Richard III and Twelfth Night Star Mark Rylance Makes History in 2014 Tony Award Nominations

By Carey Purcell
02 May 2014

Mark Rylance in Tweflth Night.
Photo by Joan Marcus

"I'm particularly pleased that I've been nominated for Richard," he continued. "That's a very hard part to play, and I was always very nervous before doing it. It's very hard to play a part when you have to begin right from the blocks — you don't get any run up. You come out and you have to say a rather famous speech. "

Rylance said he was surprised by how enthusiastically the two productions, which recouped on Broadway and went on to receive a total of eight Tony nominations, were received.

"I'm never sure of how things will go at all," he said. "I think Twelfth Night has always been celebrated as a production; it's always been a very blessed piece of work. We were all less certain of how Richard III would go down on Broadway, and so it was only scheduled for two shows a week, and when those sold out and it became a very popular production in itself, that was a surprise to me."

Rylance spoke highly of the audiences at the plays, crediting them with inspiring stronger performances from him.

Mark Rylance in Richard III.
photo by Joan Marcus

"I must say I found the wit and the attention of the audience and often the very wonderful actors who came to see the show [inspiring]... When they were sitting there, I would think, 'How would he do it? Oh, he'd do it like this. She'd do it like this.' The part really developed and grew, and I felt I really got more of a measure of the part in New York, thanks to the audiences, than I had managed before."

Rylance received Tony Awards for his performances in Boeing-Boeing and Jerusalem, respectively, in 2008 and 2011, and he has become known for reciting poetry as acceptance speeches, rather than thanking people or talking about the productions. Laughing while reminiscing about the awards, Rylance described "getting up on the stage and seeing that huge auditorium and the big sign basically flashing, 'Get off.' I'd never spoken in front of such a sign before and holding my nerve and just remembering the things I wanted to say... It flashes really rude messages at you.

"It's a long event – the Tony event – so I understand," he added. "They're just trying to make sure the speeches don't go on too long."

When asked if he had poetry in mind for this year's ceremony, Rylance said, "I usually have two or three options for what I might say, and then I see how the evening’s going and what feels the right thing to do." 

His dedication to his craft is apparent. When asked if he would celebrate his nominations, Rylance quickly replied, "No, I have lines to learn for tomorrow."

(Carey Purcell is the Features Editor of Her work appears in the news, feature and video sections of Follow her on Twitter @PlaybillCarey.)