Emma Thompson and Kenneth Branagh were only married for six years, but the scandal that led to their split made headlines for decades.
The Love Actually actress and the Hamlet director met in 1987 while filming the BBC series Fortunes of War and tied the knot two years later. The duo were one of the most A-list couples in England at the time, collaborating several times during their marriage. Branagh directed his wife in a string of films released between 1989 and 1993: Henry V, Dead Again, Peter’s Friends and Much Ado About Nothing.
By 1994, however, their romance hit a serious speed bump. While filming his movie adaptation of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Branagh began a relationship with Helena Bonham Carter, who’d previously acted alongside Thompson in 1992’s Howards End.
Thompson and Branagh announced their split in September 1995, but at the time, they blamed their breakup on their busy work schedules. The Late Night actress had spent much of that year working on Sense and Sensibility, adapting the screenplay from Jane Austen’s novel of the same name and starring as lead character Elinor Dashwood.
After it emerged that Branagh had an affair with Bonham Carter, Thompson spoke candidly about how her ex-husband’s infidelity affected her. In February 2018, the Emmy winner revealed that the moment in Love Actually where her character, Karen, discovers her husband’s affair was inspired by her own experience.
“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 during a fundraiser for the Tricycle Theatre at the time. “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.”
After his split from Thompson, Branagh dated Bonham Carter until 1999. He later married Lindsay Brunnock, whom he met while working on the 2002 miniseries Shackleton. Thompson, for her part, married actor Greg Wise in 2003. The couple met while filming Sense and Sensibility, but at the time, Wise was pursuing their costar Kate Winslet.
“Before he did the job, he went to see a friend of his who was a bit witchy and she said he would meet his future partner on the film,” Thompson recalled during a December 2021 appearance on The Graham Norton Show. “He assumed it wasn’t me because I was married and quite a lot older than him, so he thought it might be Kate.”
Wise took the Titanic star on a date to the Glastonbury Music Festival, but the duo didn’t hit it off — and Winslet later told the Crown alum that he should pursue Thompson instead. “She pointed out that we were right for each other and told me that Emma’s marriage was over,” Wise told Express in July 2014. “It was all meant to be, just as my friend Helen had predicted.”
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