Emma Thompson was ‘utterly, utterly blind’ to ex-husband Kenneth Branagh’s affairs

A smiling middle-aged woman with short hair arrives at a premiere
Emma Thompson arrives at the London premiere of her most recent movie, ‘Roald Dahl’s Matilda the Musical,’ on Oct. 5.
(Vianney Le Caer / Invision/AP)

Nearly 30 years after the breakup of her first marriage and almost 20 years into her second, actor-writer Emma Thompson admits she suffered from passing blindness many years back.

“I was utterly, utterly blind to the fact that he had relationships with other women on set,” she tells the New Yorker, speaking about actor-director Kenneth Branagh, her first spouse. “What I learned was how easy it is to be blinded by your own desire to deceive yourself.”

Branagh and Thompson split in 1995, ending six years of marriage after he had an affair with Helena Bonham Carter, his leading lady from “Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein,” a year earlier. Branagh and Bonham Carter were a high-profile item until 1999.

Thompson, meanwhile, was shattered.

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“I was half alive. Any sense of being a lovable or worthy person had gone completely,” she told the New Yorker. It took a relationship with “Sense & Sensibility” co-star Greg Wise to bring her back to life. The two got involved in 1995 while filming the movie and were married in 2003.

They are still together 19 years after exchanging vows.

“I’ve learned more from my second marriage just by being married,” Thompson said. “As my mother says, ‘The first 20 years are the hardest.’”

She and Bonham Carter made their peace “years and years ago,” Thompson told Britain’s Sunday Times magazine in 2013.

“You can’t hold on to anything like that,” Thompson said at the time. “I just think ... pfft. It’s pointless. I haven’t got the energy for it.”

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But the “Bridget Jones’s Baby” and “Last Christmas” screenwriter did use the negative energy from her breakup to fuel her well-known “Love, Actually” performance, where she played a devoted wife who learns her husband (played by Alan Rickman) has been unfaithful.

In the film, she finds out the truth when she opens a Christmas gift she expects to be a romantic necklace she stumbled upon in his jacket pocket, only to realize he’s given it to another woman while choosing a Joni Mitchell CD for her.

“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 at an event in 2018. “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.”