Benedict Cumberbatch cast as Richard III

Benedict Cumberbatch

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Sherlock star Benedict Cumberbatch has been cast as Richard III in a BBC Two adaptation of William Shakespeare's History plays.

Coincidentally the casting has been announced soon after it was revealed that his Sherlock and Hobbit co-star Martin Freeman will play the same role in London's West End later this year.

There has been renewed interest in the controversial king since his remains were found under a Leicester car park last year and Cumberbatch said he couldn't wait to "to bring this complex, funny and dangerous character to life".

Neal Street Productions, which also makes Call the Midwife, will co-produce the Richard III adaptation along with a two-part version of Shakespeare's Henry VI. The films will be a follow-up to their Bafta award-winning Hollow Crown serial, which aired on BBC Two during the 2012 Cultural Olympiad.

Ben Whishaw, Jeremy Irons and Tom Hiddleston Ben Whishaw, Jeremy Irons and Tom Hiddleston starred in The Hollow Crown in 2012

They will be adapted by Ben Power from the National Theatre and directed by Dominic Cook‎e - formerly of the Royal Court theatre - in his first directing role for screen.

Skyfall director Sam Mendes will executive produce alongside his Neal Street colleagues Pippa Harris and Nicolas Brown, while Rupert Ryle-Hodges will be the producer.

BBC Drama controller Ben Stephenson 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."

Pippa Harris added that reaction to The Hollow Crown "set the bar high for Shakespeare on screen".

"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."

Cumberbatch will also play Hamlet in William Shakespeare's classic tragedy at London's Barbican Theatre in August next year. The 37-year-old actor recently featured in Radio 4 shows Rumpole and Cabin Pressure, as well as a Star Trek movie and Oscar-winning film 12 Years a Slave.

Martin Freeman and Benedict Cumberbatch A case of great minds think alike? Martin Freeman and Benedict Cumberbatch will both play Richard III

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