Sir Kenneth Branagh’s final appearance as Swedish detective Kurt Wallender, began in the UK this week.
Branagh, who has played the role since 2008, reflected on the late Henning Mankell who died in October, in a piece for Radio Times.
“We made 12 television films from his books and talked regularly (aside from my father, he was the only person who ever called me Kenneth, not Ken). The last time I saw him was seven years later in 2014, once again we were having dinner, our Wallander was coming to an end, we were both a little sad about it, and more importantly he was living with cancer,” he wrote.
“You always had to be on your toes with Henning. He was quick-witted and meticulous. He was dismissive of lazy thought, and in his personal relationships he wanted stimulus and debate. Our films investigated if or when the job of a police detective might ‘break’ his creation of Kurt Wallander. Or whether he could make the difference he hoped might be possible, at least in some lives, in the small town of Ystad.
“Henning also had a (Swedish) dry, deadpan humour and a capacity to talk seriously about serious things in the world at large almost immediately upon meeting.
“It was only when I met Henning one morning in Hamburg that I knew Kurt’s end could not be conventionally happy. We were promoting the programme in Germany, and Henning approached me like a man clutching the answer to a very great secret. He grabbed me excitedly by the shoulders and said, “I have it, I have it!” “Have what?” I asked. “The last sentence,” he replied, “the last sentence of the last Wallander story!”
“He would not tell me what those words were, but I knew from the gravity with which he now spoke that a shadow would fall once again across the life of Kurt Wallander. In The Troubled Man, the last of the Wallander novels, and the last of our films, that shadow stretches out across Kurt’s very mind. With a cruel irony, as Henning charted Kurt’s descent, cancer held Henning himself in its grip until finally he was taken from us last year.
“The scenes where Kurt battles with his own mind were played for our cameras as Henning, sick but still visiting us on set occasionally, was battling his own illness. They were painfully memorable days.”