Dear Kenneth Branagh: One actor advises another not to play Obi-Wan Kenobi in the latest Star Wars sequel. The Force may not be with him
Thursday 23 June 1994
You see, the love-in was over, the divorce laws had just been liberalised and there were precious few father-figures to go round. So, I'd have to stand up in my size-one karate suit and admit to having Obi-Wan as one of mine.
I must be honest, it has not always been easy being a fan of yours, Ken. In fact the Force has been decidedly against us. And, as we in the industry know, you've not always been entirely blameless, have you? I know you only left the Royal Shakespeare Company because you weren't prepared to compromise your integrity. I know you only wrote that autobiography to raise cash for your company, and I know it wasn't you who invited Hello] to the wedding. But I think you might agree that, on reflection, these weren't the most sparkling examples of positive PR.
But then again, who else has single-handedly conquered the public and commercial theatre, the British film industry and Hollywood, and has taken up a chair at the BFI - all before the age of 33?
I have to admit that when you first started I did have my doubts. It was about 1984, the same year that Robert Redford starred in The Natural. Do you remember that scene when he hit the ultimate home run? The ball sailed off into the stratosphere but had been hit so hard that it started to unravel. I remember thinking of you as that ball, Ken, and I was worried you were going to lose your stuffing too. But you didn't, did you? Good for you.
But back to this Star Wars business. Apparently you've been asked to play Obi-Wan as a younger man. Well, I can't deny a sneaking interest in seeing the novice Kenobi accidently switching on his light sabre in a crowded commuter shuttle.
But when Sir Alec Guinness took the role he did so after a lifetime of celebrated work, and I'm worried that if you play him now, what will you do when you're 70? Of course, I know you're not really thinking of taking on the mantle of one of the late 20th century's most influential gurus.
So, here's what I advise: get a grip on your publicity. Don't keep letting them set you up as some sort of vainglorious egomaniac.
Let them know that actually you're just a jolly good bloke who's got an awful lot of talent that you intend to develop over decades of work.
Then, perhaps, 'once upon a time, far, far away', you might play another kind of Obi-Wan Kenobi and create a mid-21st century icon all of your own.
So, may the Force be with you, Ken, but not just yet . . .
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