Stage is set for Sir Kenneth Branagh to play his greatest role – head of the National Theatre

 

Candidates for the British stage’s most influential role are jostling for position after it emerged that Sir Kenneth Branagh has been approached to become the next artistic director of the National Theatre.

Should he accept, Branagh, 52, would emulate his hero, Sir Laurence Olivier, who successfully combined British theatre’s most prestigious post with an active screen career, when he became the NT’s first artistic director in 1963.

But Branagh’s is not the only name in the frame with informed sources suggesting that Rufus Norris, who recently directed The Amen Corner at the National, is being considered.

The NT is currently considering a successor to Sir Nicholas Hytner, who has presided over a hugely-successful decade marked by hit shows including One Man, Two Guvnors, who announced that he is to step down at the end of March 2015.

Belfast-born Sir Kenneth’s interest in the South Bank position was revealed by Sir Anthony Hopkins, who received a personal email from the actor-director.

The Silence of the Lambs star said: “He wrote me an email and told me he’d been offered the directorship. I said do it, because he’s the only actor who could replace Olivier today. I told him he must accept. You see, Ken has got the teeth and the guts to do it.”

The National job would offer a fitting pinnacle to his illustrious 30-year film and stage career, having followed in Olivier’s footsteps by adapting, directing, and starring in big screen adaptations of Henry V and Hamlet.

In 2011, Branagh said: “I have a pathetic urge at some stage in my life to be able to pull out my wallet and pull out a little card on which it would say Kenneth Branagh, artistic director.” However, there have also been suggestions that he was being lined up to take over from Kevin Spacey when the American star stands aside as artistic director of London’s Old Vic theatre in 2015.

A spokesman for Sir Kenneth, who played Olivier in the Marilyn Monroe biopic My Week With Marilyn, said that while he had not applied for the NT job, he had discussed an approach with Sir Anthony who is a “dear friend and valued adviser”.

Informal approaches are also believed to have been made to the ex-Donmar Warehouse bosses Sam Mendes and Michael Grandage, and the theatre and film directors Stephen Daldry and Danny Boyle.

Mendes, who has signed up to direct the next James Bond film, set for an October 2015 release, said he was “interested” in the post but concluded that “if I run the National Theatre I can’t direct movies”. Grandage indictated that he would be “uneasy” with the public side of the role and wanted to stick with directing.

The NT board began conducting initial interviews during the summer. Rufus Norris, an associate director whose productions include Festen, which transferred to Broadway, is among those believed to have been interviewed. Other contenders include former Royal Court artistic directors Ian Rickson and Dominic Cooke and War Horse director Marianne Elliott, another associate director at the NT.

The board is said to have received proposals for a “joint directorship” from some of those who are reluctant to take on the post alone but the favoured option is believed to be a single individual.

The National Theatre did not deny that Sir Kenneth had been approached over the role. But a spokesman said that he “has neither applied for nor has been offered the job of Artistic Director at the National Theatre”.

Starring roles: NT artistic directors

Lord Olivier (1963-1973)

Reign marred by Board’s cancellation of 1967 play Soldiers, which alleged Churchill ordered death of Polish PM and suggestions he blocked roles for John Gielgud and Ralph Richardson through jealousy.

Sir Peter Hall (1973-1988)

Presided over 1976 move from the Old Vic to the South Bank. Highlights included Bedroom Farce, directed by Sir Peter.

Sir Richard Eyre (1988-1997)

Launched era-defining new plays including Tony Kushner’s Angels in America and the David Hare Trilogy. 

Sir Trevor Nunn (1997-2003)

Oklahoma! and My Fair Lady kept the box office buzzing but stepped down after single term following failure of The Villain’s Opera and two troubled plays had to be dropped. 

Sir Nicholas Hytner (2003-2015)

A golden spell with shows such as Jerry Springer: The Opera, War Horse and One Man, Two Guvnors, transferring to the West End.

Arts and Entertainment
Chloe-Jasmine Whicello impressed the judges and the audience at Wembley Arena with a sultry performance
TVReview: Who'd have known Simon was such a Roger Rabbit fan?
News
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Frost will star in the Doctor Who 2014 Christmas special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
TV
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams plays 'bad ass' Arya Stark in Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne modelling

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars with Cillian Murphy in Peaky Blinders II

TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam