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“A Haunting in Venice,” the latest all-star mystery film starring and directed by Kenneth Branagh, tells the story of the detective Hercule Poirot trying to uncover another killer after someone is murdered at a séance in Italy. With Branagh’s latest movie currently in theaters, let’s look back at his eight Oscar races and talk about how the actor-director finally won his first gold trophy just last year.
In early 2022, Branagh broke the record for nominations in the highest number of different categories at the Academy Awards. Of his eight Oscar mentions, he has competed in seven categories total — Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Original Screenplay and Best Live Action Short Film. The first two he made it into were Director and Actor for “Henry V,” the William Shakespeare adaptation released in 1989. His directorial debut resulted in an Academy Award win for Best Costume Design, but in Best Actor, 1989 was the year of Daniel Day-Lewis in “My Left Foot.” “Henry V” not making it into Best Picture also hurt Branagh’s chances in Best Director, as he lost to Oliver Stone for “Born on the Fourth of July.”
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He was nominated at the Oscars again three years later, this time in the Best Live Action Short Film category for “Swan Song,” the 23-minute-long movie starring John Gielgud as an aging actor who looks back over his life. The short film competed with four other titles at the Academy Awards in 1993, losing to “Omnibus,” directed by Sam Karmann.
Four years later, Branagh returned to the Oscars once again in a different category. His epic, four-hours-long Shakespeare adaptation of “Hamlet,” with a giant ensemble cast including Kate Winslet, Julie Christie and Jack Lemmon, was released at the end of 1996 and earned Branagh a nomination in Best Adapted Screenplay. He had stiff competition in the category, with Arthur Miller being nominated for “The Crucible” and Anthony Minghella up for “The English Patient,” the latter film being that year’s big winner in Best Director and Best Picture. But another screenplay received lots of accolades in 1996, too — “Sling Blade” — and Billy Bob Thornton, who was also nominated for Best Actor, won the Oscar in Best Adapted Screenplay that night.
Branagh’s next Academy Award nomination came in 2012 in the Best Supporting Actor category for “My Week with Marilyn,” the film about an employee of Laurence Olivier who documents the production of 1957’s “The Prince and the Showgirl.” Michelle Williams’ performance as Marilyn Monroe received the most nominations and prizes for the movie that awards season, and Williams won Best Comedy Actress at the Golden Globes and Best Actress at the Film Independent Spirit Awards. Branagh was nominated for his performance as Olivier all over the place as well, including Golden Globes, Critics Choice, SAG and BAFTA. He also received the Oscar citation as expected, but he couldn’t overcome the awards season sweep of Christopher Plummer, who won almost every Supporting Actor trophy in 2012 for his beloved turn in “Beginners.”
Branagh’s best chance at an Oscar win finally arrived in 2022 when he received a whopping three nominations for his well-reviewed, semi-autobiographical drama “Belfast.” He made it into Best Picture, Best Director and Best Original Screenplay for the movie, which tells of a young boy and his working-class family as they experience trouble in their town of Belfast in the late 1960s. The film was a hit with critics and audiences during the fall festival circuit, and it racked up lots of award wins and nominations at the precursor ceremonies. “Belfast” claimed Best Screenplay for Branagh at the Golden Globes and Critics Choice Awards, as well as Best British Film of the Year at BAFTA. The movie also received two SAG Award bids, including Best Ensemble, as well as Branagh’s first nomination from the Director’s Guild. Ultimately, “Belfast” earned seven Oscar noms total, including Best Supporting Actress for Judi Dench and Best Supporting Actor for Ciarán Hinds. The movie lost Best Picture to “CODA,” and Branagh came up short in Best Director again, as Jane Campion took that prize for “The Power of the Dog.”
But after multiple Oscar nominations in a variety of categories throughout the decades, Branagh was finally victorious at the Academy Awards when he won the Best Original Screenplay prize for “Belfast.” He had considerable competition in the category with Adam McKay winning the Writers Guild Award for “Don’t Look Up” and Paul Thomas Anderson on his 11th Oscar nomination without a win for his “Licorice Pizza” screenplay. However, it was Branagh’s name that co-presenters Elliot Page, J.K. Simmons and Jennifer Garner announced as the winner. In his speech, he called the Oscar victory “an enormous honor for my family” and “a great tribute to an amazing city.”
Although Branagh likely won’t be recognized at the Oscars for his work on either of his two 2023 releases — “The Haunting of Venice” and “Oppenheimer” — his ninth Academy Award nom likely isn’t too far away. And who knows, at the end of the day, what category it’s going to show up in.
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