An insight into BBC drama Wolf Hall

An insight into BBC drama Wolf Hall

The brand new six-part series Wolf Hall, chronicling the life of Thomas Cromwell, is producing a lot of anticipation ahead of its first airdate this week. Josh Wilson takes a peek behind the scenes of this epic production, which features none other than the talented Damian Lewis and Mark Rylance.

Based on double Booker prize-winning author Hilary Mantel’s novels Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies, an expectation of gravity in the storyline is justified. And certainly one aspect that has remained a constant ‘must’ among the entire executive team involved in the production has been the depth of the script.


The book, the script and the screenwriter

So far the production has already had a life-changing effect on at least one crew member involved in the BBC Two series. When screenwriter Peter Straughan (The Men Who Stare at Goats, Frank) was initially sent Wolf Hall he hadn’t actually put one word to paper for over a year. The loss of his co-writing wife, Bridget O’Connor, to cancer at the age of 49 during the production of Tomas Alfredson’s John le Carré adaptation Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, had been too much for the writer to take.

“We’d always written together – even when we hadn’t. You know, even when I was writing on my own, I’d turn to Bridget for help and advice,” Straughan said during an interview with The Telegraph “I think in the back of my mind there was a possibility that maybe I wasn’t going to be able to write again.” But when he received Wolf Hall everything changed and for the first time since his loss the Oscar-nominated writer could feel his creative juices flowing again.

Producer Mark Pybus was quick to point out to Straughan that the grievous nature of the books (with Thomas Cromwell losing his wife, daughter and mentor) made the writer perhaps even more suitable for the production. “It was sweet of him,” Straughan said, “and that was the first hook for me. Because this man, who experienced loss and then went back into the world – that spoke to me, Cromwell’s grief. I felt sympathy for him from then on.” 

The writer’s connection with Cromwell helped to compress a thousand pages into a six-part drama series, ultimately ending up focusing on a revenge plot, with Cromwell avenging the death of his mentor and friend Wolsey.


UK locations over Belgium tax incentives

Way back at the beginning of 2014, when we first reported that the show would be filming from April to August throughout the UK, there still was some uncertainty about the exact locations. Last year however, the main part of filming took place in Bristol, including at the city’s Harbour Walls and Bristol Cathedral, which doubled as Westminster Cathedral for the opulent coronation of Anne Boleyn.

Wolf Hall also filmed at a range of locations across the wider region, including the cathedrals at Wells, Winchester and Gloucester, and at six National Trust properties; Montacute House, Barrington Court, Lacock Abbey, Great Chalfield Manor, Chastleton House and Horton Court.</

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