Tom Hollander has been cast as the lead in a new drama exploring the life of poet Dylan Thomas. The Rev actor will portray the Welshman in a one-off piece written by period drama specialist Andrew Davies, exploring how Thomas died aged just 39 while living in a smog-ridden New York in 1953.
A Poet in New York will begin with Thomas arriving in the Big Apple for his fourth and fatal visit to embark on one of the popular US tours that made him a star across the pond in the early 1950s.
Thomas was headed to Hollywood to write an opera with Stravinsky, but before he travelled he planned to earn funding for his trip by taking part in a production of his recently completed work Under Milk Wood at the Poetry Centre in Manhattan. But what should have been an exciting new venture for the popular poet ended in tragedy as his life began to spiral out of control.
Directed by Aisling Walsh (Room at the Top, Loving Miss Hatto), A Poet in New York will explore how Thomas’s past made his present virtually untenable and the responsibility he ultimately carried for his own demise.
“Thomas was a great poet,” said Hollander, “whose blazing life and premature death left both a considerable poetic legacy and an enduring reputation for bad behaviour. He was also quite fat. Playing him is both a wonderful acting challenge and a great opportunity to eat things that I would normally have to avoid.”
“I’m delighted that we’ve secured Tom Hollander to play Dylan,” added Andrew Davies. “He’s a wonderful actor, with a striking resemblance to the poet, he’s captured the wonderful voice, and he has, more than any other actor I can think of, that outrageous charm that drew so many people to Dylan.”
Starring opposite Hollander as Thomas’s wife, Caitlin, is Essie Davis (The Slap, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries) with Ewen Bremner (Trainspotting) and Phoebe Fox (New Tricks) also joining the cast.
“I am very excited to be part of this production and working with this terrific team on A Poet in New York,” said Davies. “I played Polly Garter in Under Milk Wood in high school and have loved Dylan Thomas since that first meeting. Caitlin has an interesting story to tell and it is thrilling to be part of a project celebrating the centenary of his birth.”
Filming on A Poet in New York has already begun in Cardiff and Laugharne, with plans to air the drama on BBC1 Wales and BBC2 next year.