougray Scott as Monroe's then husband Arthur Miller, Zoë Wanamaker, Derek Jacobi, Toby Jones, and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2's Emma Watson.
Note: In Henry V, Emma Thompson had the role originally played by Renée Asherson in Olivier's 1944 film version.
Photo via Empire.
Kate Winslet just recently played Joan Crawford – well, if you want to be technical about it, she played the title role in Todd Haynes' Mildred Pierce, a remake of Michael Curtiz's 1945 noirish melodrama starring Joan Crawford. Now, with the assistance of thick black eyebrows, Academy Award winner Kate Winslet (The Reader) plays two-time Academy Award winner Elizabeth Taylor (Butterfield 8, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?) in the latest issue of V magazine.
Winslet may look sort of drag-queenish in the above photo, but so did Taylor after starring in the mammoth Cleopatra – what with on-screen roles in overblown fare such as The Sandpiper and Boom!, and off-screen roles as Richard Burton's (two-time) wife and the bearer of iceberg-sized diamonds.
And speaking of diamonds … Taylor's jewelry, valued at $30 million, will be auctioned at Christie's in New York on December 13-14. In her 2002 memoir My Love Affair with Jewelry, Taylor wrote, “I never, never thought of my jewelry as trophies … When I die and they go off to auction I hope whoever buys them gives them a really good home.”
Elizabeth Taylor quote via Time.com.
Johnny Depp-Gore Verbinski 'The Lone Ranger' Gets More 'Modest' Budget
The Lone Ranger is still not a go, but Deadline.com reports that producer Jerry Bruckheimer and director Gore Verbinski have come up with a more modest budget “in the $215 million range” for the Western to star Johnny Depp and The Social Network's Armie Hammer. That's down from the project's original $275 million budget, which Disney executives had deemed much too costly following the highly disappointing box office take of Universal's Cowboys & Aliens.
Directed by Jon Favreau, and starring Harrison Ford, Daniel Craig, and Olivia Wilde, Cowboys & Aliens has collected $94.17 million at the North American box office, in addition to a paltry $35.5 million internationally. Made for a reported $163 million – though some sources claim this mix of the Western and the sci-fi genres cost as much as $200 million – Cowboys & Aliens' worldwide total currently stands at $129.67 million. Studios get only about 50 percent of that amount. In other words, unless Cowboys & Aliens sells millions of DVDs all over the worldwide – not very likely – it'll turn out to be a major flop for all concerned.
Now, Johnny Depp may be a huge star overseas, but Westerns aren't exactly a major box office draw outside North America. Since the international market is crucial for the bankability of expensive studio productions, it's understandable that Disney would be iffy to proceed with The Lone Ranger. Even $215 million sounds much too risky.
In all likelihood, it's also about 215 times more than what the old Lone Ranger series – all 217 episodes of it – cost to produce.
Photo: Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (Peter Mountain / Disney Enterprises)