“Belfast” writer, director and producer Kenneth Branagh went into Tuesday morning’s Academy Award nominations knowing he had a chance to make some Oscar history as the person nominated in the largest number of categories, but he wasn’t really thinking about that as he watched the announcement from a studio where he’s working in the Twickenham area of London.
“It had been pointed out to me, but at the moment of listening to them any such thoughts went out of my head and I was a nervous wreck,” he told TheWrap on Tuesday morning. “Every finger was crossed for anything and everything, hoping that some recognition might come our way. When the adrenaline descends, you can think of nothing but how surreal is it to even be in the conversation.
“You could have asked me my name and I wouldn’t have been able to answer,” he added.
Before this year, Branagh had been nominated for Oscars in five different categories: Best Actor and Best Director for 1989’s “Henry V,” Best Live Action Short for 1992’s “Swan Song,” Best Adapted Screenplay for 1996’s “Hamlet” and Best Supporting Actor for 2011’s “My Week With Marilyn.” The record, which was shared by George Clooney, Alfonso Cuaron and Walt Disney, was nominations in six categories – but Branagh tied that record on Tuesday when his “Belfast” script was nominated for Best Original Screenplay, and broke it when he received a Best Picture nomination as one of the film’s producers.
(He was also nominated for Best Director, a category in which he’d already been recognized.)
“To be in the same company as those people is quite thrilling,” he said of passing Clooney, Cuaron and Disney. “What I admire about those filmmakers, and others, is how lovely it is to see storytellers move around to have different relationships to the work at hand.”
“Belfast” is a film inspired by Branagh’s own youth in the Northern Ireland city – and that film, he said, “was such a personal story that it would have been impossible to commission a writer to do it, even though I’ve worked with great writers in the past. There was a reason why I had to write it, and a reason for me not to act in it.
“For me, it’s all about the act of storytelling, whichever angle you come at it from,” he continued. “The privilege of being a storyteller is to be able to use all parts of the creative process – I just never imagined it would be recognized that way.”
“Belfast” received seven nominations on Tuesday, including Best Original Song for Van Morrison and acting nods for Ciarán Hinds and Judi Dench.