Mark Rylance and Homeland star Damian Lewis are to lead the cast of the BBC One/PBS co-production Wolf Hall, the two broadcasters announced today.
A six part adaptation Hilary Mantel’s novels Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies, Wolf Hall is set in England in the 1520′s, which is a heartbeat from disaster. If Henry VIII dies without a male heir, the country could be destroyed by civil war. Into the impasse steps Thomas Cromwell; son of a brutal blacksmith, a political genius, a briber, a bully and a charmer, Cromwell has broken all the rules of a rigid society in his rise to power, and is prepared to break some more. Pitting himself against parliament, the political establishment and the papacy, he is prepared to reshape England to his own and Henry VIII’s desires.
Rylance has been cast as Thomas Cromwell, while Lewis will play King Henry VIII. The six parter also stars Jonathan Pryce (Cranford) as Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, Joanne Whalley (The Borgias) as Katherine of Aragon, Mark Gatiss (Sherlock) as Stephen Gardiner, Anton Lesser (Endeavour) as Thomas More, Mathieu Amalric (The Grand Budapest Hotel) as Spanish Ambassador Chapuys, Charity Wakefield (Sense & Sensibility) as Mary Boleyn, Jessica Raine (Call the Midwife) as Jane Rochford, Bernard Hill (Five Days) as the Duke of Norfolk, Richard Dillane (The Dark Knight) as the Duke of Suffolk, Thomas Brodie-Sangster (Game of Thrones) as Rafe Sadler, Natasha Little (Case Histories) as Cromwell’s wife and Saskia Reeves (Wallander) as her sister Johane.
Wolf Hall was commissioned by the BBC’s Controller of Drama Commissioning Ben Stephenson and then BBC Two Controller Janice Hadlow back in August 2012. The series was set to enter production last year, but the production plans were changed to accommodate Rylance’s busy schedule. This adaptation was written by Peter Straughan and is being produced by Company Pictures, Colin Callender’s Playground Entertainment, Masterpiece, Prescience and Altus Productions in association with BBC Worldwide, who are retaining global distribution rights. The executive producers are Poly Hill, Rebecca Eaton, Colin Callender, John Yorke, Martin Rakusen and Ben Donald. BAFTA-winning director Peter Kosminsky is attached to direct the six part series, which recently entered production in the South West of England for a 2015 premiere.
“I love it when an author, such as Hilary Mantel, does her research and discovers an original understanding of a very familiar piece of history. Even during our rehearsals her detailed imagination of the world of Thomas Cromwell is alive in Peter Straughan’s ingenious and faithful adaptation”, said Mark Rylance. “I have to say, after my experience on The Government Inspector, I would gladly take part in any film that Peter Kosminsky makes. His ability to grasp complex political situations and bring them to life on film seems particularly suited for this material. Myself aside, I feel he has cast Wolf Hall with a superb eye for character and all the nuanced humanity Ms. Mantel’s masterpieces deserve.”