Mark Rylance

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Mark Rylance
Mark Rylance Cannes 2016.jpg
Rylance promoting The BFG at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival
David Mark Rylance Waters

(1960-01-18) 18 January 1960 (age 61)
Ashford, Kent, England
Education Royal Academy of Dramatic Art
  • Actor
  • theatre director
  • playwright
Years active1980–present
(m. 1989)
Relatives Susannah Waters (sister)
Juliet Rylance (stepdaughter)

Sir David Mark Rylance Waters (born 18 January 1960) is an English actor, theatre director, and playwright. He was the first artistic director of Shakespeare's Globe in London, between 1995 and 2005. After training at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London, Rylance made his professional debut at the Citizens Theatre, Glasgow in 1980. He appeared in the West End productions of Much Ado About Nothing in 1994 and Jerusalem in 2010, winning the Olivier Award for Best Actor for both. He has also appeared on Broadway, winning three Tony Awards: two for Best Actor for Boeing Boeing in 2008 and Jerusalem in 2011, and one for Best Featured Actor for Twelfth Night in 2014. He received Best Actor nominations for Richard III in 2014 and Farinelli and the King in 2017. He is one of only eight actors to have won the Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play twice while his nominations for Richard III and Twelfth Night in 2014 make him one of only six performers to be nominated in two acting categories in the same year.


Rylance's film appearances include Prospero's Books (1991), Angels and Insects (1995), Institute Benjamenta (1996), Intimacy (2001), and The Other Boleyn Girl (2008). Rylance attracted attention for his portrayal of Rudolf Abel in Steven Spielberg's Bridge of Spies (2015). He won the Academy Award and British Academy Film Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance and subsequently collaborated with Spielberg, playing the title role in The BFG (2016), a live-action film adaptation of the children's book by Roald Dahl, and James Halliday in Ready Player One (2018), based on the novel of the same name. Since then he has appeared in Christopher Nolan's World War II drama Dunkirk (2017) and Aaron Sorkin's Vietnam War court drama The Trial of the Chicago 7 (2020).

On television, Rylance 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 mini-series Wolf Hall . For Wolf Hall, he also received Emmy and Golden Globe Award 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 peace-builders 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, England, to Anne (née Skinner) and David Waters, both teachers of English. Rylance has a sister named Susannah, an opera singer and author, and a brother, Jonathan, who works as a sommelier. [2]

His parents moved to the US in 1962, first to Connecticut and then Wisconsin in 1969, where his father taught English at the University School of Milwaukee, which Rylance attended. [3]



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. He trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) in London from 1978–80 under Hugh Cruttwell; and with Barbara and Peter 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 the US 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.


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 III 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.

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.


For his role as Jay in Intimacy (2001), directed by Patrice Chéreau, he received real, rather than simulated, fellatio. [4] [5] 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 2005, Oswald's third play written for the Globe was first performed: The Storm, an adaptation of Plautus 's comedy Rudens (The Rope) – "argu[ably]" one of the sources of Shakespeare's The Tempest . [6] [7] 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.

On 8 September 2007 Derek Jacobi and Rylance unveiled a Declaration of Reasonable Doubt on the authorship of William 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 is variously proposed to be Christopher Marlowe; Francis Bacon; Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford; or Mary Sidney (Mary Sidney Herbert, Countess of Pembroke). The declaration named 20 prominent doubters of the past, including Mark Twain, John Gielgud, Charlie Chaplin and actor Leslie Howard (later withdrawn from the list), 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. In 2016, writer Ben Elton delivered a riposte to this "batty" premise in the episode "If You Prick Us, Do We Not Bleed" of his television comedy Upstart Crow . [8] The great but "self-regarding and pretentious" actor Wolf Hall (played by Ben Miller) joins Burbage's acting company to play Shylock. The character Wolf Hall confronts Shakespeare (played by David Mitchell) with the suggestion that he didn't write his own plays; it is a satirical portrait of Rylance and his opinion. [9] [10] [11]

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.

