Kenneth Branagh says that actors perform best when they are “less fearful” and “genuinely enjoy” their work.
The actor said during his career he had seen artists “surprise themselves” and that he sought to create an atmosphere on set where people would feel relaxed.
Branagh’s semi-autobiographical film Belfast, which he directed, is due to be released in the UK on January 21.
Speaking in a Variety Q&A session he recalled a conversation he once had with veteran English actor Sir John Mills.
A lot of my acting, directing…things I’ve picked up, is to do with how can you just make the actor less fearful and genuinely enjoy things. When I see and feel people enjoy things I see them do their best work and I also see them surprise themselves.Kenneth Branagh
“I asked ‘what have you found to be your biggest problem?’ and he said ‘fear. Fear is no good,’” Branagh said.
“So a lot of my acting, directing … things I’ve picked up, is to do with how can you just make the actor less fearful and genuinely enjoy things.
“When I see and feel people enjoy things I see them do their best work and I also see them surprise themselves”.
He continued: “For me … my worst acting is when I’m allowed to do the bathroom mirror performance.
“When I’ve got it ready, I’ve been rather good in the bathroom, I’m pleased with myself and I’ve got my various looks and tones.
“Then I come and do it and it’s a bloody disaster”.
The film, starring Jamie Dornan, Ciaran Hinds, Caitriona Balfe and Jude Hill, follows a working class protestant family during The Troubles in Northern Ireland.
Branagh said the film showed a family experiencing events that ordinary people are “not trained to deal with”.
“Compassion was the point of view that we wanted to apply to the very complicated situation,” he said.
“We watch it through (Hill’s) portrayal of nine-year-old Buddy and it’s a very human and humane position to watch a family, which hopefully many people can recognise, deal with events we’re not trained to deal with.”
Star Ciaran Hinds added: “The whole essence of what (Branagh) has captured was a deep truth of a culture and of a people, but very economically and personally”.
Belfast has already received multiple and various nominations going into the 2022 awards season.