LONDON – Mark Rylance is set to play Tudor statesman Thomas Cromwell in the BBC-HBO adaptation of Hilary Mantel’s bestsellers “Wolf Hall” and “Bring Up the Bodies.”
Rylance apparently initially rejected the role because of scheduling conflicts, but an announcement of his casting is expected soon.
Mantel’s novels follow the rise and fall of Cromwell, Henry VIII’s key adviser, presenting a revisionist view of the politician, who was widely regarded as an unsympathetic figure.
Mantel’s depiction of Cromwell, who rose from humble origins is much more flattering, although he remains a deeply manipulative and ruthless figure in the novels.
This more nuanced view of Cromwell is likely to appeal to Rylance, who won rave notices for his portrayal of Richard III, another great hate figure in English history.
Peter Straughan is adapting both novels for a six-part series that will bow in the U.K. on BBC2.
Straughan, co-writer of 2011’s “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy,” is working with Mantel, who is a consultant on the screenplay.
The series is being produced by the U.K.’s Company Pictures (“Shameless,” “Skins”) and Playground Entertainment, the U.S. shingle set up by former HBO Films prexy Colin Callender.
Rylance is rehearsing a new play, “Nice Fish,” at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis.
In September, he returns to London to direct Vanessa Redgrave and James Earl Jones in “Much Ado About Nothing” at the Old Vic.