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.

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.

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 . [12] 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. [13]

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-Dispatch 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." [14] 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." [15] 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. [16] In 2016 Rylance co-wrote and starred in the new comedy play Nice Fish at St. Ann's Warehouse, New York. The production subsequently transferred to the Harold Pinter Theatre in London's West End. [17] [18] Rylance had a major role 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. [19] The film co-starred Tom Hardy, Kenneth Branagh, Cillian Murphy and Harry Styles. [20]

Rylance played James Haliday in Ready Player One , which was also directed by Spielberg. He will next film Waiting for the Barbarians, alongside Johnny Depp and Robert Pattinson, in late October 2018. [21]

In 2018, Rylance starred in Farinelli and the King on the Broadway stage earning his fifth Tony Award nomination.

In June 2019, Rylance resigned from the Royal Shakespeare Company due to its sponsorship deal with BP. He last appeared on stage for the RSC in 1989. [22]


In 2020, Rylance appeared in Aaron Sorkin's legal drama The Trial of the Chicago 7 which premiered on Netflix. Rylance portrayed William Kunstler, Defense Counsel, co-founder of the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), board member of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and active member of the National Lawyers Guild. The film received near universal praise, and featured performances from Eddie Redmayne, Sacha Baron Cohen, Jeremy Strong, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Michael Keaton, and Frank Langella.

On 8 September 2019, Rylance revealed to AlloCiné that he was cast to play Satan in American filmmaker Terrence Malick's upcoming film The Last Planet. [23]

Personal life

Rylance speaking at a rally of the Stop the War Coalition against the war in Syria, London, November 2015 Mark Rylance (cropped).jpg
Rylance speaking at a rally of the Stop the War Coalition against the war in Syria, London, November 2015

Rylance is married to director, composer and playwright Claire van Kampen, whom he met in 1987 while working on a production of The Wandering Jew at the National Theatre. They were married in Oxfordshire on 21 December 1989. [24] 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. [25] [26]

Other activities

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." [27]

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." [28]


Rylance has been a supporter of the indigenous rights organisation Survival International for many years. [29] 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. [30] 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. [31] 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 has long been an enthusiastic supporter of Conscience: Taxes for Peace not War, which works to change British tax law to allow Conscientious objectors the right to redirect that portion of their taxes which would usually go to the military into non-violent methods of conflict resolution. [32]

In November 2019, along with other public figures, Rylance signed a letter supporting Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn describing him as "a beacon of hope in the struggle against emergent far-right nationalism, xenophobia and racism in much of the democratic world" and endorsed him in the 2019 UK general election. [33] In December 2019, along with 42 other leading cultural figures, he signed a letter endorsing the Labour Party under Corbyn's leadership in the 2019 United Kingdom general election. The letter stated that "Labour's election manifesto under Jeremy Corbyn's leadership offers a transformative plan that prioritises the needs of people and the planet over private profit and the vested interests of a few." [34] [35]



1987 Hearts of Fire Fizz Richard Marquand
1991 The Grass Arena John Healy Gillies MacKinnon
Prospero's Books Ferdinand Peter Greenaway
1995 Institute Benjamenta,
or This Dream People Call Human Life
Jakob von Gunten Brothers Quay
Angels & Insects William Adamson Philip Haas
2001 Intimacy Jay Patrice Chéreau
2008 The Other Boleyn Girl Thomas Boleyn Justin Chadwick
2011 Anonymous Henry Condell Roland Emmerich
Blitz Bruce Roberts Elliott Lester
2013 Days and Nights Stephen Christian Camargo
2015 The Gunman Terrance Cox Pierre Morel
Bridge of Spies Rudolf Abel Steven Spielberg
2016 The BFG The BFGVoice and motion capture
2017 Dunkirk Mr Dawson Christopher Nolan
2018 Ready Player One James Halliday / AnorakSteven Spielberg
2019 Waiting for the Barbarians Magistrate Ciro Guerra
2020 The Trial of the Chicago 7 William Kunstler Aaron Sorkin
2021 Don't Look Up Peter Isherwell Adam McKay Post-production
TBA The Way of the Wind Satan Terrence Malick Post-production
TBA The Fantastic Flitcrofts Maurice Flitcroft Craig Roberts Post-production
TBA The Outfit Leonard Graham Moore Filming


