Anne Marie Scan­lon

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Living - - CINEMA -

AS some­one who stud­ied his­tory to post-grad­u­ate level, reads his­tory books for fun and gob­bles up his­tor­i­cal fic­tion, I was be­side my­self with ex­cite­ment when I heard the BBC was drama­tis­ing Hilary Man­tel’s Wolf Hall, the Man Booker Award win­ner 2009.

Trans­fer­ring beloved books onto both the big screen and the small is a no­to­ri­ously tricky task but direc­tor Peter Kos­min­sky’s adap­ta­tion was a unan­i­mous hit.

The cast­ing was su­perb through­out — from the bit play­ers to Mark Ry­lance as Cromwell and Damien Lewis as Henry VIII.

To my mind though, Claire Foy, who I had never heard of at the time, stole the show as a mag­nif­i­cent, com­pli­cated, wholly cred­i­ble, Anne Bo­leyn.

Wolf Hall won many awards and al­though Foy was nom­i­nated for sev­eral she didn’t get one gong, when re­ally she should have won ALL the awards.

In per­son Foy is noth­ing like Anne Bo­leyn (prob­a­bly a good thing), she’s pe­tite and bears a pass­ing re­sem­blance to Henry’s sec­ond ill-fated wife, but that’s it. The ac­tress tells me that she was as ex­cited as I was when she heard that Wolf Hall was be­ing made into a TV se­ries (we both agree that Hilary Man­tel is a “ge­nius”.)

Foy speaks rapidly and speeds up as she talks. “I was like, oh my God, ohmy­god, ohmy­god, AMAZ­ING!” when she heard, “but ab­so­lutely know­ing that I wasn’t right for Anne. I never, ever saw my­self as her, but (direc­tor Peter Kos­min­sky) gave me a shot. Thank God, I loved it, I loved it!”

In the two years since Wolf Hall ap­peared on TV, Foy has found global fame play­ing an­other Queen — the cur­rent in­cum­bent of the throne, El­iz­a­beth II (in the early years of her mar­riage to Prince Philip) in The Crown. Is she de­lib­er­ately cor­ner­ing the mar­ket in royalty? Foy laughs, “I don’t know how it hap­pened,” she ad­mits, “it’s a bit em­bar­rass­ing isn’t it, I mean oh God! I’ve had two coro­na­tions! How swish! I’m not royal, or even up­per or mid­dle-class so I don’t know how that all hap­pened. It’s odd but I’m very grate­ful.”

It’s quite a shock to dis­cover Foy is “not posh” in real life (she’s from Stock­port orig­i­nally rather than the Home Coun­ties), as her lat­est role, Diana, in the film Breathe, is an­other 1950s young lady with a mouth full of plums. “I had to take the edge off her ac­cent ac­tu­ally,” Foy tells me, “be­cause I’d just fin­ished do­ing the first se­ries of The Crown, and the char­ac­ters are sim­i­lar, they’re a sim­i­lar gen­er­a­tion — Keep Calm and Carry On!”

Breathe is based on the real-life love story be­tween Robin Cavendish and his wife Diana. Robin (An­drew Garfield) con­tracted po­lio at the age of 28 while Diana was preg­nant with their son Jonathan (one of the film’s pro­duc­ers).

Robin was paral­ysed from the neck down and given mere months to live. The Cavendishes flew in the face of con­ven­tion, Robin re­fused to stay in hospi­tal, re­turned home and en­joyed his life. The cou­ple trav­elled ex­ten­sively and with the help of an Ox­ford pro­fes­sor friend (Hugh Bon­neville) de­signed a chair to al­low Cavendish and other ‘re­spo­nauts’, as they were known, to achieve a de­gree of in­de­pen­dence.

The Cavendishes rev­o­lu­tionised

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