For Hilary Mantel fans with their ears to the ground, the confirmation that Mark Rylance will play Thomas Cromwell in the BBC’s upcoming adaptation of Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies will come as no surprise.
The six-part drama will be overseen by Bafta-winning director Peter Kosminsky (Warriors, No Child of Mine) and penned by Oscar-nominated screenwriter Peter Straughan (The Men Who Stare at Goats, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) who will adapt both Booker Prize-winning novels.
Mantel’s Tudor trilogy follows the meteoric rise to power of Cromwell within Henry VIII’s court. The eventual chief minister to the King was born to a blacksmith in Putney and initially came to prominence when he served under Cardinal Wolsey before rising through the ranks to become Henry’s most trusted advisor.
“Peter Straughan’s scripts are a miracle of elegant compression, and I believe that with such a strong team the original material can only be enhanced,” said author Hilary Mantel.
Kosminsky – who last directed Rylance in Bafta-winning drama The Government Inspector – added, “Peter’s achievement in distilling almost 1000 pages of stunning prose into six taut, compelling episodes is extraordinary. It will be a joy to have the chance to work with Mark Rylance again as he brings to life one of recent fiction’s most complex and compelling characters.”
Rylance has long been rumoured to play Cromwell with the former artistic director of The Globe Theatre first linked to the role back in March. The 53-year-old actor gained international acclaim for his Tony and Olivier Award-winning performance as Johnny ‘Rooster’ Byron in Jerusalem and has enjoyed a long and successful career in the theatre, both on stage and as a director.
The serialisation of Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies – to be shown on BBC2 and Masterpiece on PBS – is due to begin filming in Spring 2014, with transmission not scheduled until 2015.