Welcome to Commentary Commentary, where we sit and listen to filmmakers talk about their work and then share the most interesting parts. In this issue, Rob Hunter picks up on Kenneth Branagh’s Hollywood debut Dead Again!
Kenneth BranaghThe move from indie Shakespeare champion to populist film director has had its ups and downs, but it started with one of the filmmaker’s most entertaining films. Dead again (1991) is a mystery / thriller that is sometimes not afraid to make it big, and the walkthrough from start to finish is fun, energetic and stylish. The film is finally on Blu-ray – in Australia – and it’s worth it for fans to import. One of the extras is a commentary track by Branagh that was recorded in 2000. So we listened to it to celebrate the film’s long overdue entry into HD media.
Read on to see what I heard in the comment on Dead Again.
Dead Again (1991)
Commentator: Kenneth Branagh (Director, Actor)
1. “We wanted to create the atmosphere for this film straight away,” he says, which is why he starts with a “low grind” of a score during the opening credits before showing up with those murder headlines. The aim was to set expectations of an entertaining Gothic mystery early on.
2. One of the papers is from December 10, 1949, Branagh’s birthday. “Sorry for the joke.”
3. After the success of Henry V (1989), he received an influx of scripts, most of them historical epics, but as he read Scott FrankThe script out loud with his then wife Emma Thompson They were both grabbed from the opening.
4th While the black and white was in earlier versions of Frank’s script, the details had already been erased by the time one version reached Branagh. However, through previews, they found that the audience was confused by the time jumps – an issue that was resolved by switching the flashbacks to black and white.
5. The inmate number of Roman Strauss (Branagh), 25101415, is the date of the Battle of Agincourt – the famous battle with Henry V. “We felt that this type of film was one in which one could indulge in such little moments. “
6th Grace (Thompson), awakening from her dream to a stormy night, has Gothic accents in her paintings and scores, and all of this is part of Frank’s delight in “this type of film vocabulary.”
7th People assumed – just like me – that Mike Church (Branagh) introductory parked on the wrong side of the street was kidding about Branagh being British, but actually because they wanted the admission showing the skyscrapers in the background.
8th. Mike is struggling to quit smoking, but Branagh was a non-smoker and couldn’t portray the smoking scenes convincingly – he was so bad at them that they ultimately had to be cut. “The sad, terrible truth is that some time later I smoke now.” He hopes that once this new watch hits the rough scene with Gray Davis (Andy Garcia) Smoking down the throat, will convince him to quit.
9. The comment was taped in 2000 and it names Agatha Christie, unaware that seventeen years later he will be directing a pretty grand adaptation of her murder on the Orient Express.
10. The house where the composer’s Christian orphanage is set is in Pasadena, CA. They added the entrance gate and additional towers to maximize the Gothic nature.
11. This was his first real attempt with a persistent American accent, and he went to Los Angeles to practice with strangers. Nobody seemed to notice or care.
12th Thompson had worked with Wayne Knight beforehand they insisted that it be occupied here.
13th Frank came in as one of the policemen in the mental hospital elevator.
14th He suspects that the big problem that left a large number of other directors indifferent to the script was the introduction of hypnosis and previous lives.
15th The flashback with Roman and Margaret (Thompson) on the beach was filmed on a stretch of California coast where Baywatch would be filmed years later. “Who knows, maybe it was the very bodies you saw here that gave you the idea for this show. I can be wrong, I am not sure. “
16. The setting of Cozy Carlisle (Robin WilliamsWhen he looked at the couple after chatting in the supermarket at 4:43 pm, there was a brief insert that Branagh wasn’t sure he would use. He said to Williams, “Let’s just take a close-up of you that looks a little strange so we can keep your character as a possible candidate for whoever did it.”
17th Dead Again cast and crew members said Branagh was a lot happier and funnier playing Mike than when he played the brooding novel.
18th The conversation between Mike and Grace amid the Christmas lights was a re-recording that was taped a few months after the film ended. The preview audience wasn’t interested in the couple’s romance, so the scene was added to give the couple more personal time. “You can see that maybe there is a little more weight on my face … something the makeup people weren’t too excited about.” He was also on his first ski trip in the days leading up to the re-recordings and got the hell out of the producers and insurance people.
19th A pair of talented stunt performers doubled in for Branagh and Campbell Scott during part of their bridging, but it was Branagh who “received the blow in the testicular area given to me live by Campbell Scott eager to actually inflict assault”.
20th He credits producers Lindsay Doran and Sydney Pollack with her weight to support the casting of herself and Thompson, two Britons who weren’t about to become big stars, in a Hollywood thriller.
21st Apparently they kept losing scissors on set and had to keep bringing replacement. Seems pretty obvious that Knight was the one who stole them.
22nd He attended a few Dead Again screenings and recalls a deadly silence in the theaters during the revelation that Mike was Margaret in his previous life.
23 Doran suggested that Grace’s Apartment / Studio launch should include insert shots of the scissor sculptures and artwork, but Branagh said no. He eventually realized his mistake and blamed his own stubbornness, adding, “In all honesty, the director was stupid for not listening.”
24. Frank added the scene where older Gray was smoking through his throat after seeing someone in a restaurant.
25th The character played by Derek Jacobi is called Franklyn Madison – as in “Frank mad son” – and that’s something that even Branagh didn’t notice first. “I didn’t notice it at the time, that’s my pervasive intelligence.”
26th Not every filmmaker enjoys the preview process, but Branagh is a fan. Early previews were “disastrous” and resulted in some scenes and edits in the third act being played around to keep audiences excited and in sync.
27 Grace’s apartment was in the High Tower in the Hollywood Hills, but while they were filming the exterior there, the inside of the apartment is a set. They took photos of the real place and blew them up as translucent backdrops that were visible in front of the windows of the set.
28. It’s a very serious scene, but on the day of filming the final battle, the three friends – Branagh, Thompson, and Jacobi – found it immensely amusing to stand there and stare at each other intently while one of them held a pair of bloody scissors.
29 The final blow when Franklyn jumped and landed on top of the large scissors sculpture – a jump Jacobi must have believed was absolutely necessary – was “massive and bellicose exaggerated” for some, but Branagh and his friends found it perfectly appropriate.
30th The final shot of Dead Again is a cross-fade from Roman and Margaret kissing to Mike and Grace kissing, and for the longest time they had them lined up by the actor – Thompson on the left and Branagh on the right. You ultimately flipped the negative of the second couple because it actually makes the most sense to stay in tune with the movie’s narrative about past lives.
Best in Context-Free Comment
“The script went through a number of directors, let’s put it that way.”
“I had fun.”
“Robin Williams, very free with improvisation, and I tried weakly to keep up with him.”
“I’m afraid another terrible joke will come up, but I couldn’t resist it.”
“I used to love doing those scissor shots.”
“He’s a bad guy, you see?”
“It’s a good moment in a movie like this, I think, he says immodestly.”
“Oh hello, that’ll be the bad guy, exactly on cue.”
Dead Again remains an incredibly fun thriller that varies widely in its story and style, and once you get on board its wavelength there is plenty of entertainment to be found. Branagh’s comment honestly sees him about his shortcomings as a green director, but it also underscores the thought and effort that went into the production. It’s good listening and it’s only one of two comments on the CD while another shows Doran and Frank. This new Blu-ray is definitely worth a fan pickup.
Read more comment comment from the archive.