“Richard III” is part of a series of Shakespeare’s History plays, which also includes “Henry VI” in two parts. Dominic Cooke, who was artistic director of the Royal Court Theater from 2007 to 2013, will direct all three films.
Cumberbatch said: “I can’t wait to work with Dominic Cooke again to bring this complex, funny and dangerous character to life.”
The films, which will air on BBC Two, rep Cooke’s screen debut. The plays were adapted by Ben Power, who is associate director of the National Theater.
Neal Street, which is led by Sam Mendes, Pippa Harris and Caro Newling, also produced the first series of Shakespeare’s History plays for the BBC, “The Hollow Crown,” which covered “Richard II” and “Henry IV,” Part One and Two, and “Henry V.” Power adapted the screenplays for “Richard II” and “Henry V.”
The films are co-produced by NBCUniversal’s Carnival and WNET. Rupert Ryle-Hodges (“Downton Abbey”) will produce. Executive producers are Mendes, Harris and Nicolas Brown for Neal Street, Gareth Neame for Carnival/NBCU, and David Horn for WNET.
Harris said: “Neal Street Productions worked with Benedict on both ‘Stuart: A Life Backwards’ for the BBC, and the film ‘Starter for Ten.’ His range and dexterity as an actor make him the perfect choice to bring one of Shakespeare’s towering characters to television.
“The critical and audience reaction to ‘The Hollow Crown’ series set the bar high for Shakespeare on screen, and Neal Street is delighted to be making the concluding part of this great History cycle.
“By filming the ‘Henry VI’ plays as well as ‘Richard III,’ we will allow viewers to fully appreciate how such a monstrous tyrant could find his way to power, bringing even more weight and depth to this iconic character.”
Ben Stephenson, controller of BBC drama, said: “Only BBC drama can provide talent with such a diverse range of quality roles to showcase their work, and I’m thrilled to welcome back Benedict Cumberbatch, who is one of the world’s most brilliant and in-demand actors.”