Hilary Mantel’s ‘Wolf Hall’ Movie Review


‘Wolf Hall’: From left, Damian Lewis, Mark Rylance and Claire Foy (as Anne Boleyn) star in this six-part adaptation of two of Hilary Mantel’s novels: Wolf Hall and Bring up the Bodies. ‘Wolf Hall’ airs on PBS’Masterpiece‘, Sunday nights at 10 PM, Eastern and Pacific times; 9 PM, Central Time.
So, since I’ve already written a post back in April of 2015 about the books of Hilary Mantel’s Thomas Cromwell Trilogy – two of which were the basis for PBS’ six-part television adaptation of ‘Wolf Hall‘, airing on ‘Masterpiece’ from Sunday, April 5, 2015 to Sunday, May 10, 2015 – I decided that this post would be strictly about the actors who starred in the three main roles, and the production of the program, itself.

Every Sunday night at 10 PM, Eastern and Pacific times – from April 5th to May 10th, 2015 – PBS’Masterpiece’ aired a six-part television adaptation of Hilary Mantel’s Man Booker Prize-winning Bestsellers: Wolf Hall and Bring up the Bodies; published in 2009 and 2012, respectively. ‘Wolf Hall’ starred Mark Rylance (as Thomas Cromwell), Damian Lewis (as Henry VIII) and Claire Foy (as Anne Boleyn). The television miniseries was produced by Mark Pybus and co-produced by Sonia Friedman.

Who Plays Thomas Cromwell – The Earl of Essex and King Henry VIII’s Chief Minister?

The son of two English teachers, Mark Rylance was born David Mark Rylance Waters in January of 1960. Although, he was born in Ashford, Kent, England, Mark Rylance was raised partly in the United States – his parents moved to America when he was two years old. The family lived for a time in Connecticut and Wisconsin – where his father taught English at Connecticut’s Choate School and at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, respectively.

Widely regarded as the greatest stage actor of his generation, Mark Rylance has enjoyed an esteemed career on stage and on screen. He has previously played the role of Anne Boleyn’s father, Sir Thomas Boleyn, in 2008’s The Other Boleyn Girl. He is the winner of two Olivier Awards and three Tony Awards, as well as a BAFTA for his role in The Government Inspector. Rylance is actually his paternal grandfather’s middle name.

Who Plays Henry VIII – King of England and the Second Monarch of the Tudor Dynasty?
Born in St. John’s Wood, London in February of 1971, Damian Watcyn Lewis has three siblings. He is the son of Charlotte Mary (née Bowater), from an upper-class background, and J. Watcyn Lewis, a city broker whose own parents were Welsh. He was raised with his brothers Gareth and William, and his sister Amanda, until the age of eight. In 1979, Damian was sent to Ashdown House boarding school, then was educated at Eton College.

At the age of sixteen, Damian decided he wanted to become an actor, and so he formed his own theater company. From 1990 to 1993, he studied at Guildhall School of Music and Drama, and among his teachers there was Royal Shakespeare Company stalwart Colin McCormack. He studied alongside Daniel Craig and Joseph Feinnes and graduated in 1993. He started acting on the stage, particularly with the Royal Shakespeare Company.

There he was seen by director Stephen Spielberg, who subsequently cast him as Richard Winters in the HBO/BBC miniseries ‘Band of Brothers’ in 2001, a role which earned Damian a Golden Globe nomination, among other awards. His castmates from the miniseries were initially skeptical that he could play the role of an American military officer convincingly. It turned out that Damian’s American accent was so flawless, that some of the cast and crew didn’t believe that he was actually British.

He often portrays American military officials, even though he is British. He also frequently plays characters who are mentally unstable or violent. He has competed twice in the Northern Rock All Star Cup, a golf tournament that pits celebrities from Europe against those of America. Damian faced off against such celebrities as Meat Loaf and Alice Cooper.

He plays the guitar, the piano and the keyboard. Since July 4, 2007, Damian has been married to the actress Helen McCrory and they have two children together – a daughter named Manon, and a son named Gulliver. Damian was awarded the OBE (Officer of the Order of the British Empire) in the 2014 Queen’s Birthday Honours List for his services to drama.

Who Plays Anne Boleyn – Marquess of Pembroke and Queen Consort of England, the Second Wife of King Henry VIII?


Claire Foy was born in Stockport, England in April of 1984. She grew up in Manchester and Leeds, the youngest of three children. Her family later moved to Longwick, Buckinghamshire for her father’s job as a salesman for the Rank Xerox Company. Her parents divorced when she was eight years old.


She attended a girls’ grammar school – Aylesbury High School – from the age of twelve. She then went on to study drama and screen classes at Liverpool John Moores University, and graduated from the Oxford School of Drama in 2007. She moved to Peckham, a district of southeast London, to share a house with “five friends from drama school.” 

Claire Foy began her acting career in 2008, and is best known for her role as Amy – the title role in BBC One‘s production of ‘Little Dorrit’. She was also in the made-for-television movie Going Postal – the third such adaptation of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels – which premiered in 2010. She has also played Anna in the 2011 medieval fantasy film Season of the Witch, alongside Nicolas Cage; and Dawn in the 2011 drama film Wreckers, alongside Benedict Cumberbatch. Claire has also played the role of Kate Balfour in NBC’s shortlived television series ‘Crossbones’ in 2014.

She married the actor Stephen Campbell Moore in December of 2014. She was actually two months pregnant when she finished filming ‘Wolf Hall’, and gave birth to her first child – a girl – in March of 2015. She returned to work six months after the birth of her daughter to begin filming The Crown.

My Review of the Movie Adaptation of Hilary Mantel’s ‘Wolf Hall’:

Despite not having read Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel before we watched this miniseries, I must say that I really enjoyed watching this adaptation very much. I actually have always liked anything about the life and times of King Henry VIII and this made-for-television movie was no different. This was a six-part miniseries – from Sunday, April 5th, to Sunday, May 10th – that aired on PBS‘Masterpiece‘ every Sunday night at 10 PM, Eastern and Pacific times, 9 PM, Central Time.

I think that the actors who were cast were absolutely amazing in their various roles. Mark Rylance made Thomas Cromwell seem so much more sympathetic than the history books portray him. In this television adaptation, Thomas Cromwell is portrayed as a man placed in an almost impossible situation.

He is the King’s Chief Minister tasked to do something that he doesn’t really believe in or agree with. His dilemma is ‘Complain, and risk falling out of King Henry VII’s favor, or do as he is told, and risk Anne Boleyn’s understandable ire.’ Not to mention having the Queen’s actual death on his conscience.

I’m also amazed at myself. I’m amazed that despite being so interested in history, it never even crossed my mind to wonder if Thomas Cromwell had a family. I mean I knew that he was married and had children, but I just didn’t realize how fatherly Thomas Cromwell was; how warm-hearted he seemed.

If I had one particular problem with this adaptation, it may be that sometimes I couldn’t really tell who was who in a scene. Even if they were historically important characters, the question would occasionally cross my mind: “Now, who is this supposed to be again?” Overall though, I would give this movie adaptation an A!

Till we Meet Again, Glow Brightly as Moonlight

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