Judi Dench Joins Benedict Cumberbatch in BBC's 'Richard III'

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'Downton Abbey's' Hugh Bonneville, meanwhile, will take on the TV version of another Shakespeare play

The BBC has added more star power to its upcoming TV adaptations of Shakespeare plays.

The producers previously said that Benedict Cumberbatch would play Richard III. On Thursday, the BBC revealed that Judi Dench would play Cecily, Duchess of York, alongside the Sherlock star.

Meanwhile, Hugh Bonneville, known for portraying Robert Crawley in Downton Abbey, will play Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester in the first part of a two-part adaptation of Henry VI.

Neal Street Productions, Downton Abbey-maker Carnival Films, part of NBCUniversal, and Thirteen are producing the three Shakespeare adaptations under the title The Hollow Crown: The Wars of the Roses for BBC Two.

In other casting news for the series, Sophie Okonedo (Hotel Rwanda, After Earth) will portray Queen Margaret across all three films. Keeley Hawes, who has voiced Lara Croft in several Tomb Raider video games, will play Queen Elizabeth in Henry VI part 2 and Richard III, while Tom Sturridge (On the Road) has been cast as Henry VI in both parts of that production.

Said Pippa Harris, executive producer for Neal Street: "To have the chance to work with some of Britain’s most talented actors is a dream come true. We couldn't be more delighted to have them on board."

Ben Stephenson, controller, BBC Drama Commissioning, added: "Building on the critical success of The Hollow Crown, this extraordinary cast and production team will raise the bar of British drama once more and build on BBC Two's reputation for distinctive drama."

Beyond Harris, executive producers are Neal Street's Sam Mendes (Skyfall) and Nicolas Brown, David Horn for Thirteen and Gareth Neame for Carnival.

Dominic Cooke will direct all three films based on adapted screenplays from Ben Power.

The first round of BBC Shakespeare adaptations under the banner The Hollow Crown was a hit in Britain. It included Richard II and a two-part Henry IV, with Jeremy Irons, Tom Hiddleston and Ben Whishaw starring.

Email: Georg.Szalai@THR.com
Twitter: @georgszalai