Kenneth Branagh had to take out a loan to make his first movie Henry V. Now, knighted by the Queen in 2012, Sir Kenneth is the toast of Hollywood.
His success has been something of a fairytale for the Belfast-born actor and director, so it’s entirely appropriate that his latest film for Disney is every little girl’s classic fairy story.
And he’s determined to bring his success back home, with a charity premiere of Cinderella in Belfast this Sunday afternoon.
Sir Ken will also introduce the screening in person and said he was delighted to be able to come back to the city, to introduce the film here, before it opens to the public at the end of March.
He said: “Way back in 1989, I brought my first directorial film, Henry V, to Belfast and it is always exciting to come home to your home city to show your work. I am delighted too that this screening will benefit two fantastic charities, NICVA (Northern Ireland Council for Voluntary Action) and Into Film, a film education charity that puts film at the heart of the educational and personal development of children and young people.”
And at a special preview screening for the press yesterday, it became clear that Sir Kenneth has directed the U-rated family-friendly tale in a style that will be loved by all.
It’s already broken Disney opening box office records in America, as well as making headlines for its corseted – almost literally breathtaking – sparkling blue silk dress.
Cinderella is a sumptuous traditional tale, with a simple, strong message that goodness will prevail. It follows the fortunes of young Ella (an enchanting Lily James), whose merchant father remarries following her mother’s death.
Her mum’s advice to Ella has always been: “Have courage and be kind” and that stands her in supremely good stead, when her new stepmother, played with nasty assurance by a mesmerising Cate Blanchett, comes into her life.
When innocent Ella’s father unexpectedly passes away, she finds herself at the mercy of a jealous and cruel new family. Relegated to life in the attic, she sleeps in the kitchen by the embers of the fire to keep warm, and covered in ashes, she’s spitefully renamed Cinderella.
Ella becomes stronger and then, of course, true to the original tale, there is the dashing stranger she meets in the woods.
Played by blue-eyed Game of Thrones Scottish star Richard Madden, it appears her prince has definitely come.
With top performances by Derek Jacobi and a quirky turn by Helena Bonham Carter as the eccentric fairy godmother, it’s a truly glittering showcase for British talent.
Please see www.nicva.org for charity premiere ticket details or call at NICVA, 61 Duncairn Gardens, Belfast BT15 2GB. Cinderella goes on general release on March 27.