1985Wallenberg: A Hero's StoryNikki Fodor
1986-96Screen TwoVarious roles3 episodes
1991 Incident in Judaea Yeshua Ha NozriTelevision film
1993Love Lies BleedingConn
1995LovingCharlie Raunce
1995 Hamlet Hamlet
1997 Henry V King Henry V
2001Changing StagesHimself
2003Leonardo Leonardo da Vinci 3 episodes
2003 Richard II Richard II Television film
2005 The Government Inspector David Kelly Television film
2014–15 Bing Flop (voice)78 episodes
2015 Wolf Hall Thomas Cromwell 6 episodes


1981 Desperado Corner Bazza Citizens' Theatre
1982 The Tempest Ariel Royal Shakespeare Company
1983–84 Peter Pan Peter Pan Royal Shakespeare Company
1986 A Midsummer Night's Dream Puck Royal Opera House
1989 Hamlet Hamlet Royal Shakespeare Company
Romeo and Juliet Romeo
1991 Hamlet Hamlet American Repertory Theater
The Seagull Treplev Pittsburgh Public Theater
1993 Henry V Henry V Theatre for a New Audience
Much Ado About Nothing Benedick Queens Theatre [36]
1994 As You Like It Touchstone Theatre for a New Audience
True West Lee/Austin Donmar Warehouse
1995 Macbeth Macbeth Greenwich Theatre
2000 Life x 3 Henry Royal National Theatre
2007 Boeing Boeing Robert Comedy Theatre
I am ShakespeareFrankN/AUK tour
2008 Peer Gynt Peer Gynt Guthrie Theater
Boeing Boeing Robert Longacre Theatre
2009 Jerusalem Johnny Byron Royal Court Theatre
Endgame Hamm Duchess Theatre
2010 Jerusalem Johnny Byron Apollo Theatre
La Bete Valere Comedy Theatre
2010–11 Music Box Theatre
2011 Jerusalem Johnny Byron Music Box Theatre
2011–12 Apollo Theatre
2012–13 Richard III and Twelfth Night Richard III / Olivia Apollo Theatre Repertory
2013 Nice Fish Ron Guthrie Theater
2013–14 Richard III and Twelfth Night Richard III / Olivia Belasco Theatre Repertory
2015 Farinelli and the King Philip V of Spain Sam Wanamaker Playhouse
Duke of York's Theatre
2016 Nice Fish Ron St. Ann's Warehouse [37]
2016–17 Harold Pinter Theatre
2017–18 Farinelli and the King Philip V of Spain Belasco Theatre

Shakespeare's Globe Along with Rylance's stage performances, he has appeared often at the Shakespeare's Globe, London.

1996 The Two Gentlemen of Verona Proteus
1997 A Chaste Maid in Cheapside Mr. Allwit
Henry V Henry V
1998 The Merchant of Venice Bassanio
The Honest Whore Hippolito
1999 Antony and Cleopatra Cleopatra
2000 Hamlet Hamlet
2001 Cymbeline Cloten
2002 The Golden Ass Lucius
Twelfth Night Olivia
2003 Richard II Richard II
2004 Measure for Measure Duke Vincentio
2005 The Tempest Prospero
The Storm Daemones
The Weather
2012 Richard III Richard III
Twelfth Night Olivia
2018 Othello Iago

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 . [38]

Rylance was created a Knight Bachelor in the 2017 New Year Honours for services to theatre. [39]


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