Sir Mark Rylance is an English actor, playwright and theatre director. He is known for his roles on stage and screen having received numerous awards including an Academy Award, three BAFTA Awards, two Laurence Olivier Awards, and three Tony Awards.
Rylance’s film appearances include Prospero’s Books (1991), Angels and Insects (1995), Institute Benjamenta (1996), Intimacy (2001), and The Other Boleyn Girl (2008). He attracted attention for his portrayal of Rudolf Abel in Steven Spielberg’s Bridge of Spies (2015), for which he won the Academy Award and BAFTA for Best Supporting Actor. He subsequently collaborated with Spielberg in the title role of The BFG (2016), a live-action film adaptation of the children’s book by Roald Dahl; and as James Halliday in Ready Player One (2018), based on the novel of the same name. He also appeared in Christopher Nolan’s World War II drama Dunkirk (2017) and Aaron Sorkin’s Vietnam War court drama The Trial of the Chicago 7 (2020).
On television, Rylance won the BAFTA TV Award for Best Actor for his role as David Kelly in the 2005 Channel 4 drama The Government Inspector and for playing Thomas Cromwell in the 2015 BBC Two mini-series Wolf Hall he also received Emmy Award and Golden Globe Award nominations.
Today we talk to Mark Rylance about the film THE PHANTOM OF THE OPEN where he plays the title character Maurice Flintcroft. The incredible true story of a dreamer and unrelenting optimist, managed to gain entry to The British Open Golf Championship Qualifying in 1976 and subsequently shot the worst round in Open history, becoming a folk hero in the process.
You can watch the interview below or you can read the transcript. The interview is also available on most podcast platforms just search for Accessreel.com
AR: Hi Mark, how are you?
MR: Hi Darran, I’m good thanks.
AR: Wonderful, how’s your day going?
MR: Well, I hear Boris Johnson stepped down so I I think that’s a good thing.
AR: I’m in Perth Western Australia and it was the first story on the news here.
MR: Oh my great friend Trevor Freeman emigrated to Perth and works there, I’ve not visited yet.
AR: You should definitely come over during summer, you will love it.
MR: Really, yeah, I hear it’s beautiful. He adores it.
AR: Let’s talk about the Phantom of the open, wonderful film. I knew nothing about Morris Flintcroft before I watched it and so by the end of the film I was smiling this blokes a champ like. He just he just does what he wants to do and he saw something that he liked and he goes I’m gonna do that and he did it so what was it like for you getting involved in this film, like what was the process like getting into it?
MR: Well, really finding a more defiant bone in my body you know, I’m more like I’m not, I’m not going to take no for an answer and I’m not going to be defined by other people’s opinions of me. I’ll hear them out but I’m not gonna worry about what they think of me I’m gonna worry about what I think about myself, yeah and that. I’m not so strong as Morris in that way, so that was fun to get my head and heart into that that way thinking and behaving not to let injustices go by too, but to find a creative imaginative way around the injustice that has done to him. In my opinion, it was an injustice that was done to him. I love the way that he’s very, very encouraging to have other people that that I share with him. I’ve been lucky in my life too to live my dream of being an actor, you know so I I’m I meet lots of young actors and more is encouraging them to her to practice and to not give up their dream and their imagination of who they might be inside.
AR: Did you know much about Morris before doing the film?
MR: I’m not someone who watches a lot of golf or plays a lot my parents took me to America when I was three years old and I lived there till I was 18 so in the 70s I I was in high school in America, I wasn’t aware of Morris, so I I learned about him through the script and the book and then watching the wonderful YouTube clips and then visiting his family and stuff like that.
AR: Yeah, I watched a few of the YouTube clips after I watched the film as well ’causey ou watch the film and you’re like no, this this can’t be real and there’s been a couple of films that I’ve watched and I’m like yeah, no that that’s not legit and then you go and do some research He’s like, yeah He did, he tried to play in an open like what five or six times or something like that under different names and it’s just such an incredible story so.
AR: You said that you said you went and visited the family how was that experience for you?
MR: Well, you know it’s a big thing for the family you know their dad, their granddad will be known more now through my interpretation of him then then people know him in his own life so obviously I’m nervous that that they’re going to accept me and also feel comfortable to share with me aspects of who he was and what he was like and, you know, go to places, go to his house, go to the playing fields where he played, so I put a lot of time into that and you know they have to trust me and to share what it was like. They’re the most important audience for me out of all the audiences, they won’t be embarrassed or ashamed by the way we tell his story. Oh, so that’s a very important aspect, and lucky when you can play a character who does still have family members who knew and loved him.
I actually sat next sat between his son James and his grandson when I watched the film the first time, so that was very interesting hearing them laugh, hearing them go quiet, hearing them weep at certain moments, I think I think when he goes to Michigan and is appreciated in America near the end of his life. Uhm, was moving to them.
