Kenneth Branagh Pitches ‘Return Of The Native’ Adaptation During PBS ‘Wallander’ Panel – TCA

Deadline, 19 January 2016
By Lisa de Moraes

Masterpiece exec producer Rebecca Eaton, still upstairs at the TCA hotel in Pasadena with the flu, again missed panels today for her franchise’s panels at the confab, including one in which Kenneth Branagh came to discuss 'Wallander, The Final Season', airing May 8-22. This was particularly disappointing for Eaton, given that Branagh had starred in the very first program she acquired in her three-decade tenure at Masterpiece, 'Fortunes Of War', which also had been her first presentation at a TCA.

“During my 30 years at Masterpiece, the series has had no better friend than Sir Ken,” Eaton said in a statement read by her proxy, Masterpiece senior series producer Susanne Simpson “The boy can act – we all know that – but he’s gone the distance, time and again, to do everything it takes to publicize and draw attention to our work.”

Branagh, Eaton said, is “a man who understands, right down to his shoes, that good drama, whether it’s theater, television or movies, elevates all of us.”

Along those lines, Branagh this morning got asked if there was any project he wished he’d tackled for TV.

According to Branagh, after making his film adaptation of 'Henry V', the play was doing a run in the theater in the Mark Taper Forum (along with 'King Lear' and 'A Midsummer Night’s Dream' in repertoire) and some Hollywood execs invited him to meet, and see if he had “anything else.” At the time he was trying to mount an adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s novel “The Return of the Native” – “a novel I love,” he told TV critics.

The response? “It was doing no business at all” he said, despite the fact, “I was, in theory, I had some ‘heat’, I believe it’s referred to, at that time,” he joked. “Nobody was biting and I danced – I danced all the dances of a dancing man: ‘It’s a cross between 'Wuthering Heights' and 'Gone with the Wind' and whatever was on last weekend that made a lot of money – it’s like that as well!’,” he reminisced of his pitch.

“So that one, yeah, I’d love to do that one.

Note to Eaton: your proxy’s response: “OK, we’ll take it.”

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