Emma Thompson Was "Utterly Blind" to Ex Kenneth Branagh's Affair With This Co-Star
Frequent co-stars Thompson and Branagh were married from 1989 to 1995.
Between their onscreen collaborations and their real-life marriage, Emma Thompson and Kenneth Branagh were a buzzy celebrity couple in the late 1980s and '90s. The two got together after co-starring in the 1987 BBC miniseries Fortunes of War and went on to work together many times, on stage and on the big and small screens. The couple got married in 1989 and split up after six years. It was later revealed that they broke up due to Branagh's affair with one of his co-stars.
Today, all three actors have moved on, and Thompson is on good terms with the woman Branagh cheated with. In a recent interview with The New Yorker, the star opened up about how she felt when she found out about the affair and confessed that she had been "utterly, utterly blind" to it. Read to see what else 63-year-old Thompson had to say about her high-profile divorce.
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Thompson and Branagh worked together often.
After their first collaboration in Fortunes of War, Thompson and Branagh went on to work with each other frequently during their marriage. They both acted in 1989's Henry V, which Branagh adapted and directed. Then, they both starred in another of his Shakespeare adaptations, Much Ado About Nothing, as Beatrice and Benedick, in 1993. They also co-starred in his 1991 thriller Dead Again.
Speaking with The New Yorker, Thompson remembered the tabloid attention she and Branagh got for both their marriage and working relationship.
"I was embarrassed largely by the press version of our marriage," she said. "We didn't present as glamorous in any way. I don't think we wanted to be some power couple, and we certainly didn't feel like it. We were lampooned and ridiculed, too—fair enough if you're famous and overpaid—but it's no fun."
They split up amid his affair.
In 1995, Thompson and Branagh separated when she found out he was having an affair with the star of his 1994 film Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, Helena Bonham Carter. Thompson and Bonham Carter had previously played sisters in 1992's Howards End.
"I was utterly, utterly blind to the fact that he had relationships with other women on set," Thompson told The New Yorker. "What I learned was how easy it is to be blinded by your own desire to deceive yourself."
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The heartbreak influenced one of her most memorable scenes.
Thompson starred in the ensemble Christmas rom-com Love Actually in 2003. During one scene, her character realizes that her husband (played by Alan Rickman) is cheating on her, after she discovers that a necklace she thought was meant for her was given to the other woman.
"That scene where my character is standing by the bed crying is so well known because it's something everyone's been through," Thompson said at an event in 2018, as reported by The Telegraph. She continued, "I had my heart very badly broken by Ken. So I knew what it was like to find the necklace that wasn't meant for me. Well, it wasn't exactly that, but we've all been through it."
She's been able to heal and move on.
In an interview with The Sunday Times in 2013 (via The Telegraph), Thompson said that she had moved past the affair and had no hard feelings for Bonham Carter.
"That is—as Mike Nichols [the film and theatre director] once said, and I've picked it up because I think it's such a wonderful phrase—all blood under the bridge. You can't hold on to anything like that. I just think… pfft," she said. "It's pointless. I haven't got the energy for it. Helena and I made our peace years and years ago."
She also recognized that she and Bonham Carter share certain similarities: "Being slightly mad and a bit fashion-challenged. Perhaps that's why Ken loved us both. She's a wonderful woman, Helena."
Bonham Carter has addressed her reputation as a "serial home breaker."
In 2002, Bonham Carter opened up to The Mirror about being called "a habitual, serial home breaker." (It's been rumored that her long-term relationship with director Tim Burton started as an affair, though she has denied this.)
"It gets frustrating because I know the story and the truth of it. It is very hurtful and, frankly, some of the things I have been called are quite libelous… But it's part of the price of being in the public eye," the actor said. "People will make up stories that are so much more interesting than reality."
Later, in a 2020 interview with The Guardian, Bonham Carter used Thompson and Nichols' phrase in reference to her past relationships. "Me and Ken was very different from me and Tim," she said. "You know, Ken avoided directing me once we were together because it can be complicated and I think he didn't want—anyway, that's all blood under the bridge."
They all moved on to new relationships eventually.
Bonham Carter and Branagh were together until 1999. Then, she was in a relationship with Burton from 2001 until 2014. Branagh married his current wife, Lindsay Brunnock, in 2003.
As for Thompson, she has been with her Sense and Sensibility co-star Greg Wise since her relationship with Branagh ended. They got married in 2003.
"I was half alive. Any sense of being a lovable or worthy person had gone completely," Thompson told The New Yorker of how she felt after her divorce. She said that Wise "picked up the pieces and put them back together."