Mantel’s novels put a somewhat new spin on the story of Thomas Cromwell, a key adviser to King Henry VIII and a leading force behind the Protestant Reformation in England who has been presented as a rather unlikeable figure, historically speaking. Cromwell, the son of a blacksmith, enjoyed a meteoric rise to fame, first when he served under Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, then later as a key minister to the King himself. He was instrumental in bringing widespread religious reform to England, helping to engineer the annulment of King Henry’s first marriage and his wedding to Anne Boleyn, as well as her subsequent fall from grace. Plus a whole lot more.
Lewis will play King Henry VIII opposite Upstairs Downstairs actress Claire Foy as the calculating and ambitious Anne Boleyn. And that’s only the beginning of the veritable laundry list of talent that’s involved with this project, including popular Call the Midwife leading lady Jessica Raine as Anne’s scheming sister-in-law Jane Rochford, Cranford’s Jonathan Pryce as the ostentatious Cardinal Wolsey, The Borgias Joanne Whalley as Queen Katherine of Aragon, Endeavour’s Anton Lesser as Sir Thomas Moore, and Sherlock co-creator Mark Gatiss as King Henry’s secretary (and Bishop of Winchester) Stephen Gardiner who, incidentally, would go on to become Lord Chancellor of England under Mary Tudor.
This rather impressive group will be joining Tony and Olivier Award-winning actor Mark Rylance, who was previously announced to play Cromwell.
The drama will be overseen by BAFTA-winning director Peter Kosminsky and penned by Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy’s Oscar-nominated screenwriter Peter Straughan. Filming is currently underway in the UK and the six-part series is slated to air on both BBC Two and Masterpiece on PBS in 2015.
"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,” Rylance said in a statement. “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."
Have any of you read Wolf Hall? (I have, and I loved it, even though I’m not a real fan of Thomas Cromwell, generally.) Are you looking forward to this adaptation?