Tom Hollander cast as Dylan Thomas in new drama A Poet In New York

Thomas was a great poet, whose blazing life and premature death left both a considerable poetic legacy and an enduring reputation for bad behaviour."Tom Hollander
Date: 04.09.2013     Last updated: 18.03.2014 at 18.08
Category: BBC Two; Wales
Tom Hollander (Rev, Any Human Heart) is to play the lead role in Andrew Davies’ (South Riding, Little Dorrit) brand new single drama, A Poet In New York, for BBC Two and BBC One Wales.

Made by Modern Television for the BBC, to mark the centenary of Dylan Thomas’s birth, the drama will explore how Dylan Thomas, the creator of some of the most memorable lines in the English language, died in a smog-ridden New York on a November day in 1953, aged 39.

Set in New York and Laugharne, A Poet In New York begins when Dylan (Tom Hollander) arrives in the city on his fourth and fatal visit to rehearse, write and party. One of the most famous poets in the world by the early 1950s, Dylan's popular and electrifying tours had also made him a much-loved celebrity in America.

He was on his way to Hollywood to write an opera with Stravinsky. But, before he headed west, he had to earn enough to fund the trip by fulfilling a commitment to take part in a production of the recently completed Under Milk Wood at the prestigious Poetry Centre in Manhattan. What might have been a triumphant new departure in his career and life turned instead into a requiem for a man whose life had spiralled out of control.

A Poet In New York, directed by Aisling Walsh (Room At The Top, Loving Miss Hatto), will explore how Dylan's past made his present virtually untenable and the part that he played in his own demise.

Tom Hollander says: “I am thrilled to be playing Dylan Thomas for Aisling Walsh in Andrew Davies' wonderful A Poet In New York, produced by Modern Television. Thomas was a great poet, whose blazing life and premature death left both a considerable poetic legacy and an enduring reputation for bad behaviour. He was also quite fat. Playing him is both a wonderful acting challenge and a great opportunity to eat things that I would normally have to avoid.”

A Poet In New York will also star Essie Davis (The Slap, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries), as Dylan’s wife Caitlin, Ewen Bremner (Trainspotting, Page Eight), Phoebe Fox (Switch, New Tricks).

Essie Davis says: “I am very excited to be part of this production and working with this terrific team on A Poet In New York. I played Polly Garter in Under Milk Wood in high school and have loved Dylan Thomas since that first meeting. Caitlin has an interesting story to tell and it is thrilling to be part of a project celebrating the centenary of his birth.”

A Poet In New York is co-commissioned by Janice Hadlow, Controller BBC Two, Ben Stephenson, Controller BBC Drama and Commissioning, Adrian Davies, Head of Programmes Wales. It is made by Modern Television for BBC Cymru Wales.

Writer Andrew Davies says: "I'm delighted that we've secured Tom Hollander to play Dylan. He's a wonderful actor, with a striking resemblance to the poet, he's captured the wonderful voice, and he has, more than any other actor I can think of, that outrageous charm that drew so many people to Dylan."

Griff Rhys Jones, Executive Producer, Modern Television, says: “We are delighted to have developed this project with the BBC. Andrew Davies has written a moving, exciting and sensitive script about the tragic end of a huge figure. It does full justice to Dylan and his legacy. In Ruth Caleb and Aisling Walsh we have the experience and expertise to produce what we hope will be a memorable drama.”

Faith Penhale, Head of Drama BBC Cymru Wales adds: "Andrew has written a heartbreaking script that captures those last few days of Dylan's life beautifully. The memory of Dylan's childhood and his yearning for home life with Caitlin back in Wales is woven in seamlessly and I can think of no better team of acting talent to bring this script and this real life story to screen."

A Poet In New York is produced by Ruth Caleb. The executive producers are Griff Rhys Jones for Modern Television and Faith Penhale and Bethan Jones for BBC Cymru Wales and BBC Two.

Filming has begun in Cardiff and Laugharne. A Poet In New York will transmit on BBC One Wales and BBC Two next year.