Oh joy, says
Cranky dryly. Two actors sitting and talking at the same time. From past
experiences, that usually meant half a dozen journalists desperately trying
to get two lead mouthed actos to say anything. That didn't turn
out to be the case with Kevin Kline and Kenneth Branagh who,
simply, wouldn't shut their mouths. As Kline would put it, "Just
doing an interview is a competition." Even as their fast paced back
and forth dialog in The Road to El Dorado is very funny in a Hope
& Crosby mode (which is what the film's creators wanted -- if you
don't know who Bob Hope and Bing Crosby were, learn) so
are the pair in real life. When the duo got crankin', well, one day there
will be bandwith enough that you'll be able to listen to this because
the sexual double entendre was flying thick and hairy. I've tried to include
the back and forth -- read it very quickly because that's how it happened
-- but I don't know if it'll translate. Both actors are known for bringing
Shakespeare to stage and screen, so we'll cover that as well as this flick.
To begin, one of our colleagues quoted some dimwit in the print press
who wrote that the film had
several ambiguously gay moments . . .
(in disbelieving mock horror and LOUDLY): Ambiguously Gay???
[huge laughter from both sides of the table]
Kenneth Branagh: No, it was a butch-butch thing
Kevin Kline: Ambiguously gay moments? (to Branagh) That's the accent.
Kenneth Branagh: (to Kline) I was doing giddy. I never did gay.
I did giddy.
Kevin Kline: (to Branagh) It comes across gay.
Kenneth Branagh: (to the press) Giddy and butch. I was so butch
I woke up in the mornings and frightened myself.
Kline: Ambiguously gay. Well, it's because it's two men and they're partners
and so naturally . . . we're both in touch with our feminine side, I think, especially
Ken . . .
Kenneth Branagh: I do what I can.
Kevin Kline: . . . So people will project on to us whatever makes
So how does that strike you, as an actor, when you put forth one idea
and it comes back at you as another?
Kevin Kline: Nobody sees the same movie. I'm sure there are people
who saw Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and thought "Finally
a gay movie about men who really care about each other. Thank God!"
That's not what I saw necessarily but I don't think any two people see
the same movie.
What was your professional relationship before this?
Kenneth Branagh: None of your business! [laughter] No, this is
the first time we've worked together. We have known each other and admired
each other professionally and personally
Kevin Kline: I love Ken's body. . .
Kenneth Branagh: in a non-sexual way
Kevin Kline: . . . of work
Branagh: and Kevin's got a great body . . . of work . . . also. And
we admired our bodies prior to meeting and working together and using
our bodies together in this film
Kevin Kline: Yes, it's nice to admire someone else's body when
you're busy admiring your own.
Kenneth Branagh: Your oeuvre
Kevin Kline: It's an amazing thing.
Kenneth Branagh: It gives me a chill. Because it's enormous.
An enormous oeuvre.
CrankyCritic: and he showed it to you [laughter]
Kenneth Branagh: It's pretty publicly available.
Kevin Kline: I screamed. I said "Listen, before we work together
I think it's important that you know where I'm coming from. So I screened
all of my movies for Ken. He was strapped to a chair, and forced to watch,
like A Clockwork Orange.
Kenneth Branagh: Sedated.
point we all paused for a quick breath . . .
Did you find yourselves looking at the road movies or Butch Cassidy or
other "buddy" movies to get in the groove of.
Kenneth Branagh: The gay movies. We looked at all the gay movies.
Kevin Kline: I watched In and Out frequently.
Kenneth Branagh: Well you practiced . . .
Kevin Kline: I actually did that movie as preparation for this.
Kenneth Branagh: I was originally in the Tom Selleck part.
Kevin Kline: I did Silverado, that was my preparation for
El Dorado. No, I didn't because even though that was the model
you wanted to make it fresh. To come from the chemistry that is the two
of us, really. You don't want to start stealing, or try to imitate or
impersonate anyone else. You want to make it your own. So I deliberately
... and because I'm lazy I stayed away from that kind of research.
CrankyCritic: A lot of actors like making animated movies
Kenneth Branagh: Well, you don't have to learn (the part) for a
start. You get to read it. No hair and makeup in the morning. No trailer
Kevin Kline: Ironically, the great attraction is that you don't
have to meet the other actors [laughter]. But then, Jeffrey Katzenberg
kind of threw me a curve and said "We want to get the chemistry,
so we're going to get you two together" I had done a voice in Hunchback
of Notre Dame and never had to meet one.
You never have to clap eyes on another person and deal with their ego,
their tardiness, the fact that they're always trying to upstage you and
always speaking over you when you're trying to talk [which is what Branagh
has been doing all this time].
Since we're talking 'toons and since both you guys have notable work doing
Shakespeare, Which Shakespeare would make the best animated movie?
Kenneth Branagh: we were talking a little bit about this. I think
anything with the fantastical or supernatural in it. I think A Midsummer
Night's Dream would be terrific because of the transformations that occur.
Or The Tempest, things like that. Extraordinary larger than life or supernatural
element. Or Magic. So many plays with magic in them that would be a terrific
invitation to an imaginative animation team.
Picasso, I think, said the artist is in touch with something child like
inside them. And when that person becomes more adult-like, the artist
loses. Do you believe that?
