Emma Thompson Opens up About Learning of Ex-Husband Kenneth Branagh's Affair With Helena Bonham Carter

Emma Thompson said she was "utterly blind" to the fact that her ex-husband Kenneth Branagh was having an affair with Helena Bonham Carter. The Oscar winners were married from 1989 until 1995, but Branagh began his affair with Bonham Carter the year before when he directed and starred with her in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. Bonham Carter and Thompson had worked together on Howards End, while Branahgh directed Thompson in four movies.

In a new interview with The New Yorker, Thompson said she was humiliated by Brahangh's affair. "I was utterly, utterly blind to the fact that he had relationships with other women on set," she explained. "What I learned was how easy it is to be blinded by your own desire to deceive yourself."

Branagh and Thompson met in 1987 when they starred in the TV miniseries Fortunes of War. In the same year they married, Thompson made her feature film debut in Branagh's production of Henry V. Branagh also directed Thompson in Dead Again, Peter's Friends, and Much Ado About Nothing. When Thompson and Branagh split, they publicly cited their work schedules. However, in 2013, Thompson confirmed long-standing rumors that Branagh had an affair with Bonham Carter, leading to the end of their marriage.

After the split, Thompson was in an emotional mess, she said. "I was half alive. Any sense of being a lovable or worthy person had gone completely," Thompson told The New Yorker. Greg Wise, whom she met while making Sense and Sensibility, was the person who "picked up the pieces and put them back together." Thompson and Wise have been together for 27 years and married in 2003. "I've learned more from my second marriage just by being married," she said. "As my mother says, 'the first twenty years are the hardest.'"

Bonham Carter and Branagh were together until 1999. "Me and Ken was very different from me and Tim [Burton]," Bonham Carter told The Guardian in 2020. "You know, Ken avoided directing me once we were together because it can be complicated and I think he didn't want – anyway, that's all blood under the bridge." Branagh married his second wife, Lindsay Brunnock, in 2003.


Thompson starred in three movies this year, Good Luck to You, Leo Grande; What's Love Got to Do with It?; and Netflix's upcoming Matilda the Musical. She stars as Miss Trunchbull, the cruel headmistress previously played by Pam Ferris in the 1996 Matilda movie. Thompson won an Oscar for Best Actress for Howards End and Best Adapted Screenplay for Sense and Sensibility. Branagh did not win his own Oscar until March when he won for his Belfast screenplay.