Mark Rylance

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Mark Rylance
Mark Rylance NYC.png
Rylance at the Belasco Theatre in October 2013
Born David Mark Rylance Waters
(1960-01-18) 18 January 1960 (age 55)
Ashford, Kent, England
Occupation Actor, theatre director, playwright
Years active 1980–present
Spouse(s) Claire van Kampen (1989–present)[1]

David Mark Rylance Waters (born 18 January 1960), known professionally as Mark Rylance, is an English 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), Intimacy (2001) and Bridge of Spies (2015).

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. In 2014, he won a third Tony Award 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 received an Emmy Award nomination for playing Thomas Cromwell in the 2015 BBC Two miniseries Wolf Hall.

Early life[edit]

Rylance was born in Ashford, Kent, the son of Anne (née Skinner) and David Waters, both English teachers. His parents moved to Connecticut in 1962 and Wisconsin in 1969, where his father taught English at the University School of Milwaukee. Rylance attended this school, which had the best high school theatre department in the state. He starred in most of the school's plays with the theatre's director, Dale Gutzman. His first notable role was in a 1976 production of Hamlet,[2] He played Romeo in the school's production of Romeo and Juliet.


Rylance took the stage name of Mark Rylance because his original choice, Mark Waters, was already taken by someone else registered with Equity. He won a scholarship by audition to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts (RADA) in London. There he trained from 1978–80 under Hugh Cruttwell, and with Barbara Bridgmont at the Chrysalis Theatre School in Balham, London. In 1980, he got 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' acclaimed production that toured Ireland and Britain for a year. The play then ran in Stratford-upon-Avon, where Rylance alternated Hamlet with Romeo in the production of Romeo and Juliet that inaugurated the rebuilt Swan Theatre in Stratford. 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 in unique, unusual sites.

Also in 1991, Rylance played the lead in Gillies Mackinnon's film The Grass Arena, and won the BBC 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. In 2005, he took the leading role as British weapons expert David Kelly in Peter Kosminsky's The Government Inspector, an award-winning Channel 4 production for which he himself 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 subsequently won Drama Desk and Tony Awards for his performance. For his acceptance speech for the latter, he recited a work by poet Louis Jenkins. 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 (for his acceptance speech, he again recited a Louis Jenkins poem). In a 2012 interview, Stephen Fry stated that he believed Rylance to be the best stage actor in the world.

It was announced in October 2014 that Rylance would star in the title role of The BFG, director Steven Spielberg's film adaptation of the children's book by Roald Dahl. Filming was set to begin filming in 2015 with release scheduled the next year.[3]

In 2015, he played Thomas Cromwell in Wolf Hall, BBC Two's adaptation of Hilary Mantel's historical novels Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies.[4] 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 long-running BBC radio programme Desert Island Discs on 15 February 2015.[5]

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.

Shakespeare's Globe[edit]

In 1995, Rylance became the first artistic director of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, a post he filled until 2005. Rylance directed and acted in every season, in works by Shakespeare and others, notably in all-male productions of Twelfth Night where he starred as Olivia and Richard II where he took the title role. Under his directorate, new plays were 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 performed for the first time: 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[edit]

On 8 September 2007 Derek Jacobi and Mark Rylance unveiled a Declaration of Reasonable Doubt on the authorship of Shakespeare's work, after the final matinée of I am Shakespeare, a play in Chichester, Sussex.

The actual author 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 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.[6] 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[edit]

Rylance is married to the musical director, director, composer and playwright Claire van Kampen. They started dating in 1987 while working on a production of The Wandering Jew at the National Theatre, and married in Oxfordshire on 21 December 1989.[1] He has a sister named Susannah, an opera singer and author, and a brother, Jonathan, who works as a sommelier at Alice Waters' (no relation) restaurant Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California, famous for creating the California cuisine using local organic food.[7] His stepdaughter is actress Juliet Rylance, who is married to actor Christian Camargo. His younger stepdaughter, filmmaker Nataasha van Kampen, died in July 2012 at the age of 28, as a result of which Rylance withdrew from his planned participation in the 2012 Summer Olympics opening ceremony.[8] He was replaced by Kenneth Branagh.[9]

Rylance has been a supporter of the indigenous rights organisation Survival International for many years.[10] 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. He has said: "As a child, I was enriched and inspired by the lives and stories of the world's tribal peoples. As an adult, I have also been inspired by the ceaseless work of the organisation Survival International, and their movement to protect these tribes—from the rainforest of the Amazon to the icy reaches of the Arctic. To celebrate 40 years of Survival's work and enjoy the beauty of the spoken word from such rich oral cultures, I am gathering my friends from the theatre on the set of Jerusalem for a wonderful spring afternoon of eloquent recitals and stunning images from 'We Are One'."

Rylance is a patron of Peace Direct. He performed the life and words of Henri, described as "an extraordinarily brave and charismatic man living in war-torn eastern Congo", during a presentation in New York 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 believes it to be "proper initiatory old style theatre".

