The Boat That Rocked: Exclusive Q & A With Kenneth Branagh!
Kenneth Branagh is Sir Alastair Dormandy in Richard Curtis' comedy, The Boat That Rocked.
Belfast born star Kenneth Branagh is one of the UK's finest actors. Before making his mark in movies, he built up an impressive reputation on stage, joining the Royal Shakespeare Company, where he took on starring roles in Henry V and Romeo and Juliet. Shakespeare was the source of several of his films. Branagh directed and starred in the film version of Henry V, earning him Best Actor and Best Director Oscar nominations.His other move adaptations of Shakespeare include Much Ado About Nothing and Hamlet. Branagh's movies have also ranged from Frankenstein - with Robert De Niro - the western comic romp Wild Wild West and the animated feature The Road To Eldorado.
In The Boat That Rocked he is Sir Alastair Dormandy, the government minister determined to sink pirate radio.
Do you think that Tony Benn (the original UK minister
who floated the idea of shutting down the pirates) should have
The Boat That Rocked in his DVD collection?
KENNETH BRANAGH : I hope that Tony Benn will find it a fun way of remembering what must have been a pretty extraordinary moment. Perhaps it didn't seem so at the time, in 1967, when he charged with the idea of dealing with pirate radio and what it appeared to mean for the British government, was caught up in a pretty extraordinary time. And Richard Curtis has captured it, comically and warmly, in The Boat That Rocked. But I get to play a fictionalised, Richard Curtis version of a government minister. This character is called Dormandy and I think that Tony Benn can sleep safe in his bed at night.
Your character in The Boat That Rocked doesn't seem to
like pop music very much. What place does pop music have in your
KENNETH BRANAGH: It is the understatement of the century to say that my character, Sir Alastair doesn't like pop music very much. I love music and when I say pop I really do mean popular music. I cannot pretend to be a devotee of jazz or hard rock or any number of the myriad of the great sections of the possibility of music. But I do love pop songs and so this particular period produced so many classics that immediately have you moving and feeling happy. So I love the soundtrack of The Boat That Rocked.
What are your favourite pop songs in The Boat That
KENNETH BRANAGH: Eleanor by The Turtles. I love Let's Spend The Night Together [by The Rolling Stones] and frankly I was so amazed - I said to Richard after a screening "How could you afford all of these songs because everyone is a classic?" Whether it is A Whiter Shade Of Pale [Procul Harum] or The Troggs ...all of it brought back memories. As with all classics you understand when you hear them, see them or read them again, why they last. It's because they do something instantly, and the music in this film has that punch. When we did readings of the film, in preparation for it, he played all the music all the time. The music had been absolutely the starting point for it all and you felt that, in a really positive way.
You are a relative youngster but what are your memories
of the days of pirate radio?
KENNETH BRANAGH: I am a slip of a boy so I have few real memories of pirate radio. I tell a lie! In terms of this particular period, 1967, I was a bit too young to have known much more than there was a big dramatic thing going on, which was that pirate radio was a symbol of everything that revolutionary and dangerous about what was going on in our country that needed to be stopped. I found pirate radio with Radio Luxemburg a few years later and that was definitely one when trying to find the terrible signal strength was a pre-sleep moment. The light had gone out, my parents that I was going to bed, it was a school night, and I would try and listen to what my granddad called 'the Devil's music.' And I have fond memories of that.
What is your favourite moment in The Boat That
KENNETH BRANAGH: I liked the moment in the film where Dormandy, my character, lays out to his assistant the reason why they need to do this. They need to stop people having fun because 'the bottom bashing fornicators of this once great country need to be sorted out'. The ridiculousness of his ferocious passion to stop rock music, pirate radio and everything it stands for, is something that I found delicious in that scene.
If you had not become an actor could you have been a
KENNETH BRANAGH: I think that everybody has a fantasy about being a disc jockey. I remember seeing an early 1970s film by Don Segal that starred Clint Eastwood - Play Misty For Me - and Clint was the epitome of cool. It all went terribly wrong - it was the forerunner of a film like Fatal Attraction - be careful who your call-in listener is and whether or not you meet them. But the DJ's relationship with music is so passionate and personal that they love to share it with people and so I think that everybody has a DJ fantasy. It didn't happen in this picture but I am still open to offers.