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Ross King: Yes, Sir Kenneth Branagh can boogie! I lost my disco dance-off with Oscars front-runner

© Press Eye Ltd/ShutterstockKenneth Branagh at Northern Ireland's iconic Harland & Wolff cranes 'Samson and Goliath' ahead of the Irish premiere of his critically acclaimed new film BELFAST.
Kenneth Branagh at Northern Ireland's iconic Harland & Wolff cranes 'Samson and Goliath' ahead of the Irish premiere of his critically acclaimed new film BELFAST.

Back in 1994 the Bafta Awards ceremony was held in Belfast at The Grand Opera House and I was lucky enough to be invited.

One of the hosts was Sir Kenneth Branagh and as I sat in the audience it occurred to me – if I won an award I’d get a chance to meet him. The awards came and, guess what… I didn’t win!

However at the big after-party bash later that evening, I did have a memorable dancefloor encounter with him in what turned out to be a Scottish/Irish dance-off. I may not have won a Bafta but…I also didn’t win the dance-off.

Sir Ken might be a winner once more when the Oscars roll around next year. Awards season has kicked off well and truly here in Hollywood and a lot of the buzz is surrounding the Northern Irishman.

In fact he’s being talked about here as the new George Clooney.

He, of course, went from beloved actor to add director and producer to his resume, and Branagh has done the same.

Now his semi-autobiographical film, Belfast, has opened in cinemas here in the US and has a lot of people talking about whether it might win best director and best movie at the ceremony. The movie already has honours and audience awards from various festivals.

If it’s nominated for best screenplay as well then Branagh would join Clooney and Warren Beatty as the only people to have been nominated in seven different categories: best picture, director, lead actor, supporting actor, adapted screenplay and original screenplay.

How cool is that, plus he also beat me in that dance-off. I’m sure I know which he’d treasure the most!

Belfast is tremendous. It’s a black and white film about a young boy and his working-class family experiencing the tumultuous late 1960s in Northern Ireland. Dame Judi Dench and Ciaran Hinds are fantastic in it, as is young Jude Hill as Buddy.

I’ve had a couple of encounters with the multi-talented Branagh over the years beyond that Belfast boogie. Another memorable one was when I interviewed him alongside another knight, Sir Michael Caine, for Sleuth which Michael starred in and Branagh directed. During the chat I said that Caine, alongside yet another knight, Sir Sean Connery, were the two impressions most British people said they could do.

At that point Caine told the story of Connery doing an impression of him on set and Branagh and I looked at each other as if we were schoolboys. Here was childhood hero Michael Caine doing an impression of another childhood hero Sean Connery…doing an impression of Michael Caine. It was a wonderful moment!

Branagh is a real national treasure and it’s no surprise he’s already been knighted.

My question is how will we honour him in future? What’s a step up from a knight? Fancy being a Viscount, Ken?