Anne Marie Scanlon
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