Another Shakespearean marvel on the way?
Rylance recently thrilled audiences at London's Apollo as Richard III, garnering the laudatory reviews we've come to expect from the 53-year-old Kent-born actor. He's currently rehearsing a new play called Nice Fish in Minneapolis, and in September he'll be back in London to direct Vanessa Redgrave and James Earl Jones in a production of Much Ado About Nothing at the Old Vic. But despite his busy calendar, Rylance has signed up for another role that has “Bafta” written all over it. The Jerusalem star is set to take the role of Thomas Cromwell in the BBC2 adaptation of Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies.
And it almost never happened: Rylance initially refused the role due to scheduling conflicts. Fans will surely be delighted by how the six-part series is shaping up. It already has a stellar screenwriter in Peter Straughan, who co-authored the 2011 film Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, while Mantel has retained an advisory role. The books tell the tale of Thomas Cromwell's rise from humble beginnings to becoming Henry VIII's key adviser, and Mantel's sympathetic (overly so, some have claimed) portrayal should give Rylance a lot to work with.
Wouldn't he be more comfortable playing Mary Boleyn or Jane Seymour?
Perhaps. Rylance loves a challenge, and he has given award-winning turns as Cleopatra (in Antony and Cleopatra) and Twelfth Night's Olivia. During Jerusalem's run on Broadway, the method actor would waltz around New York as the drunken, unpredictable character. On the set of Wolf Hall, he could well start ordering people about as if he's back in the 16th century.