Kenneth Branagh: I do think that, for instance, we've been very
lucky to have theatrical careers and be associated with Shakespeare which
sometimes gives you a kind of bogus kudos. No, I mean you might happen
to do the work quite well in ways that people like but sometimes just
in doing it you get a bogus kudos for somehow being brighter than you
are and you start to take that seriously, to sort of think of yourself
as some expert on it all rather than being able to enjoy it; retaining
your enthusiasm and your wonder, the thrill and excitement you feel about
being up there. Even doing something like this is exciting to do. It's
fun to do. There was no hardship. There was no [in an exaggerated master
thespian voice] "Kevin? Kevin shall we do a cartoon? Do you think
our public will accept this?"
Kevin Kline: Yes, I wonder what it will mean in the larger picture
. . .
Kenneth Branagh: As if anyone gave a toss. It's not important.
You know, we hope the film is loved and watched by millions of people,
but it's just a movie like in a way a film of Hamlet is just a
movie. In a way there's exactly the same energy behind it which is the
desire to communicate truthfully and entertainingly to people and transmit
your joy to them. And also the thrill you feel, talking of actors, the
extraordinary thrilling opportunity that we have to do this kind of [profession]
So it's not hard to be friendly with an actor.
Kevin Kline: Not at all. Is it hard to be a friend to someone who
wants love more than anything else. Whose childhood, no matter how emotionally
crippling. . .
Kenneth Branagh: and twisted.
Kevin Kline: . . . has now made him or her so needful and so desperate
to be loved and embraced and accepted for who they are and that's what
you yourself need -- it's a match made in heaven. Actors get on wonderfully
with other actors.
Kenneth Branagh: Actors are the best and the worst of people. They're
like kids. When they're good, they're very very good. When they're bad
they're very very naughty. The best actors, I think, have a childlike
quality. They have a sort of an ability to lose themselves. There's still
some silliness. I worked with Judi Dench many years ago and she
had this child-like thing and she was absolutely in the moment at all
times, whether it was something sad or funny. The years dropped away.
There's something about; something winningly like a kid. Sort of incredibly
appealing. And of course at our worst behave like badly behaved children.
We're self obsessed and mad and stupid -- not that other people can't
be the same way -- but the extremes are kind of honest in some mad way.
Anyway, I like them.
How far is too far in taking liberties with Shakespeare?
Kenneth Branagh: I don't know that there is too far, actually.
I think there's only too bad. If it's bad you've gone too far. The elasticity
of Shakespeare is extraordinary. It seems that people have got all worked
up this century about "oh! they've cut so much of the text!"
Go back to the 17th century, David Garrick, who was responsible for the
revival of Shakespeare's fortunes and was responsible for the Silver Jubilee
of Shakespeare in 1764, he was part of a whole generation of theater practitioners
who changed the endings. I mean, Romeo and Juliet lived (!) in
the David Garrick version of it. King Lear is reunited with his daughter
who's no longer dead at the end of King Lear and those were the very productions
that reestablished Shakespeare after the whole hundred years (when) his
plays weren't done. The radicalism that they applied, which kept it very
lively and in the popular imagination and in fact gave us Shakespeare
were way more brutal with a playwright who continues to be bouncing back
from all of that. Stimulated and revived; revivified is the phrase I think.
If it's good art, it's good. If you've done a brilliant version it becomes
something else. Shakespeare then becomes the source of fantastic inspiration.
I resist the idea that there's one way to do it. Otherwise why see a Shakespeare
play twice? why hear a Beethoven symphony twice. Why look at a van Gogh
painting twice. They're classics. Their very quality is their ability
to resonate from time to time through, in the case of Shakespeare, the
personification of the characters through living actors that's why you
want to go see Kevin Kline's Hamlet or Daniel Day Lewis' hamlet. You don't
go "Oh I've seen that. I know what happens. Doesn't he go mad or
You've both done definitive Hamlet's in your fields.
Kevin Kline: Well, one of them must be more definitive than the
Kenneth Branagh: (to Kline) Yours was more definitive.
Kevin Kline: (to Branagh) No, yours was, while you were doing it,
CrankyCritic: Did that come up at all in your professional relationship.
Kevin Kline: (You mean) I'll show you my Hamlet if you show me
yours? And which one's bigger and longer? Well, his was uncut so he gets
the [our side of the table starts laughing. Branagh doesn't let Kline
finish the double entendre]
Kenneth Branagh: It may not be the best, but it was the longest.
Somebody once said about my stage Hamlet "It may not be the best
but it's the quickest" because I spoke about a million miles an hour.
Kevin Kline: No, the whole point is that's the joy of doing the
classics like that is that you are a link in the long chain that goes
back four hundred years and the more people that do it, it's fun. I remember
going to London; I had just met Ken socially and in London his movie of
Much Ado About Nothing had just come out. I called him and said
"I'm making a movie here. Do you know of any place to rent a flat?"
He gave me some pointers on where to stay and said "you must go
to the West End. There's a production of Much Ado About Nothing
with [Mark Ryans?] that's absolutely brilliant." And I thought, well,
that's great. Here's a guy whose movie is playing in theaters who is going
to see another Much Ado and recommends it. There's no proprietary
feeling. You put your mark on the part during the moments that you are
on the stage or capturing the moments for all posterity on film, but you're
just letting it filter through you. You want to see as many different
people as possible.
Kenneth Branagh: it's exciting. At the moment we've got two Richard
II's. Ralph Fiennes is about to open in that and another terrific young
actor called Sam West is at Stratford. I want to see both. It's exciting.
And excitement being in the air, we would like to thank you for this special
that they exuent left.