Mark Rylance

Mark Rylance

Rylance promoting The BFG at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival
Born David Mark Rylance Waters
(1960-01-18) 18 January 1960
Ashford, Kent, England
Education University School of Milwaukee
Royal Academy of Dramatic Art
Occupation Actor, theatre director, playwright
Years active 1980–present
Height 5 ft 8 in (173 cm)
Spouse(s) Claire van Kampen (m. 1989)

David Mark Rylance Waters (born 18 January 1960) is a British actor, theatre director and playwright. He was the first artistic director of Shakespeare's Globe in London, from 1995 to 2005. His film appearances include Prospero's Books (1991), Angels and Insects (1995), Institute Benjamenta (1996), and Intimacy (2001). Rylance won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor and the BAFTA Award for Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of Rudolf Abel in Bridge of Spies (2015). He played the title role in Steven Spielberg's The BFG (2016), a live-action film adaptation of the children's book by Roald Dahl. He will appear in Christopher Nolan's Dunkirk (2017) based on the British evacuation in World War II, and as James Halliday in Spielberg's 2018 film adaptation of Ready Player One.

After training at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London, Rylance made his professional debut at the Citizens Theatre, Glasgow in 1980. He went on to win the Olivier Award for Best Actor for Much Ado About Nothing in 1994 and Jerusalem in 2010, and the Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play for Boeing Boeing in 2008 and Jerusalem in 2011. He won a third Tony Award in 2014 for Twelfth Night. On television, he won the BAFTA TV Award for Best Actor for his role as David Kelly in the 2005 Channel 4 drama The Government Inspector and for playing Thomas Cromwell in the 2015 BBC Two miniseries Wolf Hall. For Wolf Hall, he also received Emmy and Golden Globe nominations.

Rylance is a patron of the London International Festival of Theatre. He is also a patron of the London-based charity Peace Direct which supports peacebuilders in areas of conflict, and of the British Stop the War Coalition. In 2016 he was named in the Time 100 list of the most influential people in the world.[1]

Early life

Rylance was born in Ashford, Kent, to Anne (née Skinner) and David Waters, both English teachers. One of his grandmothers was Irish.[2] Both his grandfathers were POWs of the Japanese during World War II.[3] Rylance has a sister named Susannah, an opera singer and author, and a brother, Jonathan, who works as a sommelier.[4] His parents moved to the United States in 1962, first to Connecticut and then Wisconsin in 1969, where his father taught English at the University School of Milwaukee. Rylance attended this school. He starred in most of the school's plays with the theatre's director, Dale Gutzman, including the lead in a 1976 production of Hamlet,[5] He played Romeo in the school's production of Romeo and Juliet.


Rylance took the stage name of Mark Rylance because his given name, Mark Waters, was already taken by someone else registered with Equity. He returned to England in 1978; at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) in London he trained from 1978–80 under Hugh Cruttwell, and with Barbara Bridgmont at the Chrysalis Theatre School in Balham, London. In 1980, he gained his first professional work at the Glasgow Citizens' Theatre. In 1982 and 1983, he performed with the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) in Stratford-upon-Avon and London.

In 1988, Rylance played Hamlet with the RSC in Ron Daniels' production that toured Ireland and Britain for a year. The play then ran in Stratford-upon-Avon. Hamlet toured to the United States for two years. In 1990, Rylance and Claire van Kampen (later his wife) founded "Phoebus' Cart", their own theatre company. The following year, the company staged The Tempest on the road.

Rylance played the lead in Gillies Mackinnon's film The Grass Arena (1991), and won the Radio Times Award for Best Newcomer. In 1993, he starred in Matthew Warchus' production of Much Ado About Nothing at the Queen's Theatre, produced by Thelma Holt. His Benedick won him an Olivier Award for Best Actor. He took the leading role as British weapons expert David Kelly in Peter Kosminsky's The Government Inspector (2005), an award-winning Channel 4 production for which he won the British Academy Television Award for Best Actor in 2005.

In 2007, Rylance performed in Boeing-Boeing in London. In 2008, he reprised the role on Broadway and won Drama Desk and Tony Awards for his performance. In 2009, Rylance won the Critics' Circle Theatre Award Best Actor, 2009 for his role of Johnny Byron in Jerusalem written by Jez Butterworth at the Royal Court Theatre in London.

In 2010, Rylance starred in a revival of David Hirson's verse play La Bête. The play ran first at London's Comedy Theatre before transferring to the Music Box Theatre on Broadway, on 23 September 2010. Also in 2010, he won another Olivier award for best actor in the role of Johnny Byron in Jerusalem at the Apollo Theatre in London. In 2011, he won his second Tony Award for playing the same role in the Broadway production.

