Anthony Hopkins, Judi Dench eye ‘Italian Shoes’

Kenneth Branagh to direct from Richard Cottan's script

LONDON — Anthony Hopkins and Judi Dench are in talks for the lead roles in “Italian Shoes,” which Kenneth Branagh will direct.

The project is based on the novel by Swedish author Henning Mankell, with a script by Richard Cottan.

It’s the story of a retired surgeon living on a remote island in Sweden, who is forced to confront his past mistakes when he’s reunited with an old flame.

The film will start shooting toward the end of 2012 or in 2013, depending on when the two veteran British actors are available.

Branagh told Daily Variety that the project is “tailor-made” for Hopkins and Dench, and has been developed with them in mind. “The nuance, delicacy and flavor is so based on the perfect casting,” he said.

Their casting, he said, “takes advantage of my long relationship with the pair of them.” Hopkins starred in Branagh’s “Thor,” while Dench appears alongside Branagh in “My Week With Marilyn.”

Dench has previously collaborated with Branagh many times on screen and on stage.

He directed her on film in “Henry V” and “Hamlet,” in which he also played the title roles. They appeared together in the telepic “Ghosts,” and Dench directed Branagh on stage in the Renaissance Theater productions of “Much Ado About Nothing” and “Look Back in Anger.”

“Italian Shoes” is being developed by the U.K.’s Left Bank Pictures and Sweden’s Yellowbird, which co-produce the English-language TV series based on Mankell’s “Wallander” detective novels. Branagh is the star and exec producer of the series, which is currently shooting its third season in northern Sweden.

“Italian Shoes” is one of three development projects to which Branagh is linked as a director. He is also attached to “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society,” scripted by Don Roos for Fox 2000, which is yet to be cast, and “The Boys in the Boat” for the Weinstein Co., which has yet to announce a writer.

Branagh turned down the offer to direct “Thor 2” because of what he describes as “timing issues.”