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featuring Kurt Wallander of Ystad, Sweden.
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Kenneth Branagh discusses Wallander in NYC on May 7th
Posted 2009-05-04
Kenneth BranaghThe New York Times will be hosting a TimesTalk event with actor Kenneth Branagh in New York City on Thursday, May 7th from 6:30 - 8:00 PM.

New York Times reporter Bill Carter will discuss the Kurt Wallander series and other projects with Mr Branagh:
  Kenneth Branagh -- actor, director, producer and screenwriter – is renowned for his interpretation of a melancholy Scandinavian — Prince Hamlet. He brings the existential Nordic outlook up to date on Masterpiece Mystery! this month as the gritty Swedish sleuth Kurt Wallander, based on the bestselling thrillers by Henning Mankell. Hear him talk about his work as Wallander, his recent film and theater projects and what's coming next.  

The venue for the discussion is TheTimesCenter, 242 West 41st Street, New York City. Tickets are $30 and can be purchased in advance at the Ticketweb site or by phoning 888-NYT-1870.

A similar event was recently held in Los Angeles and an interesting description of the event was forwarded to me by Jude, a fellow fan on the Wallander series. I hope other fans find it as interesting as I did:

  There was a promo screening in LA with a Q&A on April 29th at the Paley Centre

"They screened the entire episode of "One Step Behind"; most of the audience didn't notice Ken slip in right before it started. He sat in the back row, seemingly to gauge the audience's reaction to the show. Both the moderator (Brian Lowry) and Masterpiece Theater executive producer (Rebecca Eaton) joked that they were mainly involved with the project and event because of crushes on Branagh (Eaton has apparently had a crush on him for 20 years, and Lowry's wife has a 'serious infatuation'). They both kept their speeches short; as Eaton said, "We know whom you've really come to see."

After the screening, Ken was introduced to great applause and proceeded to answer questions for almost 30 minutes. He talked about Sweden (the weather, the dreadful winters, the depression rates and 'Scandinavian melancholy'). He spoke of how he met Henning Mankell, which was really funny - they took a bathroom break at the same time during an Ingmar Bergman festival in Sweden. They were next to each other at the urinals and wound up chatting. "I didn't shake his hand," said Ken, "for reasons that I need not go into." The crowd howled. He told us that before he'd ever met Mankell or considered adapting Wallander for the screen, he'd finished all nine Wallander books in an unbelievable six week period. "I am," he explained, "an absolutely voracious reader."

An audience member asked him why the police station was so sparse, compared to the clutter that you so often see in British cop dramas.

Ken admitted that the design was "A bit Ikea," and when the audience laughed, he quickly put his hands up (you know the way he does that - palms out, like he's going for a double hi-five?) and said "But I don't mean to disparage!" He said that they had purposely exaggerated a specific style that does exist in Sweden - long, clean lines and only essential furniture with minimal clutter.

Ken does seem to enjoy the Swedish landscape, particularly how you can take long drives through the countryside and see very few people, or a few isolated houses. He mentioned the beginning shots of "Sidetracked" - "You're looking at a rape field, bright yellow, below an amazing blue sky; you feel that you are literally inside the Swedish flag. Then this is punctuated by a shocking act of violence."

Jokes were made about how the town of Ystad has too many murders for the population to survive. Ken laughed and likened the high murder rate in "Wallander" to one of his favorite shows, "Midsomer Murders" - "It features this tiny village where so many bad things happen that there won't be any people left before long."

My favorite moment came when Lowry asked Ken whether he'd taken a moment to consider using a Swedish accent for Wallander. "Oh yes," Ken laughed. "But literally a moment. I sounded like the Swedish chef from the Muppets." The idea was quickly dropped.

If you attend the TimesTalk event and wish to share your experience with other readers, send us an email and we'll see about getting it posted to this site.