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Emma Thompson Recalls Being ‘Utterly Blind’ to Ex-Husband Kenneth Branagh’s Cheating

Elisabeth Edwards
Photo Credit: Jeff Kravitz / FilmMagic / Getty Images
Photo Credit: Jeff Kravitz / FilmMagic / Getty Images

Emma Thompson gave a rare glimpse into her relationship with ex-husband Kenneth Branagh in a recent interview for The New Yorker. The British actress talked about taking on a musical, aging, and reflected on the most formative moments of her career – including the cheating scandal that left her heartbroken.


Thompson says the end of her marriage was just as shocking to her as it was to the public after it was revealed that Branagh was having an affair with his Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein co-star Helena Bonham Carter. “I was utterly, utterly blind to the fact that he had relationships with other women on set,” said Thompson. “What I learned was how easy it is to be blinded by your own desire to deceive yourself.”

Emma Thompson in Sense and Sensibility
Thompson in Sense and Sensibility (2003). (Photo Credit: Columbia Pictures / murraymomo / MovieStillsDB)

Emma Thompson was born in London in 1959 to a family of actors. After studying English at Oxford University, Thompson began her career in entertainment. After working for the BBC and touring in a comedy show, she landed her first big break as a writer for a TV show alongside friends and burgeoning British actors Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie.

Wedding photo of Emma Thompson and Kenneth Branagh
The wedding of Kenneth Branagh and Emma Thompson on August 20, 1989. (Photo Credit: Georges De Keerle / Getty Images)

Branagh and Thompson first met in 1987 while filming Fortunes of War. The couple married in 1989 and starred in several films throughout their relationship, including Look Back in Anger, Henry V, Much Ado About Nothing, Dead Again, and Peter’s Friends. They also formed a production company together.

Thompson’s happy ending

The British actress is well known for her depth on screen. She effortlessly flows from the serious, demanding art film and theater world to lighthearted and comedic Hollywood roles in beloved movies like Love Actually. More recently, Thompson and Branagh appeared in The Boat That Rocked and the Harry Potter franchise, which Bonham Carter also appeared in – luckily, they avoided any awkward encounters as they had no scenes together.

Emma Thompson and Greg Wise
Thompson and her husband Greg Wise in 2022. (Photo Credit: Mike Marsland / WireImage / Getty Images)

“I was half alive,” Thompson said when reflecting on the end of her marriage to Branagh. “Any sense of being a lovable or worthy person had gone completely.” Thompson divorced Branagh in 1995, after which he continued his relationship with Helena Bonham Carter for five years.

Thompson thanks her current husband Greg Wise – who she first met on the set of Sense & Sensibility in 1995 – as the person “who picked up the pieces and put them back together.” They share two children together, Gaia Romilly Wise and Tindyebwa Agaba Wise – who they adopted in 2003.

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As for the tension between her and Helena Bonham Carter, Thompson says she buried the hatchet long ago. “You can’t hold on to anything like that. It’s pointless. I haven’t got the energy for it. Helena and I made our peace years and years ago.”

Elisabeth Edwards

Elisabeth Edwards is a public historian and history content writer. After completing her Master’s in Public History at Western University in Ontario, Canada Elisabeth has shared her passion for history as a researcher, interpreter, and volunteer at local heritage organizations.

She also helps make history fun and accessible with her podcast The Digital Dust Podcast, which covers topics on everything from art history to grad school.

In her spare time, you can find her camping, hiking, and exploring new places. Elisabeth is especially thrilled to share a love of history with readers who enjoy learning something new every day!

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