FTV de Montecarlo: 15 minutes with Wolf Hall’s writer Peter Straughan

In the year Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies came back on stage (here the link to our review) also the 6-episode series directed by Peter Kosminsky became a huge worldwide success. At the Festival de la Télévision de Monte Carlo, where Mark Rylance received the award as Outstanding Actor for his Master Cromwell portrait, we met Wolf Hall writer Peter Straughan.

We ask him how was for him to bring this as complicate as wonderful storyline on screen and how he managed to involve an outstanding cast that includes, besides the already mentioned Mark Rylance, also names like Damian Lewis, Claire Foy, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Edward Holcroft, Tom Holland, Mark Gatiss, Jonathan Pryce and Joanne Whalley.

“When you read the books, even if you love them…you soon have to make compromises. A six-part series based on them is a condensation obviously, so you have to give up on things you loved in the book and do what it’s best for the story. Speaking about the cast, once the script was finished, Mark Rylance was the first person who came up. It was a really interesting thing as he is so physically perfect as Cromwell. Sometimes there are wonderful actors who are just not right…you see them on screen and the scenes seem so odd…Mark is just unbelievable perfect in Cromwell’s skin”.

I had the huge pleasure to work with Mark recently on Nolan‘s set in Urk in his new project Dunkirk (alongside British heartthrob Harry Styles, Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy, Kenneth Branagh, James D’Arcy, Aneurin Barnard and Fionn Whitehead. Check our Dunkirk set, Urk set and Dorset sets live) and we can just confirm every single word about this outstanding actor and wonderful human being.

Back to Peter he added: “ We had to work more on the information audience needed in the first episode…something like they did in the Godfather Part II…we did’t want to use a simple flashback. After we saw that it was working, the rest was easier. When Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies were on stage at the Aldwich, I was still working on the adaptation so I chose not to go to see them until when I finished my work. I loved them and it was so interesting to see two so different adaptations from the same book. It was interesting to see how even adaptations could be as great as different. I really think also if we think about Tinker Taylor Soldier Spy, that a great book can have many great adaptations because each writer explore a different side of the story. Anyway, back to Wolf Hall, shooting in most of the real locations was so suggestive that for sure made a huge difference”.

Talking about Tinker Taylor Soldier Spy…did Peter wrote a speech for the Oscars?

“I did but…to be honest I never thought we could have a change in America”.

There will be a second season based on the upcoming book The Mirror and the Light?

“Well…Hilary (Mantel, ed) sent me a few really tempting extracts…very appealing…but I don’t know, there is a lot of pressure in stories like this. Anyway we are really open to do it. Hilary has been really understanding with us and our work previously so…Unfortunately bring 1,000 pages on screen in a 6-hour series is a so big compression that it’s like to re-write the all story in a new different book. Lots has to go…and what goes from the book to the script it’s fine; it hurts when you have to let go things you had put in the script but for some reason can’t fit on the screen”.

Not bad for a man who wanted to be a pop-star but became a novelist and a screenwriter. Which of the two writing mood is better?

“Depends. As a novelist you work alone, a script works only with others”.

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