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Emma Thompson Was ‘Utterly Blind’ To Her First Husband’s Affair

Almost two decades later, the actress is speaking her truth.

Emma Thompson is one of the biggest names in Hollywood, adored for her roles in Nanny McPhee, Harry Potter and of course, Love Actually. When she thought she’d found her forever love in Kenneth Branagh, the world was understandably excited, but in just a few short years her world would come crashing down, causing her to question everything. 

Of course, we’re talking about that affair he had with Helena Bonham Carter, which was widely speculated at the time but seldom spoken about by anyone involved. 

Now, two decades later, Thompson is speaking out about the intricacies of that situation and the ways it forced her to rethink her relationships. 

Below, everything you need to know about their relationship, the affair which caused it to come crashing down and how Thompson feels about everything now. 

1987 — first meeting 


The year is 1987, and Kenneth and Emma meet for the first time while filming World War II drama, Fortunes of War. 

In a November 2022 interview with the New Yorker, Thompson revealed she developed feelings for Branagh when he began singing to her on set. 

“I burst into tears because he sounded exactly like my father singing on The Magic Roundabout,” she said. 

The pair soon started dating and continued working together professionally, too. Over the next year, they worked together on a BBC sketch comedy called Thompson (which was unsurprisingly, written by Thompson). 

1989 — the wedding 


By 1989, the pair had tied the knot. They were dubbed ‘the golden couple’ by British press and by all accounts, seemed very much in love. They were keen to keep their relationship private and rarely gave interviews, choosing instead to appear in things professionally. That same year, they starred in a stage revival of Look Back in Anger and later, in a televised version of the same play.

1991-1993 more movies 


For the next few years, Thompson and Branagh continued working together in film, co-starring in Dead AgainPeter’s Friends and Much Ado About Nothing, which Branagh directed.  

1994  Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein 


Come 1994, Branagh starred in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein alongside well-known British actress, Helena Bonham Carter. 

According to an L.A. Times article, the two had actually met several years prior in 1988 when they “both took part in a poetry reading on a boat floating down the Thames.”

That being said, Bonham Carter told the outlet they had “never actually sat down and had a proper conversation” until 1993 when she was cast in Frankenstein. Branagh both directed and starred in it, with rumours soon circulating that the pair’s onscreen chemistry had moved offscreen, with Branagh cheating on Thompson in the process. 

1995 the divorce


By 1995, Branagh and Thompson announce their divorce after six years of marriage. While they cited conflicting work schedules as the reason for their split, many wondered if it had anything to do with the rumours that Branagh had been unfaithful. 

1995 — Emma and Greg Wise get together 


The same year their split was announced, Thompson began dating actor Greg Wise, whom she met that year while starring opposite one another in Sense and Sensibility. 

1995-1999 Helena and Kenneth date 


Following his split from Thompson, Branagh began dating Bonham Carter that same year. They would date for three years before Bonham Carter released a statement announcing their split. 

“I am very sad to confirm that Kenneth Branagh and I are no longer together,” she said at the time. “The decision was mutual and no one else was involved. Beyond that, I have no further comment to make and I hope that the press will respect our privacy.” 

A few years later, Carter entered a long-term relationship with director Tim Burton from 2001 to 2014. During this time, they welcomed two children, a son Billy, 19,  and a daughter Nell, 15.

2003 — the love actually scene


When the iconic Christmas rom-com Love Actually was released in 2003, fans were understandably moved by Thompson’s emotionally-charged scene where she realises her husband is being unfaithful. Several years later, the actress admitted that she drew on real experiences to express those feelings authentically. 

“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 in 2018 at a fundraiser, per The Telegraph.

“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.”

She later added that she’d had “so much bloody practice at crying in a bedroom,”, again speaking to the emotional toll of Branagh’s infidelity. 

“Then having to go out and be cheerful, gathering up the pieces of my heart and putting them in a drawer.”

2022 the interview 


“I was utterly, utterly blind to the fact that he had relationships with other women on set,” Thompson told The New Yorker in her 2022 interview, alluding to the fact that there was truth behind the rumours surrounding Bonham Carter.

“What I learned was how easy it is to be blinded by your own desire to deceive yourself.” 

After the split, Thompson told the publication that she felt “half alive.” 

“Any sense of being a lovable or worthy person had gone completely,” she said. 

As for how she feels toward Branagh and Bonham Carter, the actress told The Sunday Times paper back in 2013 that it’s all “blood under the bridge.” 

“It’s pointless. I haven’t got the energy for it… Helena and I made our peace years and years ago… she’s a wonderful woman,” she said.

Soon, she’ll be celebrating her 20th wedding anniversary with Wise, whom she said she’s learned so much from. They share two children, a daughter named Gaia who was conceived through IVF when Thompson was 39 and an adopted son named Tindyebwa Agaba Wise.  

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