He played Thomas Cromwell in Wolf Hall (2015), BBC Two's adaptation of Hilary Mantel's historical novels Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies.[6] For his performance, he was nominated for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie. Rylance was featured as the castaway on the BBC radio programme Desert Island Discs on 15 February 2015.[7]

Rylance co-starred in the biographical drama Bridge of Spies, released in October 2015, directed by Steven Spielberg, and starring Tom Hanks, Amy Ryan and Alan Alda. The film is about the 1960 U-2 Incident and the arrest and conviction of Soviet spy, Rudolf Abel and the exchange of Abel for U-2 pilot Gary Powers. Rylance plays Abel and has received unanimous universal acclaim for his performance with many critics claiming it as the best performance of 2015. The St. Louis Post-Depatch quoted, "As the deeply principled Donovan, Hanks deftly balances earnestness and humor. And Rylance’s spirited performance is almost certain to yield an Oscar nomination."[8] David Edelstein from New York cited 'It’s Rylance who keeps Bridge of Spies standing. He gives a teeny, witty, fabulously non-emotive performance, every line musical and slightly ironic — the irony being his forthright refusal to deceive in a world founded on lies."[9] Rylance won the Academy Award, BAFTA Award, and New York Film Critics Circle Award in the Best Supporting Actor categories, as well as receiving Golden Globe Award and Screen Actors Guild Award nominations, among other wins and nominations.

Rylance played the title role in Spielberg's The BFG, a film adaptation of the children's book by Roald Dahl. Filming took place in 2015, and the film was released in July 2016.[10] Rylance is to star in Christopher Nolan's 2017 action-thriller Dunkirk based on the British military evacuation of the French city of Dunkirk in 1940 during World War II.[11] He will appear alongside Tom Hardy, Kenneth Branagh and Harry Styles.[12]

Shakespeare's Globe

In 1995, Rylance became the first artistic director of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, a post he held until 2005. Rylance directed and acted in every season, in works by Shakespeare and others, including an all-male production of Twelfth Night, in which he played Olivia, and Richard II in the title role. Under his directorate, new plays were also performed at the Globe, the first being Augustine's Oak (referring to Augustine of Canterbury and Christianisation of Anglo-Saxon England) by Peter Oswald, the writer-in-residence, which was performed in 1999. A second play by Oswald followed in 2002: The Golden Ass or the Curious Man.

In 2005, Oswald's third play written for the Globe was first performed: The Storm, an adaptation of Plautus' comedy Rudens (The Rope) – one of the sources of Shakespeare's The Tempest. Other historical first nights were organised by Rylance while director of the Globe including Twelfth Night performed in 2002 at Middle Temple, to commemorate its first performance there exactly 400 years before, and Measure for Measure at Hampton Court in summer 2004. In 2007, he received a Sam Wanamaker Award together with his wife Claire van Kampen, Director of Music, and Jenny Tiramani, Director of Costume Design, for the founding work during the opening ten years at Shakespeare's Globe. In 2013, Shakespeare's Globe brought two all-male productions to Broadway, starring Rylance as Olivia in Twelfth Night and in the title role in Richard III, for a limited run in repertory. He won his third Tony Award for his performance as Olivia and was nominated for his performance as Richard III.

Shakespeare controversy

On 8 September 2007 Derek Jacobi and Rylance unveiled a Declaration of Reasonable Doubt on the authorship of Shakespeare's work, after the final matinée of The Big Secret Live "I am Shakespeare" Webcam Daytime Chat-Room Show, a play in Chichester.

The actual author of Shakespeare's plays was proposed to be Christopher Marlowe, Francis Bacon, the Earl of Oxford, Edward de Vere or Mary Sidney (Mary Sidney Herbert, Countess of Pembroke). The declaration named 20 prominent doubters of the past, including Mark Twain, Orson Welles, John Gielgud, Charlie Chaplin, Charles Dickens, Ralph Waldo Emerson and actor Leslie Howard, and was made by the Shakespeare Authorship Coalition duly signed online by 300 people to begin new research. Jacobi and Rylance presented a copy of the document to William Leahy, head of English at Brunel University, London.[13] Rylance wrote (co-conceived by John Dove) and starred in The BIG Secret Live 'I am Shakespeare' Webcam Daytime Chatroom Show (A comedy of Shakespearean identity crisis) which toured England in 2007.

