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‘Belfast’ film director Kenneth Branagh reveals how he lost his Belfast accent after moving to England

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Director Kenneth Branagh

Director Kenneth Branagh

Director Kenneth Branagh

Director of the acclaimed new movie ‘Belfast,’ Kenneth Branagh, has revealed how he lost his Belfast accent within three years of moving to England to “fit in.”

The writer and director said he tried to hold on to it for a while and felt a bit guilty when it disappeared.

“It was in the two or three years after I came across. We left when I was nine, May of 1970,” he said.

“And by the time I left [primary] school in the summer of ’72, it was probably gone. I think it was to do with wanting to disappear. I wanted to just fit in.

“As we all became a bit more insular, [my accent] kind of rubbed off. There were a couple of years of not even knowing it was happening, then feeling a bit bad about it.

“So for a while, I was English in school and Irish at home. And then it started happening at home.

“My parents didn’t comment about it. I think they felt it was natural enough.”

The 61-year-old Dunkirk actor said he even had to put on a Northern Irish accent when he starred in the Billy plays, a trio of BBC dramas from the early 80s about a working class Belfast family, which was his first big break.

“I went back with a friend of mine, the guy who plays the best friend — an excellent actor who’s a policeman now, called Colum Convey,” Branagh told showbiz website Vulture.

“When we got on the plane on the way to Belfast on the Sunday night before the first day of rehearsals, Colum said to me [in a Cockney accent], ‘Now, listen, Ken. From tomorrow, I’m going to be completely Belfast. All right?’

“And that’s what he did. The next day, it was like meeting a completely different guy.

“Whereas I didn’t feel comfortable with that. I had the mickey taken out of me left, right, and centre, but I would do the part and then I would step back into the way I sounded.

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“I’ve never been good at doing that totally immersive thing.”

Branagh’s semi-autobiographical movie Belfast, which is being tipped for Oscar glory, tells the story of a family caught up in the beginning of the Troubles in the late 60s.

Seen through the eyes of nine-year-old Buddy, played by Jude Hill, it stars Jamie Dornan and Caitriona Balfe as his parents and Ciaran Hinds and Judi Dench as his grandparents.

The film, which is released later this month, has already won rave reviews on the movie festival circuit.

It has won numerous Golden Globe nominations including Best Director and Best Screenplay for Branagh and Best Supporting Actor nods for Dornan, Hinds and Balfe.


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