Sir Kenneth Branagh: Knighthood 'surreal'

Kenneth Branagh Branagh said it was "humbling" to be in the company of Sir Laurence Olivier

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Actor and director Kenneth Branagh has said it was "a surreal experience" to have been named on the Queen's Birthday Honours List.

The star has been knighted for services to drama and the community in Northern Ireland.

Branagh, who returns to TV screens in detective series Wallander next month, called the honour "very touching".

He is also preparing to direct actor Chris Pine in a film about author Tom Clancy's fictional hero Jack Ryan.

Branagh told the BBC about his latest project, returning to the role of detective Kurt Wallander, and how he feels about being called "Sir Kenneth".

What does this honour mean to you?

It would be amazing at any time, but in this Jubilee year it feels very special and absolutely fantastic. So many people are pleased for me and pleased about it.

It seems to me a tribute to everybody that I've worked with and learnt from, over 30 years of making films and being involved with British theatre and film and television. It's very special.

You have received an honour that has been given to some acting greats - how does that feel?

I started being interested in acting when I heard the voices of Sir Laurence Olivier and Sir John Gielgud and Sir Alec Guinness. I've had the great privilege of working with Sir Derek Jacobi and Sir Anthony Hopkins. These are people who inspire the work that I do.

Having first encountered that kind of actor when I was 15, from a long-playing record in the school English cupboard, to be at this point where you can be, in some way, amongst their number, it's a very humbling thing.

There are some amazing stories from all over this country, where people's work and contribution has been acknowledged. To be part of that is an absolutely fantastic feeling.

Kenneth Branagh in Wallander Branagh will be seen on BBC One soon as detective Kurt Wallander

In the past you have been recognised by the Oscars and by Bafta. How does this compare

It's pretty special. The Queen has been on the throne for my entire life, and there are so many family occasions and national occasions where she's been there, setting this incredible example with stamina and interest.

I've had the privilege of meeting her on a number of occasions and her ability to listen, her concentration, her knowledge, her understanding of what people like I try to do, in the film industry or in the theatre, is pretty remarkable. So to be part of a moment in a great celebratory year for her feels wonderful.

For your next project you are directing an adaptation of Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan, another character who has received an honorary knighthood. Will you be able to bring some personal insight now?

[laughs] Jack Ryan is a great big movie we are very privileged to be able to start at Pinewood very shortly. He's played by Chris Pine, a terrific young actor who was in the recent Star Trek.

I think I'm going to have some fun saying, "well yes, do you know he received an honorary knighthood? Chris, I'm going to tell you a little bit about how that feels." A little method instruction, I think that might be a fun day's rehearsal.

And then you are back for a third series of BBC One's Scandinavian detective series Wallander in July?

Yes, we've done three 90-minute films. I wish I could tell you that his life becomes sunnier and shinier, for those who know him to be a rather haunted figure. He does get the opportunity for some brightness and sunshine, but because it's a very gripping and dark tale by Henning Mankell, and a great script by Peter Harness, it does turn in the way that I think people might expect, and I hope that they will enjoy.

It's a wonderful character to play and it's a great opportunity to go to a staggeringly beautiful part of Sweden, and visit Mankell's amazing forensic mind for crime and all the psychological side effects that it has on people like this amazing chief inspector.

We've recently become fascinated with detective stories from that part of the world, but you were one of the first. Why do you think it has exploded like this?

People like to see crime in dark places, where people who are obsessive about solving such crimes can become very magnetic. Wallander was, via Henning Mankell's novels, one of the first people to cast a spell. He puts a soulful, rather troubled man in the middle of a very spectacular, very atmospheric landscape and then he introduces him to dark things.

So he makes for a very complex crime puzzle, but perhaps an even more complicated emotional puzzle. We like what the Scandinavians do with that, we still seem to be fascinated and Wallander, I hope, will keep people intrigued this summer.

Sir Kenneth Branagh was speaking to BBC entertainment correspondent Lizo Mzimba.

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