‘Heart fit to burst’ Branagh follows in footsteps of Olivier

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HOLLYWOOD star Kenneth Branagh joined the ranks of the great acting knights today and declared: “My heart’s fit to burst.”

The Oscar-nominated actor, director and screenwriter has been recognised for his services to drama and to the community of Northern Ireland.

Belfast-born Branagh, 51, said: “I feel humble, elated, and incredibly lucky.”

Speaking from Pinewood Studios, where he is preparing a film for Paramount Pictures, Jack Ryan, he said: “When I was a kid I dreamed of pulling on a shirt for the Northern Ireland football team. I could only imagine how proud you might feel. Today it feels like they just gave me the shirt, and my heart’s fit to burst.”

The honour comes months after he won plaudits for his portrayal of Sir Laurence Olivier, to whose career Branagh’s has often been compared. He was nominated for an Oscar and a Bafta for the role as the late screen and stage star in My Week With Marilyn.

Branagh moved to Reading when he was still in primary school, but credits his Irish heritage for his love of language.

He studied at Rada before learning his trade on the stage where he worked with the Royal Shakespeare Company. His title role in the 1989 film version of Henry V led to further comparisons with Olivier.

Branagh’s double Oscar nomination for the film was followed by further Shakespeare adaptations, and film work, including directing duties with Thor, and a role as Professor Gilderoy Lockhart in the Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets film.

He has regularly appeared on the small screen. In 1987 he starred in Fortunes of War with his future wife Emma Thompson.

The pair split in 1995 and he went on to marry Lindsay Brunnock in 2003.