Q&A Kenneth Branagh

Kenneth Branagh plays Franklin Roosevelt in HBO's Warm Springs, airing April 30.

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The film focuses on F.D.R.'s crippling battle with polio. Are those your real calves? No. It's prosthetics and computers. Oh, thank God. Sweetly put, though. I'm blessed or cursed with rugby-player legs.

Is it easier to play an American icon when you're not an American? I was a big admirer of F.D.R. He saved Britain. Maybe there's some measure of objectivity. He didn't have that hard R Americans have. [In a loud, nasal voice] "The only thing we have to fe-uh is fe-uh itself!"

Maybe because of all the Shakespeare, maybe because of the intelligent women you've been linked to, some Americans see you as Mr. Smarty-Pants Intellectual. Is that a fair assessment?

Intellectual--it can end up being a rather pejorative word, that. I read. I'm kind of cerebral. I'm definitely interested in ideas, poetry, music.

Plus, you're in a band called the Fishmongers, which plays right into that image. Yes, the music itself is a pretty well-kept secret, and it's going to remain that way. I play guitar and piano. I'm just a strummer.

To be or not to be?

You've gone all profound on me, haven't you? Be. It's the hardest thing to do. The trickiest thing in life is to be just here, in the moment, in this conversation. There's no point in agonizing about your broken VCR, is there?