10 Things You Really Need To Know About Wolf Hall’s Star Mark Rylance

It's the final Wolf Hall tonight and we can't stop talking about Mark Rylance...

As the sensational BBC adaptation of Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall comes to a triumphant end tonight (sob!) there are only two words on everyone’s (and when we say everyone, we mean the entire Marie Claire office) lips: Mark Rylance.

His dark, silent and brooding performance as the elusive royal power-player, Thomas Cromwell, has got us all hot under the Tudor ruff. And it isn’t down to the mead wine. So, just who is the man underneath the Tudor bonnet? And what can we expect from his next performance?

Here are just a few surprising things your really need to know about Wolf Hall’s star Mark Rylance…

BBC/Company Productions Ltd

1. He may sound English, but did you know he grew up in the US? Born in Kent, his parents moved to Connecticut when he was two-years-old.

2. Mark Rylance made his name treading the boards. In fact, his first stage performance was in a 1976 production of Hamlet alongside his dad who played the First Gravedigger. Rylance would go on to command the British stage, making a name for himself at the Royal Shakespeare Company in the 1980s. Decades later he is now widely considered to be one of the finest Shakespearean actors of our time. Even Stephen Fry is a super-fan.

3. Did you know Rylance was made the first Artistic Director of the Shakespeare’s Globe? He fulfilled the role for 10 years, directing and acting in every season. Now that’s dedication…

Rylance shows us all how to rock the Tudor ruff in a performance of Twelfth Night at Shakespeare’s Globe

4. Speaking of Shakespeare, at a recent event at the Globe Rylance revealed he has often removed ”antisemitic” passages from the playwright’s most famous plays.

Mark Rylance embraces the Tudor robes yet again alongside Scarlett Johansson and Natalie Portman in The Other Boleyn Girl.

5. He didn’t actually speak until he was 6-years-old. Rylance’s mute childhood was recently revealed on Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs to the surprise of presenter Kirsty Young. He claims his childhood silence actually helped his acting career in later life explaining ‘from the very early part of my life I had listened and watched a lot.’

6. In 2010 he won an Olivier award for best actor when he starred in Jerusalem at the Apollo Theatre. The next year he scooped a double-accolade across the pond winning a Tony award for the same role on Broadway. Not bad, eh?

Rylance transforms yet again in 2010’s Jerusalem. We doubt Cromwell would’ve approved of that vest…

7. Whilst his BBC alter ego Thomas Cromwell tends to spend most of his time walking two steps behind King Henry VIII, Rylance likes to zip around in an electric G-Wiz car. Which makes him a bit of an eco-hero in our eyes…

8. He’s passionate about many issues – and unlike his silent childhood – isn’t afraid to speak up about them. Rylance is an ambassador for Survival International, an indigenous rights organization, in addition to being a patron of Peace Direct and LIFT (London International Festival of Theatre).

Mark Rylance stars as King Philippe in Farinelli and The King at the Sam Wanamaker Studio

9. He turned down Steven Spielberg. Not many people can claim to have passed on an opportunity to work with one of the greatest directors of all time, but then again, Rylance isn’t one to conform. The actor said no to Empire of the Sun in 1987 favouring a theatre role at the National instead.

10. Treat ‘em mean keep ‘em keen? Spielberg must have forgiven Rylance as he’s due to star in his film adaptation of Roald Dahl’s BFG. Apparently filming is due to start next year…we can’t wait!

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