Actor-helmer discusses 'Wallander,' 'Monroe,' 'Thor'

LONDON — Kenneth Branagh, who received the Variety Award at the British Independent Film Awards on Sunday, took a break from filming the third series of detective series “Wallander” recently to attend a career tribute at BAFTA.

Asked if this would be the last series of the BBC show he said, “The audience decides.” He added that there were two Wallander books, “The Troubled Man” and “The White Lioness,” that hadn’t been adapted by the BBC yet, so a fourth series was in the cards.

Looking back at his career, Branagh made frequent references to the career of Laurence Olivier, to whom he has been compared and who he plays in his latest pic, “My Week with Marilyn.”

The film focuses on the period when Olivier was shooting “The Prince and the Showgirl” with Marilyn Monroe, when Olivier was at a turning point in his career.

“It was a kind of mid-life crisis for him,” Branagh said. “He was looking to Marilyn to renew him, to associate him with the new and the youthful, the vigorous and the sexy.”

Branagh said that as well as getting the look of Olivier right, with the use of a prosthetic chin with the distinctive cleft, he had also worked hard to get the voice right. Branagh listened to Olivier’s readings from the Bible, for example. “He was one of those people who was very quiet when he wanted people’s attention, so people would learn forward. He had complete command over his voice,” he said.

Branagh said that Olivier’s true personality was an enigma to many who worked with him. “He was a chameleon actor. So in the course of any one day people like Mr. (Anthony) Hopkins and Mr. (Derek) Jacobi, who both worked with him extensively, would say he’d be many, many parts, all of them wonderful. But (John) Gielgud used to say of him that it was sometimes hard to find the man himself.”

Branagh noted the changes in film production technology from his first film as a director, 1989’s “Henry V,” when he did not have video assist, so he didn’t have playback, to this year’s 3D pic “Thor,” with its extensive use of special effects. “It was exhausting in the way nothing else has been, and stimulating in a quite a different way,” he said. “It was ludicrously exciting to walk on set on the first day, even though your heart is a-pounding.”

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