Dame Judi Dench appeared to sign up to BBC2’s adaptation of Shakespeare’s Richard III after actor Benedict Cumberbatch asked her on stage during this year’s Hay Festival, “Would you like to be in Richard III with me?” And with her casting officially announced last month, the production is kicking into action as Dench reveals filming starts next week.
“We start on Monday and it’s a huge project, six months in filming,” Dench tells Mandrake of this second cycle of The Hollow Crown, which is based on Shakespeare’s history plays about Henry VI and Richard III.
Dench will play the Duchess of York, with Cumberbatch in the role of Richard III.
“I knew him when he was a little boy at prep school before he went on to Harrow,” Dench says of Cumberbatch, adding, “His mother, Wanda Ventham, was at the Royal Central School of Drama a year ahead of me.”
The start of production doesn’t mean Cumberbatch will begin filming alongside Dench from Monday – it’s a huge cast with plenty to get through – but the actress appears to be looking forward to working with the Sherlock star, saying, “He is a true gentleman and a thoroughly good actor, which helps.”
The series will also star Keeley Hawes (Line of Duty), Hugh Bonneville (Downton Abbey), Sophie Okonedo (Mayday), Sally Hawkins (Layer Cake), Ben Daniels (House of Cards) and Tom Sturridge (Pirate Radio), with members of the cast joining forces last week for a first read-through.
Dominic Cooke, former artistic director of the Royal Court Theatre, is in the directing chair.
The first run of The Hollow Crown aired on BBC2 in 2012 with Tom Hiddleston, Ben Whishaw, Jeremy Irons and Simon Russell Beale among the cast list. The series earned two Bafta Awards for Whishaw and Russell Beale in the leading actor and supporting actor categories.