Branagh was already a fan of Henning Mankel’s “Wallander” novels when producer Andy Harries of Left Bank Pictures asked him to help create a British TV version of the Swedish detective series.
“He was perfect for this, so we offered to make him a creative and financial partner,” Harries says. “He’s a wonderful bloke to work with, a lovely man, very intelligent, very professional and very committed to doing the show properly, to looking for interesting directors. Ken was always ambitious to do something distinctive, fresh, to bring Sweden into the living room.”
Branagh handpicks the directors, as well as approving key cast and crew. He worked closely with Philip Martin, director of the first two episodes, to determine the overall look and feel.
“He never misses a beat” as an actor, Harries says. “In the edit, you see that he offers a huge range of alternatives. His face says it all, so you need a lot less dialogue with Ken.”
Oscar-winning producer David Parfitt was one of Kenneth Branagh’s earliest collaborators on stage and on screen. As young actors, they co-founded the Renaissance Theater Co. in the 1980s, with Branagh taking the artistic helm and often the starring role in a string of acclaimed Shakespeare stagings, and Parfitt in charge of production.
They moved into film with “Henry V,” then made “Peter’s Friends,” “Much Ado About Nothing” and “Frankenstein” together. “My Week With Marilyn,” in which Branagh plays Laurence Olivier, marked their reunion after 16 years.
“Ken is a total delight on set,” Parfitt says. “He lifts the spirits when he comes on set, as an actor or a director. He’s very fast, very accurate and very good with actors, who adore working with him. He’s incredibly well organized, and he makes it fun.
“He was on ‘Marilyn’ for about 20 days, and he was brilliant to have around — he hadn’t changed a bit. What you notice, when he comes on set, is that everyone else has to raise their game.”
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The Variety Award: Kenneth Branagh
Titan of stage, screen, tube | A trio with Brio | Keen on Kenneth