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."[11]



Year Period Theatrical Performance Theatrical Character Theatre of Performance Accolades
1981 Desperado Corner Citizens' Theatre, Glasgow
1982 The Tempest Ariel (Performing with the RSC)
1989 Hamlet Hamlet
Romeo and Juliet Romeo
1993 Henry V Henry V TFANA, New York
Much Ado About Nothing Benedick Queens Theatre Won the Olivier Award for Best Actor
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 Nominated for the Olivier Award in 2008 for Best Actor
I am Shakespeare Frank UK tour
2008 Peer Gynt Peer Gynt Guthrie Theater, Minneapolis
Boeing Boeing Robert Longacre Theatre, NYC Won 2008 Tony Award, Best Actor in a Play
2009 Jul–Aug Jerusalem by Jez Butterworth Johnny Byron Royal Court Theatre Won 2009 Critics' Circle Theatre Award for Best Actor
Oct–Dec Endgame by Samuel Beckett Hamm Duchess Theatre
2010 Jan–Apr Jerusalem by Jez Butterworth Johnny Byron Apollo Theatre Won the Olivier Award for Best Actor
Jun–Aug La Bete by David Hirson Valere Comedy Theatre Nominated for the Olivier Award in 2011 for Best Actor
Sept–Feb Music Box Theatre, Broadway
Apr–Aug Jerusalem by Jez Butterworth Johnny Byron Music Box Theatre, Broadway Won 2011 Tony Award, Best Actor in a Play
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 Won 2014 Tony Award, Best Featured Actor in a Play (Twelfth Night)
2014 Nominated 2014 Tony Award, Best Actor in a Play (Richard III)
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 Feb-Mar Nice Fish by Mark Rylance and Louis Jenkins Ron St. Ann's Warehouse[12]

Shakespeare's Globe[edit]

Along with Rylance's stage performances, he has had many appearances at the recently recreated Shakespeare's Globe in Southwark, London on the South Bank of the River Thames. Noted for being one of the finest Shakespearean actors of recent times; his performances at Shakespeare's Globe are noted for being amongst his finest works.

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 Olivier Critics Award
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



Year Title Role Notes
1985 The McGuffin Gavin
1987 Hearts of Fire Fizz
1991 The Grass Arena John Healy BBC Radio Times Award for Best Newcomer
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 Pending — Indiana Film Journalist Film Award for Best Supporting Actor
2016 The BFG The BFG 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
2003 Richard II Richard II
2005 The Government Inspector David Kelly BAFTA TV Award for Best Actor
2014 Bing Flop (Voice of)
2015 Wolf Hall Thomas Cromwell Nominated – Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie
Nominated – Critics' Choice Television Award for Best Actor in a Movie/Miniseries


  • Mark Rylance: PlayA Recollection in Pictures and Words of the First Five Years of Play at Shakespeares's Globe Theatre. Photogr.: Sheila Burnett, Donald Cooper, Richard Kolina, John Tramper. Shakespeare's Globe Publ., London, UK. 2003. ISBN 0-9536480-4-4.
  • The Wisdom of Shakespeare Series by Peter Dawkins (Foreword by Mark Rylance):
  • The Wisdom of Shakespeare in As You Like It. I.C. Media Productions, 1998. Paperback. ISBN 0-9532890-1-X.
  • The Wisdom of Shakespeare in The Merchant of Venice. I.C. Media Productions, 1998. Paperback. ISBN 0-9532890-0-1.
  • The Wisdom of Shakespeare in Julius Caesar. I.C. Media Productions, 1999. Paperback. ISBN 0-9532890-2-8.
  • The Wisdom of Shakespeare in The Tempest. I.C. Media Productions, 2000. Paperback. ISBN 0-9532890-3-6.
  • The Wisdom of Shakespeare in Twelfth Night. I.C. Media Productions, 2002. Paperback. ISBN 0-9532890-4-4.
  • Peter Dawkins. The Shakespeare Enigma (Foreword by Mark Rylance). Polair, UK. 2004. Illustrated paperback, 476pp. ISBN 0-9545389-4-3.
  • John Abbott. Improvisation In Rehearsal (Foreword by Mark Rylance). Nick Hern Books, UK. 2009. Paperback, 256pp. ISBN 978-1-85459-523-2.
  • Dave Patrick. The View Beyond: Sir Francis Bacon: Alchemy, Science, Mystery (The View Series) (Foreword by Mark Rylance, Ervin Lazslo, Rose Elliot). Deep Books, UK. 2011. Paperback, 288pp. ISBN 978-1-905398-22-5.


  1. ^ a b Schulman, Michael (18 November 2013). "Play On". The New Yorker. Retrieved 22 January 2015. 
  2. ^ "The Milwaukee Journal – Google News Archive Search". 
  3. ^ 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. 
  4. ^ "Wolf Hall". BBC Two. Retrieved 16 February 2015. 
  5. ^ BBC Desert Island Discs website "Castaway archive", 15 February 2015.
  6. ^ Doran, D'Arcy (8 September 2007). "Coalition aims to expose Shakespeare". USA Today. Retrieved 22 January 2015. 
  7. ^ Cooke, Rachel (30 June 2013). "Mark Rylance: You Have To Move Into The Chaos". The Guardian. Retrieved 1 July 2013. 
  8. ^ Baker, Richard Anthony (1 August 2012). "Nataasha van Kampen". The Stage. 
  9. ^ Brown, Mark (6 July 2012). "Mark Rylance exits from Olympics opening after step-daughter's death". The Guardian. 
  10. ^ "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. 
  11. ^ LIFT website "Olivier and Tony Winner Mark Rylance announced as LIFT Patron", 23 May 2013.
  12. ^ "Nice Fish - St Ann's Warehouse". St Ann's Warehouse. Retrieved 2015-11-02. 

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