Mark Ry­lance on his ev­ery­man role

The Hamilton Spectator - - A&E - GARY THOMP­SON

Os­car-win­ner Mark Ry­lance didn’t need to method-act his way into “Dunkirk” and his role as a civil­ian vol­un­teer who crosses the English Chan­nel in his own boat to res­cue stranded sol­diers.

Ry­lance could look to his own ex­tended fam­ily — the fire­fighter cousin, for in­stance, who rushed into the burn­ing Gren­fell Tower on June 14 to res­cue stranded res­i­dents. And the ac­tor has al­ways im­mersed him­self in the sto­ries of or­di­nary men who find strength and pur­pose in help­ing each other.

Ry­lance, on that note, was just in Penn­syl­va­nia — the town of Home­stead this month — to mark the 125th an­niver­sary of a 1892 steel­worker up­ris­ing pit­ting strik­ing work­ers against armed Pinker­ton de­tec­tives. Ry­lance, former di­rec­tor of the Globe The­atre in Lon­don, is turn­ing the clash into a play.

Last week, he was in Lon­don at the Bri­tish Film In­sti­tute for a screen­ing of “Dunkirk” and he in­vited his res­cue-worker cousin to at­tend.

The film, he said, cap­tures the spirit of such peo­ple.

“When peo­ple talk about the Sec­ond World War, they talk about col­lec­tive spirit, when the fric­tions of class broke down. You would see the king and queen come out to a bomb­ing site, and ev­ery­one was in it to­gether. We fought and we won be­cause we were in it to­gether. We didn’t sep­a­rate and splin­ter, and ‘Dunkirk’ is the most dra­matic ex­am­ple of that,” said Ry­lance, whose char­ac­ter is based on the thou­sands of civil­ian boat cap­tains who crossed the chan­nel to res­cue stranded Bri­tish troops — more than 400,000.

“Men were saved by the small, hum­ble ac­tions of many in­di­vid­u­als go­ing over and join­ing with mil­i­tary and help­ing ev­ery­one else, at great risk to their own lives. My fa­ther was only 6 years old at the time, but he re­mem­bers the sense of unity, he re­mem­bers hear­ing that we got the men back, and he re­mem­bers the power of that col­lec­tive spirit.”

For ev­ery re­cent act of ter­ror, he said, there is an­other ex­am­ple of com­mon folks re­spond­ing with un­com­mon courage.

“The brav­ery of civil­ians who stood up to those who were at­tack­ing peo­ple with knives in Lon­don. The po­lice­man who held off three of them with just a trun­cheon,” he said. “Be­cause this film is a res­cue story, it’s go­ing to touch that nerve.”

Ry­lance has long been re­garded as one of the world’s great stage ac­tors, but didn’t re­ally find a defin­ing on-cam­era role un­til his star turn in BBC’s “Wolf Hall.” That led to his role as a Soviet agent in Steven Spiel­berg’s “Bridge of Spies” and to an Os­car for best sup­port­ing ac­tor.


Mark Ry­lance pi­lots his wooden boat across the English Chan­nel to res­cue trapped sol­diers.

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