Three-Time Tony Winner Mark Rylance Nabs Lead in Steven Spielberg's 'The BFG'

Mark Rylance Tony Awards After Party - P 2013
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Mark Rylance Tony Awards After Party - P 2013

The film will begin production in early 2015 and open in the U.S. on July 1, 2016

DreamWorks has tapped three-time Tony Award winner and two-time Olivier Award winner Mark Rylance to play the title character in Steven Spielberg's The BFG.

Spielberg will direct the film, an adaptation of Roald Dahl's classic children’s novel of the same name, after he wraps an untitled Cold War thriller starring Tom Hanks (Rylance plays a supporting role in the Cold War film).

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Published in 1982, The BFG tells the tale of a young girl, the Queen of England and a benevolent giant known as the BFG, who set out on an adventure to capture the evil man-eating giants who have been invading the human world.

"As I witnessed on stage, Mark Rylance is a transformational actor," Spielberg said. "I am excited and thrilled that Mark will be making this journey with us to Giant Country. Everything about his career so far is about making the courageous choice, and I'm honored he has chosen The BFG as his next big screen performance."

Added Dahl's grandson Luke Kelly, who is the managing director of the Roald Dahl Literary Estate: "We are ecstatic at this choice. Mark is incredibly talented, one of the great British actors working today. I've had the privilege of seeing Mark perform, and the thought of watching him transform into ‘the only nice and jumbly giant in Giant Country' is, as The BFG himself might say, absolutely phizz-whizzing."

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DreamWorks acquired the rights to the book in 2010 after Kathleen Kennedy brought it to the company.  Melissa Mathison, who last teamed with Spielberg and Kennedy on E.T., has written the screenplay.  Spielberg, Frank Marshall and Sam Mercer will produce, while Kennedy, John Madden and Michael Siegel are on board as executive producers. Kristie Macosko Krieger and Adam Somner are co-producers.

Spielberg will begin production on The BFG in early 2015, and it will open in U.S. theaters July 1, 2016.  Disney is distributing the film in the U.S. and select international territories, while Mister Smith Entertainment is handling distribution in Europe, Africa and the Middle East. DreamWorks’ partner, Reliance, will distribute the film in India.

Rylance's upcoming projects include The Gunman, Days and Nights and the lead role in the buzzed-about BBC adaptation of Wolf Hall. Rylance won Tonys for his roles in Boeing Boeing, Jerusalem and Twelfth Night. He earned his two Olivier Awards for his roles in Much Ado About Nothing and Jerusalem. His film roles include The Other Boleyn Girl and Angels and Insects.

He is repped by Hamilton Hodell and Peikoff Mahan Law Office.