Some of this TV season's finest moments are coming up in its final three weeks. That's when PBS airs the last season of "Wallander" movies; here's the story I sent to papers.
By Mike Hughes
keeps leaping between extremes.
He goes from epic to
intimate, from sprawling movies to tidy TV shows.
The movies he's
directed – including “Thor” and “Cinderella” -- have been
massive and colorful, with action and fantasy. His “Wallander”
mystery movies on PBS are pretty much the opposite.
returning for three Sundays -- fits its setting. “The first things
that struck us (were) how big it was,” Branagh said of rural
Sweden, “how flat it was, how far away it seemed, how isolated.”
All of those are
traits shared by Kurt Wallander, the police detective he plays.
mysteries are filled with quiet understatement. Indeed, it's tough to
grasp the fact that Branagh was starring in one of them while he was
planning his “Thor” movie.
Back then, Tom
Hiddleston – like Branagh, a Shakespearean actor – was playing
his “Wallander” assistant; Branagh had just cast him in “Thor”
as Loki. He recalls Hiddleston's “kind of very youthful, wide-eyed
kind of innocent-looking expression as he thought, 'Really? I'm going
to be doing that? Really? We're going to be in space and we'll be in
the middle of all that kind of adventure?'”
And now? Hiddleston
has gone on to be Loki in three more movies, with a fourth on the
way; he doesn't have time to do “Wallander.”
does. He keeps returning to “Masterpiece” in different projects.
“The series has had no better friend than Sir Ken,” said Rebecca
Eaton, the “Masterpiece” producer.
This feels like
familiar turf, Branagh said. “I grew up watching television, so it
was very important.”
That was in Belfast
until he was 9 and then in England. He became a hybrid – British
accent, Irish soul, blue-collar roots (his dad was a carpenter who
started a specialty company) and upscale education.
Branagh, now 55, did
the classics and at 27 starred in the “Fortunes of War”
miniseries, which would change his life. He fell in love with his
co-star, Emma Thompson; they married, divorcing six years later. And
he made his first trip to Los Angeles, to talk to reporters at a
“Masterpiece” press conference.
The flight was six
hours late and “people had been well-refreshed at that stage,”
Branagh recalled, bringing a loose night of music and laughs. “The
next day, I went for a walk in Beverly Hills .... You really felt the
distance and you thought, 'How amazing that this thing called
'Masterpiece' is gathering all these people together on the other
side of the world to talk about ... our work.”
rejected offers to be the series host, Eaton wrote in “Making
Masterpiece” (Viking, 2013). Still, she wrote: “Ken has remained
a great and loyal friend to 'Masterpiece' and seems to understand
better than most actors, what a 'Masterpiece' broadcast can do for a
British actor's career.”
TV has always seemed
vital, he said. “My family weren't theatergoers, but we did watch
television. We went to the movies. And I was just aware ... of how
influential was the shared conversation about art or entertainment
you'd seen in your living room.”
So when he read the
“Wallander” novels, it seemed logical to film them for
“Masterpioece,” shooting in the Swedish locations they described.
“It's the land of the big sky, small houses, certain kinds of
colors used,” Branagh said. “And everyone seemed to be in a
rather melancholic painting.”
The project has
included 12 TV movies, shot in four three-film batches, spread over
seven years. Reflecting the novels, Wallander sometimes went abroad
... and, at the end, showed his age.
So this year's first
film finds Wallander in South Africa; the next two find his mind
retreating, Branagh said. “His own particular isolation ... makes
thimgs pretty tricky, if he is starting to become forgetful.”
Thor/Cinderella solution here. There's a bright and lonely man,
facing a premature fade.
Wallander,” 9-10:30 p.m. Sundays on PBS (check local listigs)
-- Final season has
three films, May 8, 15 and 22
Branaepis eneth ag, NasterMMr