Wolf Hall

Two-time Olivier and three-time Tony Award winner Mark Rylance is Thomas Cromwell in a major adaptation of Hilary Mantel’s Booker Prize-winning novels Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies for BBC Two and Masterpiece on PBS.

Published: 2 January 2015

"Once you have exhausted the process of negotiation and compromise, once you have fixed on the destruction of an enemy, that destruction must be swift and it must be perfect. Before you even glance in his direction, you should have his name on a warrant, the ports blocked, his wife and friends bought, his heir under your protection, his money in your strong room and his dog running to your whistle. Before he wakes in the morning, you should have the axe in your hand."

Bafta-winning director Peter Kosminsky (The Government Inspector, The Promise) directs the flagship drama that presents an intimate portrait of Thomas Cromwell, the brilliant consigliere to King Henry VIII, as he manoeuvres the corridors of power at the Tudor court. The story follows the complex machinations and back room dealings of this pragmatic and accomplished power broker – from humble beginnings and an enigmatic past – who must serve king and country while navigating deadly political intrigue, the King’s tempestuous relationship with Anne Boleyn and the religious upheavals of the Protestant reformation.

Oscar-nominated Peter Straughan (The Men Who Stare At Goats, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) has adapted both novels for the screen.

Emmy-winner Damian Lewis is Henry VIII and Claire Foy (The Promise) plays the calculating and ambitious Anne Boleyn in the drama which is a Playground Entertainment and Company Pictures production.

Hilary Mantel says: "My expectations were high and have been exceeded: in the concision and coherence of the storytelling, in the originality of the interpretations, in the break from the romantic clichés of the genre, in the wit and style and heart.

"The spirit of the books has been extraordinarily well preserved. The storytelling is fast and fluid, the characters compelling, the tone fits that of the novels,

"Mark Rylance gives a mesmeric performance as Cromwell, its effect building through the series."

Executive producer Colin Callender adds: "Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies were the first books I optioned when I launched Playground. I was captivated by Hilary Mantel’s provocative portrait of Thomas Cromwell - a figure from history traditionally portrayed as a two dimensional henchman but who in Hilary’s brilliant hands becomes a rich, complicated and enigmatic character. A man of lowly birth, navigating the deadly politics of the Tudor court and the moral complexities that accompany the exercise of power.

“Just as Hilary reinvigorated the historical novel, her books have provided us with the opportunity to reinvigorate the historical television drama. Modern audiences are interested in characters on both sides of the moral equation and in Cromwell we have a man trapped between his desire to do what is right and his instinct to survive. In truth it is a very contemporary story, a story of power, loyalty and betrayal that just happens to be about people 500 years ago.”

Ben Stephenson, Controller, Drama Commissioning, says: “I am excited to see this world-class team come together for the adaptation of Hilary Mantel’s phenomenal books, Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies. This collaboration demonstrates the ambition of BBC Two drama and once again takes the scale of our content up another notch.”

Wolf Hall is a co-production of Company Pictures (Elizabeth I, Shameless, The Devil's Whore, The Shadow Line) and Playground Entertainment (Dancing On The Edge, The Missing) - the New York and London-based production company helmed by Colin Callender - for BBC Two and Masterpiece (broadcaster and co-producers of Downton Abbey, Sherlock) in association with BBC Worldwide, Altus Media and Prescience.

Colin Callender executive produces for Playground, John Yorke for Company Pictures, Polly Hill, BBC Head of Independent Drama, for BBC Two, Rebecca Eaton for Masterpiece, Martin Rakusen and Ben Donald for BBC Worldwide and Tim Smith for Prescience and Altus Media.