"I have never really been any good at stage makeup. Before the photo call for Henry V I made the fatal mistake of listening to a fellow actor who had watched part of the dress rehearsal from the gods. 'You're so fair, lovey. We can't see your eyes. You've got to fill in your eyebrows and use more mascara.' Never listen to advice like that. As a result of all this I am now haunted by pictures of that production in which I look like Joan Collins and Groucho Marx."

Branagh's film of Henry V started a chain reaction of events which caused me to major in theatre and later get a master's degree in playwriting. His autobiography, written before the film was released but after it was shot, seems to be out of print. I was able to obtain a copy in NYC, though, and I bet it's in a lot of bookshops.

If you're even remotely interested in theatre, and probably even if you're not, this is a tremendously fun book. Contrary to persistent accusations of being full of himself, one of the great charms of the book is Branagh's self-deprecating humor and his willingness to regale us with stories about embarassing moments and horrible or uninspired performances. I found the book very inspirational when I was younger(I checked it out of the library repeatedly) because it portrays a boy with a little native talent and a lot of flaws who manages, through hard work and careful study, to turn that little bit of talent into something quite extraordinary.

The other notable thing is that it's extremely funny. Especially if you've done some live theatre. It's full of hilarious anecdotes about lost props, improvisatory Shakespeare, mad Australian directors, and those ideas which seem so good in the rehearsal hall...

Regarding a new play about Olympic athletes:

"With only days to go we received the last scenes of the play, and many of us were still confused by the convolutions of the plot. I still don't know whether the leading athlete had taken the drugs or not, or whether the 'drug' was actually a placebo. Fortunately by the time we reached this point in the play my character was cracking up and it was quite conceivable that he had no idea what was going on."


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