Emma Thompson Split With Kenneth Branagh Due to His Affair With Helena Bonham Carter

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Emma Thompson and Kenneth Branagh used to be one of Hollywood’s “It” couples. The two blonde-haired, Shakespeare-loving intellectuals seemed like a match made in heaven. But nothing lasts forever… especially when there’s infidelity involved. She said she split with Branagh, 8 years into their marriage, due to his affair with Helena Bonham Carter.

Emma Thompson Fell in Love With Kenneth Branagh While Filming Fortunes of War

Emma Thompson fell in love with Kenneth Branagh while filming Fortunes of War in 1987. The two actors starred in the War-Drama TV mini-series as Harriet and Guy Pringle, an English married couple living in Romania at the start of WWII. Two years later, Thompson and Branagh were married.

The famous couple thereafter would co-star or collaborate in several films, often centered around famous literature. Shakespeare was a big connection, with Thompson having a superb understanding of literature since her days in university, and Branagh being a full-blown Shakespeare aficionado. They collaborated on Henry V, Much Ado About Nothing, and other films over the years. Thompson also joined Branagh in stage productions at his Renaissance Theatre Company.

Speaking with The New Yorker, Emma Thompson said that Branagh swept her off her feet with his charm and humor. He began singing to her in a falsetto voice on a break from filming Fortunes of War.

“I burst into tears because he sounded exactly like my father singing on The Magic Roundabout,said Thompson. She added that Branagh had other qualities that reminded her of her father, Eric Thompson. Namely, he was “hard to pry open,” and his personality led them to “clash claws.”

Emma Thompson and Kenneth Branagh’s Relationship Had Red Flags Before Marriage

Emma Thompson and Kenneth Branagh during The 9th Annual IFP/West Independent Spirit Awards at Hollywood Palidum in Hollywood, CA, United States. (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic, Inc)

Director and friend of Emma Thompson, Humphrey Barclay, told The New Yorker that he remembered her being distressed early on in their courtship, which the magazine described as “volatile.”

“The Ken stuff put her through the wringer,” Barclay said. “She had a three-hour cry on my shoulder about what a brute Ken was. And then, six weeks later, she said, ‘And we’re getting married. Isn’t it lovely?’ ” Thompson and Branagh were, ironically, filming Thompson, which featured a musical duet called “Have a Little Faith in Me.” But Branagh was far from acting faithful, and still, Thompson let it slide. As can occur in toxic relationships where one person isn’t true to the other, they got married despite the red flags.

News of Branagh’s Affair With Helena Bonham Carter Crushed Emma

The 8-year-long marriage between the Hollywood stars finally came to a heartbreaking end in 1995. Kenneth Branagh had started having an affair with actor Helena Bonham Carter while filming Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Thompson said she felt “humiliated,” yet tried to put on a stoic façade in the public eye.

“I was utterly, utterly blind to the fact that he had relationships with other women on set,” she told The New Yorker. “What I learned was how easy it is to be blinded by your own desire to deceive yourself.” She added that her husband’s affair with Bonham Carter made her doubt her own self-worth.

“I was half alive,” said Thompson. “Any sense of being a lovable or worthy person had gone completely.”

Emma Thompson channeled her heartbreak into her art. Speaking with The Telegraph in 2018, she said that her role in Love Actually drew on her real-life experiences.

“I’ve had so much bloody practice at crying in a bedroom, then having to go out and be cheerful, gathering up the pieces of my heart and putting them in a drawer,” she said.

Emma Thompson Found True Love With Actor Greg Wise

LONDON, ENGLAND – OCTOBER 02: Dame Emma Thompson and Greg Wise attend “Madly, Deeply: A Celebration Of Alan Rickman” at BFI Southbank on October 2, 2022 in London, England. (Photo by David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images)

As for her feelings towards the other woman, aka Helena Bonham Carter, Thompson said they’re amicable.

“That is… all blood under the bridge,” Thompson told The Sunday Times (via The Telegraph). “You can’t hold on to anything like that. It’s pointless. I haven’t got the energy for it…”

Thompson also agreed that she and Bonham Carter had some similarities. She said they were both “slightly mad and a bit fashion-challenged. Perhaps that’s why Ken loved us both… Helena and I made our peace years and years ago… she’s a wonderful woman.”

Thompson managed to find true love in the end, though. She married actor Greg Wise in 2003 and they’ve remained together ever since. They have two children together, one biological and one who was informally adopted from Rwanda.

Thompson told The New Yorker that her relationship with Wise has been healing. He was the person “who picked up the pieces and put them back together,” she said, adding that being married for so long has taught her a lot.

“I’ve learned more from my second marriage just by being married… As my mother says, ‘the first twenty years are the hardest.’ ” 

Interestingly, Emma Thompson once revealed on The Graham Norton Show that her relationship with Greg Wise was actually prophesized by his psychic friend. How’s that for a little bit of magic?

Silke Jasso contributed to this article.

Read More: Inside Tim Burton and Helena Bonham Carter’s Spooky Relationship

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