Wolf Hall (miniseries)
|Based on||Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies
by Hilary Mantel
|Written by||Peter Straughan|
|Directed by||Peter Kosminsky|
|Composer(s)||Original music by
Tudor music by
Claire van Kampen
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|No. of series||1|
|No. of episodes||6|
|Executive producer(s)||Colin Callender|
|Running time||60–65 min (episode)|
|Production company(s)||Company Pictures|
|Original release||21 January– 25 February 2015|
Wolf Hall is a British television serial first broadcast on BBC Two in January 2015. The six-part series is an adaptation of two of Hilary Mantel's novels, Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, a fictionalised biography documenting the rapid rise to power of Thomas Cromwell in the court of Henry VIII through to the death of Sir Thomas More, followed by Cromwell's success in freeing the king of his marriage to Anne Boleyn. Wolf Hall was first broadcast in April 2015 in the United States on PBS and in Australia on BBC First.
The series was a critical success and received eight nominations at the 67th Primetime Emmy Awards and three nominations at the 73rd Golden Globe Awards, winning for Best Miniseries or Television Film.
- Mark Rylance as Thomas Cromwell
- Damian Lewis as Henry VIII
- Claire Foy as Anne Boleyn
- Bernard Hill as Duke of Norfolk
- Anton Lesser as Thomas More
- Mark Gatiss as Stephen Gardiner
- Mathieu Amalric as Eustache Chapuys
- Joanne Whalley as Katherine of Aragon
- Jonathan Pryce as Cardinal Wolsey
- Thomas Brodie-Sangster as Rafe Sadler
- Tom Holland as Gregory Cromwell
- Harry Lloyd as Harry Percy
- Jessica Raine as Jane Rochford
- Saskia Reeves as Johane Williamson
- Charity Wakefield as Mary Boleyn
- David Robb as Sir Thomas Boleyn
- Joss Porter as Richard Cromwell
- Emma Hiddleston as Meg More
- Jonathan Aris as James Bainham
- Natasha Little as Liz Cromwell
- Ed Speleers as Edward Seymour
- Kate Phillips as Jane Seymour
- Edward Holcroft as George Boleyn
- Hannah Steele as Mary Shelton
- Richard Dillane as Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk
- Florence Bell as Helen Barre
- Iain Batchelor as Thomas Seymour
- Paul Clayton as William Kingston
- Felix Scott as Francis Bryan
- Luke Roberts as Harry Norris
- Alastair Mackenzie as William Brereton
- Max Fowler as Mark Smeaton
- Robert Wilfort as George Cavendish
- Aimee-Ffion Edwards as Elizabeth Barton
- Bryan Dick as Richard Rich
- Lucy Russell as Lady Shelton
- Kerry Ingram as Alice Williamson
- Enzo Cilenti as Antonio Bonvisi
- James Larkin as Master Treasurer FitzWilliam
On 23 August 2012, BBC Two announced several new commissions, one of which was Wolf Hall. According to The Guardian £7 million was to be spent on the adaptation. BBC Two controller Janice Hadlow said it was "very fortunate to have the rights" to the two novels and called Wolf Hall "a great contemporary novel".
Peter Kosminsky, the director of the series, said:
This is a first for me. But it is an intensely political piece. It is about the politics of despotism, and how you function around an absolute ruler. I have a sense that Hilary Mantel wanted that immediacy. ... When I saw Peter Straughan's script, only a first draft, I couldn't believe what I was reading. It was the best draft I had ever seen. He had managed to distil 1,000 pages of the novels into six hours, using prose so sensitively. He's a theatre writer by trade.
The drama series features 102 characters and Kosminsky began casting the other parts in October 2013. Although originally set to film in Belgium, most of the filming took place on location at some of the finest British medieval and Tudor houses and buildings: Berkeley Castle, Gloucester Cathedral and Horton Court in Gloucestershire, Penshurst Place in Kent, Broughton Castle and Chastleton House in Oxfordshire, Barrington Court, Cothay Manor and Montacute House in Somerset, St Donat's Castle in the Vale of Glamorgan, and Great Chalfield Manor and Lacock Abbey in Wiltshire. The series was filmed in May to July 2014. The series, which was made in association with Masterpiece Entertainment and Playground Entertainment, consists of six episodes and was broadcast on BBC Two in the UK from 21 January 2015.
The Guardian speculated that the BBC's hiring of Kosminsky with Straughan showed they wanted "a darker and grittier take on British history" than more fanciful programs like The Tudors or The White Queen. Mantel called Straughan's scripts a "miracle of elegant compression and I believe with such a strong team the original material can only be enhanced."
Kosminsky's decision to film many of the interior scenes by candlelight led to the actors bumping into things, and fearing they might catch fire.
Wolf Hall was filmed in two locations in Kent: Dover Castle doubled for the Tower of London, and the Long Gallery, Tapestry Room, and Queen Elizabeth Room in Penshurst Place were used as specific rooms in Whitehall (York Place), which was Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII's residence. The Long Gallery doubled as Anne Boleyn's chamber.
