The release of Steven Spielberg's latest movie Bridge of Spies has brought about some of the most arrogant and ignorant statements I have ever heard from the director and its star Tom Hanks.
Both statements refer to Mark Rylance.
Hanks claims that Rylance is a name with a promising future ahead of him, which rather dumbly ignores everything Rylance has achieved thus far and clearly believes that the only success an actor could achieve is in a major Hollywood movie. Spielberg meanwhile accepts Rylance has had a career, but gloats that he has 'saved him' from theatre, again corroborating Hanks' belief that movie stardom is the only thing of merit.
Anyone who knows just how good Mark Rylance is, like scarily good, can point to a career of glittering highlights which dates all the way back to the early 1980s. To be fair to Spielberg, it has been a career that has primarily focused on the stage, but he has delivered some exceptional performances on both the big and small screen before Hollywood came a calling, and the 1992 Screen Two film The Grass Arena is a great example of this. It's a role Rylance could totally inhabit and get his teeth into, and he's absolutely spellbinding.
Based on the autobiography of John Healy, The Grass Arena tells Healy's story from his formative years as a sickly, bullied child to a promising career as a boxer which was curtailed because of his addiction to alcohol. The film pulls no punches whatsoever in its depiction of Healy's fifteen years in the wilderness of the titular 'grass arena', a park in which he and other alcoholic down and outs frequented; begging, stealing and violently arguing among themselves.
As you can tell it's an amazing life and the BBC film depicts it in a bleak, harrowing and uncomfortable manner, though it is occasionally uplifting. The film belongs to Rylance though, he is nothing short of mesmerising throughout. As indeed he always has been - we didn't really need Hanks or Spielberg to enlighten us of this fact. See for yourself on YouTube.
To get the BBC to consider repeating some of these classic plays please sign the petition I started here