Benedict Cumberbatch to Star in Peasants' Revolt Drama 'The Hood'

Benedict Cumberbatch and in "The Power of the Dog (Photo: Netflix)


© 2021 Cross City Films Limited/Courtesy of Netflix

Fresh off his Oscar nomination for The Power of the DogBenedict Cumberbatch is apparently gunning for another one. He's set to star in United 93 director Paul Greengrass' upcoming period drama about the Peasants Revolt, which will likely be full of the sort of sweeping spectacle and inspirational speeches the Academy tends to love. Tentatively titled The Hood, the film will evidently take place during the uprising of 1381, also known as the Great Rising and/or Wat Tyler's Rebellion. (Fun fact: there were actually several more minor rebellions and revolts that took place from the mid-fourteenth to fifteenth centuries in England, but this is the first, the largest, and the one everyone knows.)

The Peasants Revolt of 1381 was the English's first great popular rebellion. Its primary causes were the imposition of an unpopular poll tax the year before (piled on top of already high taxes thanks to the Hundred Years' War with France) and lingering socio-economic tensions following the Black Death, the plague which killed so many people it caused a labor shortage. Rebels from Essex and Kent, led by a man named Wat Tyler, marched on London and razed the palace of King Richard II's unpopular uncle John of Gaunt. They then took over the Tower of London, and had the chancellor, and treasurer (whom they held responsible for the poll tax) beheaded. 

But, despite its grand designs, the rebellion lasted less than a month and failed utterly at generating any lasting change. Though Richard promised the rebels cheap land, free trade, and the abolition of serfdom, he immediately rescinded or outright ignored those agreements. Tyler was killed during the group's meeting with the king at Smithfield, and Richard mobilized thousands of soldiers to restore order in the countryside. Over 1,500 rebels were killed in the end, and most of their leaders were tracked down and executed.

Per Deadline, Cumberbatch will play a farmer who will become an unexpected hero a la Braveheart and Gladiator. That doesn't sound like he's necessarily playing Wat Tyler (who most historians presume, given his last name, was probably a roof tiler). However, given how much fighting went on around the country during this period, plenty of local leaders could play whose names are most likely lost to history should Greengrass want to vague things up a bit. 

Of course, the mere title The Hood is enough to invite speculation about whether this film will secretly turn out to be another backdoor take on the legend of Robin Hood, which originates from around the same period. But that's far from known at this point. (Also, if Greengrass did make a Robin Hood movie, I can't imagine it would look like any we've seen before. Just saying.)

Though the project was floated at the Cannes Film Festival, it has not yet found a buyer, so we have few details about how it will be released (whether it will hit theaters, find a home on a streamer, etc.). But, considering the pedigrees of the folks involved  (and the aforementioned surefire awards appeal of this premise), it's pretty much guaranteed to find a home somewhere. Filming is currently slated to begin later this summer. 

Lacy Baugher

Lacy's love of British TV is embarrassingly extensive, but primarily centers around evangelizing all things Doctor Who, and watching as many period dramas as possible.

Digital media type by day, she also has a fairly useless degree in British medieval literature, and dearly loves to talk about dream poetry, liminality, and the medieval religious vision. (Sadly, that opportunity presents itself very infrequently.) York apologist, Ninth Doctor enthusiast, and unabashed Ravenclaw. Say hi on Threads or Blue Sky at @LacyMB. 

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