AR: Yeah I got choked up a bit on that bit as well, I was like that’s wonderful. He never knew and suddenly this this comes out and he gets this letter and he’s like wow, OK, it’s incredible.
MR: Yeah, so I hope his spirit is a is beaming down and smiling as people you know in different places learn about him, but anyone can go on YouTube you know, if you like the film or you want to check it out before you go to the film, going on YouTube and seeing some of their interviews, he did that is wonderful. I already fell in love with him watching those interviews.
AR: Going on a film like this one ’cause it’s a relatively, what I don’t want to say, small film like it’s a smaller film than some of the other ones you’ve been involved in over the last handful of years how does your preparation go from going on like a film this one to like Ready Player one or don’t look up to like a film like this is it? Is it pretty much your preparation the same? Or do is it a bit different?
MR: I mean, essentially, it’s all imagination, isn’t it? And its all just childish playfulness, you know, pretending to be someone I’m not but this is a small independent film, you know, with low budget and people doing it because they love they love the project and also a young director a very good actor who’s moving into directing and so some degree you know when I sign up for a film thanks to winning Oscars and stuff like that, I’m an investor. I’m a help and I to some degree I have. I’m not a director of film, I’ll never director film but I have experience of great directors and so I know what other directors do at certain moments and to some degree What will help? Uh, at certain moments so I can be a good captain on the field to a new coach. Ah yeah, not ever try and dominate, but certainly Offer Up things and then Sally Hawkins was such a great partner, and she also is very, very experienced so that’s nice.
On a film like don’t look up or ready Player one I’m the least experienced amongst that those stars, so it’s more about remembering earlier times in my career when you’re a supporting player and you’re helping.
Yeah, we play occurs often very vulnerable to be a lead player and have a reputation like Meryl Streep does or Leonardo DiCaprio you know that you’re also, they’re working very hard.They’re very tired and you know, it’s so your it’s your adjusting where you are in the in the team, so to speak.
AR: You’re quite accomplished on stage in theater as well do you have a preference stage or screen or is it all much the same to you?
MR: Well, lucky me to be able to answer that question and able to be in both mediums they’re very different though the essential skill of imagination is the same, film is much more like playing a game of snooker or pool or um I don’t know darts or golf to some degree you know the cameras on you and it’s not a sport, it’s individual and you’re a day player you come and you go out you got you got no effect over it really the editor and the director will make you performance. In theater you’re up there live and you’re in a group and it’s more like playing a game of football or rugby it’s a team sport or volleyball and the interaction the quality of the experience of the audience is very much up to you and you can’t just do it once you gotta do eight times a week for 16-20 weeks, so it’s a season, you know. We can’t just win the first game of the season you gotta win every game in terms of defeating the boredom that might happen if it goes badly with the audience you’ve got to be live and direct and keep it fresh and keep it changing and relating so that in that way they’re different, and in that way it’s more fun as an actor being in the theater but film has great delights and pleasures as well.
AR: Is there any genre of movie or a character that you haven’t played yet but you would like to? Like if a script comes across your desk and it had a certain role in it, you’d be like straight up yes?
MR: Yeah, it’s fun to play different things and find different aspects yourself It’s all still yourself, isn’t it?Like I was saying to you or someone today that the defiance of Morris about not accepting other people’s criticisms I’m not very good at that I’m very open to other people criticisms and having very critical mind about myself so that’s a lot of fun to live in those shoes for a while on set but the whole story is generally important to me I like to be part of films that have a good story Chicago 7, Dunkirk, Ready Player One yeah Bridge of Spies. I mean, hard to turn bridge of spies down when you’re getting the opportunity to work with Spielberg and Tom Hanks so sometimes it’s the people or that, but I wouldn’t take still if it was a bad, those two guys wouldn’t be embarrassed, involved in a bad story, but if it was a story that promoted violence without really looking the consequences of violence or yeah, well, in promoted yeah hatred between people I wouldn’t want to do that and if sometimes if it’s a character, I feel like I’ve played before, I’m not sure I’m gonna do that. I like a challenge.
AR: Lastly, just to wrap up, you’ve got Tony Awards, you’ve got your Baftas, you’ve got your Oscar plethora of awards. Where do you keep your Oscar?
MR: Why does everyone want to ask that question? (smiling)
AR: Well, funny enough, I’ve talked to two Oscar winners n my 12 years of doing this, one was only a few weeks ago and then there’s yourself so I’ve literally asked it twice, but it just intrigues me, because Kate Winslet once said that she that she had it in her toilet next to the sink so people could hold it up in front and I just thought that was a hilarious story, so that’s why I’m like, I wonder where people do so yeah.
MR: That’s a really generous classic Kate, I mean mine was in a box for a long time, but I have it now where I watched films, so I have next the DVD player when I watch films ’cause that and that just feels like the film corner of my house.
AR: Well, thank you Mark. I appreciate the chat, the film is wonderful, and I hope to talk to you again one day.
MR: Thanks, Darran.