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Emma Thompson: I Forgave Helena Bonham Carter for Kenneth Branagh Affair That Ended Our Marriage

Emma Thompson, Helena Bonham Carter.Shutterstock (2)
Emma Thompson, Helena Bonham Carter. Shutterstock (2)

Back in the late 80s and early 90s, British theater and movie stars Kenneth Branagh and Emma Thompson were an undeniable power couple in London and Hollywood. That ended in 1995, when Branagh, now 52, and Thompson, now 54, separated after six years of marriage. Although the actors cited work demands that kept them far apart and estranged, prevalent rumors at the time claimed that Branagh was having an affair with another on-the-rise British actress with whom they’d both worked onscreen: Helena Bonham Carter.

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Speaking about that scandal for the first time in the UK’s Sunday Times, Thompson (borrowing a quote from director Mike Nicholls) says that betrayal is “all blood under the bridge. You can’t hold on to anything like that. I just think . . . pfft.” She adds, “It’s pointless. I haven’t got the energy for it. Helena and I made our peace years and years ago.”

Branagh and Carter, 47, reportedly began their affair on the set of 1994’s Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein; following Branagh and Thompson’s split, they embarked upon their own public relationship, which lasted until 1999. Thompson tells the paper that she and Carter have a great deal in common. “Oh we are [alike],” the Saving Mr. Banks star says. “Being slightly mad and a bit fashion-challenged. Perhaps that’s why Ken loved us both. She’s a wonderful woman, Helena.”

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Another byproduct of the heartache? It’s played well in Thompson’s work onscreen and onstage. “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 while discussing one unforgettable moment in 2003’s Love Actually, in which she discovers her husband’s affair.

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These days, Thompson is happily married to actor-producer Greg Wise; wed for a decade, the couple shares daughter Gaia, 13, and adopted son Tindyebwa Agaba, 26. Branagh wed film art director Lindsay Brunnock back in 2003. Carter, meanwhile, has been in a long-term relationship with director Tim Burton since 2001; they share son Billy, 10 and daughter Nell, 5.

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