English film and television actor, and former Globe Theatre director, Mark Rylance has been cast as the title character in Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of the Roald Dahl kids’ book “The BFG.” That stands for Big Friendly Giant, a benevolent 24-foot-tall man, who befriends a human-sized girl named Sophie.
Spielberg will direct a screenplay by Melissa Mathison. In 2010, his frequent collaborator Kathleen Kennedy brought the beloved novel from 1982 — the same year Mathison wrote Spielberg’s “E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial” — to DreamWorks. Spielberg, Frank Marshall and Sam Mercer will produce, alongside exec producers Kennedy, John Madden, Michael Siegel, Kristie Macosko Krieger and Adam Somner will co-producer, reports THR.
Revered for his period savvy, Rylance currently stars in a wave of upcoming British productions including the BBC miniseries “Wolf Hall,” a 16th-century set epic adapted from novels by Hilary Mantel in which Rylance takes on the ambitious role of Thomas Cromwell in King Henry VIII’s court. (Watch Rylance as the hunchbacked machiavellian “Richard III” below.)
Pierre Morel directs Rylance on the big screen opposite Javier Bardem, fellow Brit thesp Idris Elba and Sean Penn in “The Gunman,” slated for an early 2015 premiere. Rylance has won Tonys and Olivier Awards for his Shakespeare incarnations. He has a BAFTA TV Award under his belt for 2005’s “The Government Inspector.”
How Spielberg will mount Dahl’s vision is anyone’s guess. A 1989 animated feature unsuccessfully attempted to recreate the spectacular book. Production on this “BFG” is expected to begin in 2015 as DreamWorks eyes a July 1, 2016 release date. Spielberg is currently filming his yet-to-be-titled Tom Hanks Cold War thriller (more on that here).