It's not uncommon for Television Critics Association press tour panels to include reporters asking stars about high-profile film projects. It's less common for producers on the TV projects to lead off their own panels with questions about those higher profile projects.
 
So it was funny when "Wallander II: Faceless Killers" executive producer Rebecca Eaton began that miniseries' Wednesday (Aug. 4) presentation by looking to star Kenneth Branagh and inquiring, "So I will open the questions by asking you what Kurt Wallander has in common with a Marvel Comics’ figure, Thor, besides Ken Branagh."
 
Branagh, who earned an Emmy nomination for the first "Wallender," is directing Marvel's upcoming "Thor," a highly anticipated film PBS execs said will be screening for studio execs tonight.
 
"Both are Scandinavian. Both have family problems," Branagh said. "Frankly, Kurt Wallander could occasionally do with a hammer and a cape. I don’t think that the Norwegian, if you like, or the Viking, has the same issues with introspection as Kurt Wallander. There’s something about coming from those northern lands, you know. It’s a big country, small population, the seasons and the weather are extreme, and the possibility for looking inward into the interior life is great. So I think one of us certainly has that."
 
The second miniseries based on the popular literary series by Swedish crime writer Henning Mankell, "Wallander II: Faceless Killers" will premiere on PBS on October 3, 10 and 17. 
 
Coupled with the cresting wave of popularity for Stieg Larsson's "Millennium Trilogy," these are heady times for lovers of Swedish thrillers, a fact that isn't lost on Branagh.
 
"The landscape is different," he reflected. "The feeling that the activities, the murder, the violence is isolated, that somewhere -- to be poetic about it -- that somewhere in the north there are clearer skies, fewer people, there is some sort of, there’s an atmosphere which the Swedes themselves are happy to accept as poetic and mysterious, in which these things can be considered. So it is less urban... [S]omehow the genre, if that’s what it is, is still finding itself. It has not, I think, currently sort of started to repeat any cliches of kinds of ways telling stories, so there are fewer of them. There is some purer and maybe, also, there is a sort of puritanical element into it. But I think what they are unafraid to be is introspective and atmospheric and poetic. And I think they invite the audience, the reader, the viewer to consider more and infer more."
 
For whatever reason, Branagh was asked if his immersion in Swedish culture might lead to his being cast in David Fincher's upcoming "Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" adaptation. He politely declined the random speculation.
 
"I don’t think so," he said. "No particular plans for that. But I’m looking forward. I’ve seen a couple of the Swedish ones, which were wonderful. But I’m very, very much looking forward also to Mr. Fincher’s take on this. I think he’s a wonderful choice and a great filmmaker."
 
Meanwhile, Branagh's "Thor" came up in two other contexts. In one, he quickly agreed with a reporter's contention that the family conflicts in "Thor" are Shakespearean in scope, making the comic adaptation seem like less of a stretch. In the other, he was asked if people directing him were ever intimidated by his Oscar-nominated credentials and he insisted that he's just as often intimidated by the people he directs.
 
"I’ve had the experience of working with some fantastic people who were, you know, in prospect, nerve-racking, In the film I just did, I was directing Tony Hopkins for the first time. Listen to me, Tony Hopkins — Sir Anthony Hopkins," Branagh said, referencing his "Thor" Odin. "You know, and I didn’t really sleep the night before. I mean, we’d rehearsed and everything, but I was — I was intimidated because I have absolutely unreserved admiration for him as an artist."
 
Scripts are already being written for a third "Wallander" series, which would shoot next year.

"Thor" opens on May 6, 2011.