MCM: Mark Rylance


As charter members of the Mark Rylance Fan Club, it’s about time we dedicated a Man Candy Monday to this insanely talented actor’s historical costume work! Sir Mark Rylance is considered the finest stage actor of his generation but doesn’t have as many screen credits, which is a goddamn shame.

While he hasn’t been kicking around Hollywood, he’s spent his time well at the Globe, on the West End, and Broadway. He’s also a man of incredible principles, having recently resigned from the Royal Shakespeare Company because the organization is sponsored by oil company BP, saying: “The RSC will continue pushing BP’s brand onto a generation of young people who have – in huge numbers through the ongoing school climate strikes – told adults they need to step up to the climate crisis now, acknowledge we are in an unprecedented global emergency, and act accordingly. Surely the RSC wants to be on the side of the world-changing kids, not the world-killing companies?” Bravo!


Ferdinand in Prospero’s Books (1991)

Mark Rylance, Prospero's Books (1991)

Peter Greenaway’s fantastical riff on The Tempest.


William Adamson in Angels and Insects (1995)

Mark Rylance, Angels and Insects (1995)

The scholar who marries into a hive of deception!


Leonardo da Vinci in Leonardo (2003)

Mark Rylance, Leonardo (2003)

Yeah, I don’t usually include these docu-drama things, but he does look the part.


King Richard II in Richard II (2003)

Mark Rylance, Richard II (2003)

In a nod to Mark Rylance’s plethora of stage roles, I’m including these filmed versions from the Globe Theatre too. Because, OMG *swoon*!


Sir Thomas Boleyn in The Other Boleyn Girl (2008)

Mark Rylance, The Other Boleyn Girl (2008)

Remember back when this was as bad as Philippa Fucking Gregory got on-screen? Those were the days…


Henry Condell in Anonymous (2011)

Mark Rylance, Anonymous (2011)

If you’re going to make a deeply shitty movie about Shakespeare, why not dress it up with the best living Shakespearean actor strutting his stuff in period gear?


Olivia in Twelfth Night (2013)

Mark Rylance, Twelfth Night (2013)

Another Globe Theatre performance on film. SO FABULOUS!


Thomas Cromwell in Wolf Hall (2015)

Wolf Hall (2015)

If you don’t love this, I’m not sure we can be friends.


Mr. Dawson in Dunkirk (2017)

Mark Rylance, Dunkirk (2017)

He was the civilian boat captain / dad in the only moderately interesting storyline of this ponderous film.



What’s your favorite historical costume movie or TV role of Mark Rylance’s?


About the author

Trystan L. Bass

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A self-described ElderGoth, Trystan has been haunting the internet since the early 1990s. Always passionate about costume, from everyday office wear to outrageous twisted historical creations, she has maintained some of the earliest online costuming-focused resources on the web. Her costuming adventures are chronicled on her website, TrystanCraft. She also ran a popular fashion blog, This Is CorpGoth, dedicated to her “office drag.”

16 Responses

  1. Susan Pola Staples

    Although I view Cromwell as being Anti Anne Boleyn and amoral, Wolf Hall book book and series made him a plausible hero and gave valid reasons for his actions. This is my favourite of his movies and I’m going to have to view his RSC televised roles.
    The costumes and his being in Anonymous were a high point of a film that trots out the Oxford being Shakespeare tripe. As if a person of the middle class has no creativity. What about Tallis and Dowland?

  2. Nzie

    He also did an amazing job in Bridge of Spies, set in the late 50s and early 60s. I liked the film but I don’t think it’s a must see—except for the scenes between Rylance, playing captured Soviet spy Rudolf Abel, and Tom Hanks as James Donovan, his defense attorney. Donovan is the main character, and a tough one for plotting because he pretty much remains the same principled man throughout. But Abel couldn’t have known that, and so their scenes together are really compelling. If you want a taste without having to sit through, search “Bridge of Spies standing man” to watch the best scene (one that I think pretty much every reviewer had in mind when praising his performance).

    • Alissa Pyrich

      I loved Bridge of Spies! Rylance as Abel alone was worth the price of admission

  3. shellieeyre

    Rylance subscribes to the Oxford theory I believe. And I have to disagree about Dunkirk which had me on the edge of my seat throughout.

  4. Lee Jones

    I thought “Dunkirk” was very interesting and not at all ponderous, thanks to its narrative structure and performances. I noticed that you didn’t include his Oscar winning role in “Bridge of Spies”, which is a period drama. My favorite Rylance role is William Adamson in “Angels & Insects”.

    • M.E. Lawrence

      I second your “Angels” emotion. M.R. was so fine in that. I thought him physically miscast as Cromwell (DON”T HIT ME!); he would have made a perfect Thomas More. (Lesser–almost wrote “Lesser’s More””–was just too creepy. I couldn’t believe that Henry Tudor would’ve let him near the court.)

  5. Erin E.

    I love him to pieces in Wolf Hall. He made such a relatable Cromwell that I wanted to give the person I now think of a historical villain fondly. And that softly miserable face he shows throughout (and in the image you chose) makes me want to give him a hug!

    • M.E. Lawrence

      Eek, no. I adored Mantel’s Cromwell, but even her Cromwell is not huggable. He’s charming and relatable and scary as hell, which Cromwell supposedly was. Maybe all that would have been too off-putting on screen. I can’t wait for “The Mirror and the Light,” the last of the trilogy (supposedly coming out next March).

  6. ThoraSTooth

    Twelfth Night is freakin’ brilliant. (Also, gotta love a production that credits all the authenticity geeks, right down to the people who made their authentic loop-manipulated braids.) Now that I know he’s in them, I’ll be looking out for some of those Tudor dramas. I usually don’t watch Tudor dramas because I know something about the history, but for these I’ll make an exception.

  7. Sam Marchiony

    That Prospero’s Books shot… there’s a Sir Mix-A-Lot parody in there somewhere, because I like big ruffs and I cannot lie.

  8. Elise

    Oh boy–commenting for the first time, because we need happy stories right now. I love him because of his off-screen morals as well. I understand that when his wife died, he stepped up and became a proper dad to his stepdaughter. It’s that sort of love that will make me forever admire the man.

    • Mary Pagones

      He did have two stepdaughters, but tragically, one of them died at a very young age. His wife is still alive. Regardless, very sad, and he seems like a lovely husband and father in the interviews I’ve seen.

  9. Mary Pagones

    He’s the type of actor who, regardless of the part he plays, makes it feel like the most important and unusual character in the script. I was privileged to see his Cleopatra at The Globe. He can play women as well as men truthfully, without making it seem like a parody. In real life, he’s a profoundly odd and eccentric man (his beliefs about Shakespeare’s authorship of the plays are pretty out there), but that’s what makes him such an exciting actor.

  10. hcripley

    I loved him in Wolf Hall, and Bridge, and now I MUST see him in Angels and Insects. But I just discovered it’s unavailable on Netflix. Oye, what’s a girl to do?