Personal life

Rylance speaking at a rally of the Stop the War Coalition against the war in Syria, London, November 2015

Rylance started dating director, composer and playwright Claire van Kampen in 1987 while working on a production of The Wandering Jew at the National Theatre, and they married in Oxfordshire on 21 December 1989.[14] Through this marriage, he became a stepfather to her two daughters from a previous marriage, actress Juliet Rylance and filmmaker Nataasha van Kampen. Nataasha died in July 2012 at the age of 28, following which Rylance withdrew from his planned participation in the 2012 Summer Olympics opening ceremony in London and was replaced by Kenneth Branagh.[15][16]

Rylance has been a supporter of the indigenous rights organisation Survival International for many years.[17] He is the creator and director of "We Are One", a fundraiser that took place at the Apollo Theatre in April 2010. The evening was a performance of tribal prose and poetry from some of the world's leading actors and musicians.

Rylance is a patron of the London-based charity Peace Direct which supports grassroots peacebuilders in areas of conflict, and of the British Stop the War Coalition.[18] He is a member of the Peace Pledge Union, a network of pacifists in the UK. He performed the life and words of Henri, a man living in war-torn eastern Congo, during a presentation in New York City in 2011. He is also patron of The Outside Edge Theatre Company. It works from the perspective of creating theatre and drama with people affected by substance abuse. It provides theatre interventions in drug and alcohol treatment and general community facilities throughout Britain, as well as producing professional public theatre productions that take place in theatres, studio theatres, and art centres.

Rylance became a patron of LIFT (London International Festival of Theatre) in 2013. He said about the festival: "I feel LIFT has done more to influence the growth and adventure of English theatre than any other organisation we have."[19]

Rylance became patron of the London Bubble "Speech Bubbles" project in 2015. "I found a voice through making theatre and am proud to be the patron of Speech Bubbles, which helps hundreds of children to do the same."[20]



Year Title Role Notes
1985 The McGuffin Gavin
1987 Hearts of Fire Fizz
1991 The Grass Arena John Healy
1991 Prospero's Books Ferdinand
1995 Institute Benjamenta Jakob von Gunten
1995 Angels & Insects William Adamson
2000 William Shakespeare Artistic Director Shakespeare's Globe
2001 Intimacy Jay
2008 The Other Boleyn Girl Thomas Boleyn
2011 Blitz Bruce Roberts
2011 Anonymous Henry Condell
2013 Days and Nights Stephen
2015 The Gunman Cox
2015 Bridge of Spies Rudolf Abel Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor
AACTA International Award for Best Supporting Actor
BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role
London Film Critics' Circle Award for Supporting Actor of the Year
New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Supporting Actor
Nominated—Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture
Nominated—Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role
Nominated—Critics' Choice Movie Award for Best Supporting Actor
2016 The BFG The BFG
2017 Dunkirk Post-production
2018 Ready Player One James Halliday Post-production


Year Title Role Notes
1985 Wallenberg: A Hero's Story Nikki Fodor
1993 Love Lies Bleeding Conn
1995 Loving Charlie Raunce
1995 Hamlet Hamlet
1997 Henry V King Henry V
2001 Changing Stages Himself
2003 Leonardo Leonardo da Vinci 3 episodes
2003 Richard II Richard II Television film
2005 The Government Inspector David Kelly Television film
British Academy Television Award for Best Actor
2014–present Bing Flop (voice) 78 episodes
2015 Wolf Hall Thomas Cromwell 6 episodes
British Academy Television Award for Best Actor
Nominated—Critics' Choice Television Award for Best Actor in a Movie/Miniseries
Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie
Nominated—Golden Globe Award for Best Miniseries or Television Film


Year Period Theatrical Performance Theatrical Character Theatre of Performance
1981 Desperado Corner Bazza Citizens' Theatre, Glasgow
1982 The Tempest Ariel (Performing with the RSC)
1989 Hamlet Hamlet
Romeo and Juliet Romeo
1991 Hamlet Hamlet (performing with the American Repertory Theater)
The Seagull Treplev
1993 Henry V Henry V TFANA, New York
Much Ado About Nothing Benedick Queens Theatre
1994 As You Like It Touchstone TFANA, New York
True West Lee/Austin Donmar Warehouse
1995 Macbeth Macbeth Greenwich Theatre
2000 Live x 3 Henry Royal National Theatre
2007 Boeing Boeing Robert Comedy Theatre
I am Shakespeare Frank UK tour
2008 Peer Gynt Peer Gynt Guthrie Theater, Minneapolis
Boeing Boeing Robert Longacre Theatre, NYC
2009 Jul–Aug Jerusalem by Jez Butterworth Johnny Byron Royal Court Theatre
Oct–Dec Endgame by Samuel Beckett Hamm Duchess Theatre
2010 Jan–Apr Jerusalem by Jez Butterworth Johnny Byron Apollo Theatre
Jun–Aug La Bete by David Hirson Valere Comedy Theatre
Sept–Feb Music Box Theatre, Broadway
Apr–Aug Jerusalem by Jez Butterworth Johnny Byron Music Box Theatre, Broadway
Oct–Jan Apollo Theatre
2012 Nov–Feb 2013 alternating in Richard III and Twelfth Night Richard III / Olivia Apollo Theatre
2013 Apr–May