The series' executive producer, Colin Callender, stated in February 2015 that he hoped that the BBC would commission an extension of the series based on the final novel in Mantel's trilogy, The Mirror and the Light, which Mantel is currently writing. Callender said that lead performers Mark Rylance and Damian Lewis were "eager" to return.
|Number||Title||Directed by||Written by||Original air date||U.S. air date||UK viewers
|1||"Three Card Trick"||Peter Kosminsky||Peter Straughan||21 January 2015||April 5, 2015||5.99|
|In 1529, as Cardinal Wolsey receives news of his dismissal as Lord Chancellor, his lawyer, Thomas Cromwell, reminisces about how he and Wolsey met and the events leading up to the Cardinal's downfall.|
|2||"Entirely Beloved"||Peter Kosminsky||Peter Straughan||28 January 2015||April 12, 2015||4.46|
|As 1529 draws to a close, Cardinal Wolsey moves to York while Thomas Cromwell attempts to gain support for him from King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, and in the process, gradually wins favor for himself.|
|3||"Anna Regina"||Peter Kosminsky||Peter Straughan||4 February 2015||April 19, 2015||4.13|
|In 1531, King Henry VIII has proposed a bill which will make him the Head of the Church in England and allow him to marry Anne Boleyn. However, his plans are met with a series of complications.|
|4||"The Devil's Spit"||Peter Kosminsky||Peter Straughan||11 February 2015||April 26, 2015||4.29|
|In 1533, Anne Boleyn has given birth to a daughter, much to King Henry VIII's disdain. As Anne's paranoia over her inability to produce a son grows, Thomas Cromwell tries to convince Sir Thomas More to sanctify the royal marriage.|
|5||"Crows"||Peter Kosminsky||Peter Straughan||18 February 2015||May 3, 2015||3.72|
|In 1535, King Henry VIII's attempt to be declared Head of the Church in England has been denied by the Holy Roman Emperor. Meanwhile, Anne Boleyn's failure to produce a male heir leads Henry toward Jane Seymour.|
|6||"Master of Phantoms"||Peter Kosminsky||Peter Straughan||25 February 2015||May 10, 2015||3.74|
|In 1536, King Henry VIII's request that Thomas Cromwell find a way to rid him of Anne Boleyn - a sentiment supported by others, who wish for Jane Seymour to take her place - leads to a series of allegations and revelations.|
Critics have been "almost unanimous" in their praise of the show, with particular reference to the attention to period detail, the faithful adaptation of the source novels, and the performances of the leading cast members, particularly Rylance as Cromwell. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes gave the show a 100% rating based on 29 reviews with an average rating of 8.6/10. The critical consensus reads: "Beautifully filmed and brilliantly acted, Wolf Hall masterfully brings Hilary Mantel's award-winning novels to life." Sam Wollaston in The Guardian called it "sumptuous, intelligent, event television." Will Dean, writing for The Independent, gave it four out of five stars. He did not believe it compared favourably with the stage adaptation of the book, yet predicted it would "secure a devoted following." James Walton in The Daily Telegraph gave the first episode five stars out of five, commenting: "it’s hard to see how this one could have been done much better." Audience figures did not reflect this, however, with a substantial fall between the first and second episode and complaints about the slow pacing.
Discussions on historical accuracy or ideological bias
There has been criticism by some Roman Catholics of bias and inaccuracy in the series (a similar claim made with the novels), particularly regarding a perceived favorable depiction of Thomas Cromwell and an unfavorable depiction of Thomas More. Among Catholics, George Weigel has referred to the series as "Upmarket Anti-Catholicism".
Gregory Wolfe wrote in The Washington Post that Wolf Hall "will entertain millions – and threaten to distort history in the process", and noted scholarly opinions on Cromwell, More, and Henry VIII in support of his argument. Several American Catholic bishops have been similarly critical.
Constitutional historian David Starkey has said:
To reach such a conclusion about More and Cromwell from the very difficult and complicated 16th-century sources is just silly. Both men believed in the idea of enforcing ideas on others by persecution and execution. They only disagreed which ideas.
When pressed, Starkey stated a slight preference for More for dying "nobly with magnificent insouciance".
- Australia: BBC First premiered the series on 11 April 2015 and it was watched by 46,000 viewers.
- United States: PBS broadcast the series from 5 April 2015 to 10 May 2015. The first episode was broadcast on PBS's Masterpiece on 5 April 2015.
- Germany / France: Arte broadcast the series on 21 and 28 January 2016.
For the 5th Critics' Choice Television Awards, the series received four nominations: Best Limited Series, Mark Rylance for Best Actor, Jonathan Pryce for Best Supporting Actor, and Claire Foy for Best Supporting Actress.
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- Weekly Top 10 Programmes – Broadcasters' Audience Research Board
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- Dean, Will (21 January 2015). "Wolf Hall review: An imperious Mark Rylance revels in darkness in Hilary Mantel adaptation". The Independent. Retrieved 14 February 2015.
- Walton, James (22 January 2015). "Wolf Hall: episode one, review: 'subtle & surprising' – Telegraph". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 14 February 2015.
- Anita Singh, Wolf Hall a turn-off as a million viewers switch over, Daily Telegraph, 29 January 2015
- ""Wolf Hall" and Upmarket Anti-Catholicism". First Things.
- "How Wolf Hall will entertain millions and threaten to distort history in the process" The Washington Post Gregory Wolfe
- "America's Catholic bishops attack Wolf Hall as BBC drama hits US screens – Daily Mail Online". Mail Online.
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