Detective Branagh: Kenneth is Set to Star in a New BBC Series to Rival 'Inspector Morse'
Daily Mail, 10 January 2008
Kenneth Branagh will return to the small screen in a big-budget BBC detective series intended to rival the success of 'Inspector Morse'.
The respected actor and director, who has not been seen on television for five years, was persuaded to make a comeback for the £6 million drama because of his love of the novels it was taken from.
He will take the title role in the series based on the bestselling Wallander novels, in which a heavy-drinking, world-weary detective embarks on a mission to resolve crimes using unorthodox means.
Branagh, 47, who will also be executive producer for the drama, is expected to be paid £500,000 for portraying the disillusioned Kurt Wallander.
The Swedish novels written by Henning Mankell have been a worldwide phenomenon, selling more than 25 million copies across the globe.
The three-part BBC series - each with a lavish £2 million budget - will be based on the first three novels, Sidetracked, Firewall and One Step Behind and will be set in Sweden.
Branagh - who is best known for his big screen adaptations of Shakespearean plays - was last seen on British television five years ago when he played explorer Ernest Henry Shackleton in a Channel 4 drama by the same name.
But as a longstanding fan of the detective novels, he was keen to play the lead and met Mankell in Sweden to talk through a dramatisation.
The author was said to have insisted on Branagh playing Wallander in the BBC1 adaptation.
Branagh said yesterday: "Wallander is a wonderfully complex and compelling character. I am excited to be playing this fascinatingly flawed but deeply human detective."
A source said: "He has been a huge fan of the series for years and had a series of meetings with Mankell a year ago.
"Lots of people have been wanting to dramatise the books but when Mankell started to think about turning them into TV dramas, he wanted Ken to do it.
"It is a project very dear to Ken's heart and something he has wanted to do for a long time."
The three 90-minute episodes will be filmed in southern Sweden and are an attempt to mirror ITV's success with 'Prime Suspect', 'Inspector Morse' and 'Cracker'.
It is a debut venture from Left Bank Pictures, the film company set up last year by 'The Queen' producer Andy Harries and is likely to be sold worldwide. The firm has joined forces with Branagh's own production company and Mankell's Yellow Bird production team.
Harries, who will be executive producer, said: 'This is more than just a detective series. It is fantastic drama with great stories and an absolutely beautiful, picture postcard setting. Ken is perfect in the title role."
BBC Worldwide has a 25 per cent in Left Bank Pictures, which makes it likely the series will be sold across the globe.
BBC drama boss Anne Mensah, who commissioned the series, said: 'Wallander' is an extremely ambitious project. We are looking to create a new detective character for British television. The novels are well-loved around the world and have a depth and complexity which will make for exciting and compulsive viewing. We could not hope for a stronger team behind the project, nor a more perfect leading man."
Scripts for the drama are still being written with filming set to start this spring.
The Wallander books have been turned into Swedish movies but this is the first British dramatisation.