Branagh to star in Harries crime drama
Andy Harries' indie's first commission is a £6m Kenneth Branagh detective series for the BBC billed as the new Inspector Morse.
Left Bank Pictures' 3 x 90-minute dramas for BBC1 are based on the international best-selling Wallander crime novels, written by Swedish novelist Henning Mankell.
His books, which follow a middle-aged Swedish police inspector, have sold more than 10 million copies worldwide.
The three productions will have the umbrella name Wallander and will star Branagh in the title role. The shows are adaptations of the first three novels in the series, Sidetracked, Firewall and One Step Behind, and will be set in Sweden.
Harries told Broadcast: "This is more than just a detective series. It's fantastic drama, great stories and an absolutely beautiful setting. Visually these films are going to be very strong, very picture postcard. Ken Branagh is perfect for the title role."
It is understood the corporation is looking for a big returning detective franchise, in a bid to emulate ITV1's success with Inspector Morse, Cracker and Prime Suspect.
Branagh's last major lead role on British television was more than five years ago when he played explorer Ernest Henry Shackleton in the Channel 4 drama Shackleton. In 2004 he played dotty Uncle Albert in the BBC's Five Children and It.
Branagh said he was a long-time admirer of Mankell's novels. He said: "Wallander is a wonderfully complex and compelling character and I am excited to be playing this fascinatingly flawed but deeply human detective."
The BBC series is being made by Left Bank Pictures in association with Mankell's own production company, Yellow Bird, and Branagh's new outfit, which has yet to be named. It was commissioned by BBC Scotland drama chief Anne Mensah and controller of fiction Jane Tranter.
The international literary success of Wallander means that producers are confident of the productions' global potential.
Each film will cost around £2m to make with cash understood to be coming from a number of sources including the BBC and international pre-sales.
Last year former ITV Productions controller of drama, comedy and film Harries sold a 25% stake in his new company to BBC Worldwide, giving the distributor an exclusive first-look deal on all of its television productions.
* Author: Liz Thomas.