Nice Fish by Mark Rylance and Louis Jenkins

Ron Guthrie Theater
2013 Oct–Feb alternating in Richard III and Twelfth Night Richard III / Olivia Belasco Theatre, Broadway
2015 Feb–Mar Farinelli and the King by Claire van Kampen King Philippe V Sam Wanamaker Playhouse
Sep-Dec Duke of York's Theatre
2016 Jan-Feb Nice Fish by Mark Rylance and Louis Jenkins Ron St. Ann's Warehouse[21]
2016 Nov–Feb Nice Fish by Mark Rylance and Louis Jenkins Ron Harold Pinter Theatre

Shakespeare's Globe

Along with Rylance's stage performances, he has appeared often at the recreated Shakespeare's Globe in Southwark, London on the South Bank of the River Thames.

Year Title Role Notes
1996 The Two Gentlemen of Verona Proteus
1997 A Chaste Maid in Cheapside Mr. Allwit
1997 Henry V Henry V
1998 The Merchant of Venice Bassanio
1998 The Honest Whore Hippolito
1999 Antony and Cleopatra Cleopatra
2000 Hamlet Hamlet
2001 Cymbeline Cloten
2002 The Golden Ass Lucius
2002 Twelfth Night Olivia
2003 Richard II Richard II
2004 Measure for Measure Duke Vincentio
2005 The Tempest Prospero
2005 The Storm Daemones
The Weather
2012 Richard III Richard III
2012 Twelfth Night Olivia

Awards and nominations

Rylance has received numerous nominations and awards for his performances, including wins at the Tony Awards and BAFTA Awards. At the 88th Academy Awards, Rylance won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of Rudolf Abel in Bridge of Spies.[22]



  1. "Mark Rylance by Steven Spielberg: TIME 100". Retrieved 27 April 2016.
  2. "Mark Rylance: 'I remember bringing food to trees. Like bowls of milk and other things' ". Irish Times. Retrieved 23 March 2016
  3. "Mark Rylance: from Wolf Hall courtier to Steven Spielberg spy". Radio Times. Retrieved 23 March 2016
  4. Cooke, Rachel (30 June 2013). "Mark Rylance: You Have To Move Into The Chaos". The Guardian. Retrieved 1 July 2013.
  5. "The Milwaukee Journal – Google News Archive Search".
  6. "Wolf Hall". BBC Two. Retrieved 16 February 2015.
  7. BBC Desert Island Discs website "Castaway archive", 15 February 2015.
  8. Wilson, Calvin. "'Bridge of Spies' Spielberg is at his best".
  9. Edelstein, David. "'Bridge of Spies Is a Subtler Kind of Spielberg Movie'".
  10. Siegel, Tatiana (27 October 2014). "Three-Time Tony Winner Mark Rylance Nabs Lead in Steven Spielberg's 'The BFG'". Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 22 January 2015.
  11. "Mark Rylance to star as Pope in Spielberg film". BBC. 12 April 2016.
  12. McNary, Dave (11 March 2016). "Harry Styles, Fionn Whitehead to Star in Christopher Nolan WW2 Action-Thriller 'Dunkirk'". Variety.
  13. Doran, D'Arcy (8 September 2007). "Coalition aims to expose Shakespeare". USA Today. Retrieved 22 January 2015.
  14. Schulman, Michael (18 November 2013). "Play On". The New Yorker. Retrieved 22 January 2015.
  15. Baker, Richard Anthony (1 August 2012). "Nataasha van Kampen". The Stage.
  16. Brown, Mark (6 July 2012). "Mark Rylance exits from Olympics opening after step-daughter's death". The Guardian.
  17. "We Are One a fundraising evening in aid of Survival International with performance of tribal prose and poetry from leading actors and musicians at Apollo Theatre 18 April". 8 March 2010. Retrieved 9 June 2014.
  18. Stop the War Coalition, "Stop the War Patrons, Officers and Steering Committee", 2016.
  19. LIFT website "Olivier and Tony Winner Mark Rylance announced as LIFT Patron", 23 May 2013.
  20. "Announcing Mark Rylance as the patron of Speech Bubbles". London Bubble. 27 April 2016.
  21. "Nice Fish - St Ann's Warehouse". St Ann's Warehouse. Retrieved 2015-11-02.
  22. "Actor in a Supporting Role". Retrieved 29 February 2016.

External links

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