Emma Thompson: I have made my peace over Kenneth Branagh's affair

Kenneth Branagh and Emma Thompson pictured on their wedding day on August 20, 1989 in London, England
Kenneth Branagh and Emma Thompson pictured on their wedding day on August 20, 1989 in London, England

EMMA Thompson says she considers Helena Bonham Carter a 'wonderful woman' even though she had an affair with her former husband, Kenneth Branagh.

It is 18 years since Emma Thompson and Sir Kenneth Branagh, the golden couple of British cinema in the early 1990s, announced that they were separating amid rumours that he was having an affair with Helena Bonham Carter.

Now Thompson has spoken for the first time of how she has “made her peace” with her former love rival, going so far as to describe her as a “wonderful woman”.

The double Oscar-winning actress and screenwriter even admitted that the personality traits she shares with Bonham Carter may have been the reason why her ex-husband fell for both of them.

Thompson, 54, has previously described the crippling depression that she suffered when her marriage to Branagh, 52, broke up.

She has said that she knew from bitter personal experience how to play her role in 2003’s Love Actually as a wife who suspects her husband is cheating on her.

“I've had so much bloody practice at crying in a bedroom, then having to go out and be cheerful, gathering up the pieces of my heart and putting them in a drawer,” she said.

However, Thompson struck a more reconciled note about the fall-out from her relationship with Branagh in a new interview.

“That is – as Mike Nicholls [the film and theatre director] once said, and I’ve picked it up because I think it’s such a wonderful phrase – all blood under the bridge. You can’t hold on to anything like that. I just think… pfft,” she told The Sunday Times.

“It’s pointless. I haven’t got the energy for it. Helena and I made our peace years and years ago.”

Thompson also agreed that she was similar to Bonham Carter, 47, who is also from a liberal north London family and appeared alongside her in 1992’s Howards End and the Harry Potter films.

“Oh we are. Being slightly mad and a bit fashion-challenged. Perhaps that’s why Ken loved us both. She’s a wonderful woman, Helena,” she said.

Thompson met Branagh in 1987, when they were both appearing in a BBC mini-series called Fortunes of War, and they married two years later.

They were nicknamed “Ken and Em” for their position at the heart of the British acting establishment, although Branagh rejected comparisons to star couples of the past like Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor.

Despite appearing together in successful films such as 1991’s Dead Again and the 1993 adaptation of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, Thompson and Branagh drifted apart.

The couple separated in 1995, citing the fact that their work had “inevitably” led to them spending long periods of time away from each other.

Bonham Carter is said to have begun her affair with Branagh in 1994 while starring alongside him in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, which he directed. Their relationship lasted until 1999.

Branagh has been reluctant to discuss the break-up of his marriage to Thompson, although he said in 1998: “It's always sad, marriages breaking up. But I refuse to be affected over issues like this by how the world at large appears to feel.”

Thompson, who is the only person ever to have won Oscars for both writing and acting, is now married to Greg Wise, an actor and producer whom she met on the set of the 1995 version of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility.

The couple have one daughter, Gaia, 13, and a son, Tindyebwa Agaba, 26, a former child soldier from Rwanda whom they informally adopted when he was 16.

Thompson said last month that monogamy was an “odd state” for humans and argued that it was too easy to be caught by the “happy-ever-after ideal”.

“I do sometimes wonder about whether there are alternatives, and about whether our fury and rage and disbelief and horror about infidelity is quite realistic,” she said.

“I, of course, have got the T-shirt, so I understand the feelings very well, but I think as I get older and think about long-term relationships, I do see that they can change.”

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