The publishing event of a lifetime? Prepare for more Mantel mania | Richard Brooks

Mark Rylance prepares to don Cromwell’s black cap again, Asian cinema continues to shine, and Ian McKellen helps out a north London theatre pub

Mark Rylance, a good source tells me, is to reprise his role as Thomas Cromwell in the BBC adaptation of Hilary Mantel’s final instalment of her Wolf Hall trilogy, The Mirror and the Light. So far the BBC has simply said it will film the next novel, published on 5 March, without confirming the Oscar-winning actor.

Finally with us eight years after Bring Up the Bodies (Mantel says she struggled to “kill off” her hero Cromwell, but you can’t change the historical fact of his 1540 execution), the book is under the heaviest of wraps. But I can reveal that screenwriter Peter Straughan, who adapted Mantel’s first two Cromwell novels for the award-winning 2015 TV series, was given an advance copy last autumn so he could start writing his version. This means that filming, with Peter Kosminsky directing again, can go ahead this year, with the series coming to BBC One in 2021 to coincide with the paperback edition of The Mirror and the Light.

Publishers 4th Estate are being coy about the hardback print run, but it will be well into six figures. At more than 800 pages, the novel costs an equally hefty £25, unusually high for fiction, but some shops have pre-order deals at £12.50. Combined sales for the first two books, in hard and paperback, are more than 5m worldwide. James Daunt, boss of Waterstones, calls Mantel’s new novel “the most significant publishing event of my 30-year bookselling career”. But will the last part of the trilogy bring up a treble by winning the Booker – as did the first two of the Wolf Hall novels?

It’s the Baftas tonight, with the extraordinary South Korean film Parasite one of five shortlisted for best movie. I’d be surprised if it won, partly because another foreign language film, Roma, took the top spot last year. However, it might stand more chance at the Oscars next Sunday, where voters could be split over Joker (some hate its depiction of mental illness), The Irishman (it’s Netflix) and 1917, which began superbly but tailed off into fantasy. Oscar voters must also redeem last year’s bizarre Green Book victory.

Park So-dam and Choi Woo-sik in Parasite.
Park So-dam and Choi Woo-sik in Parasite. Photograph: Allstar

The King’s Head pub theatre in Islington, north London, has been a stepping stone in the careers of many since its foundation half a century ago. Its alumni include Joanna Lumley, Tom Stoppard, Hugh Grant, Dawn French and Quentin Crisp. It now plans to move to a new purpose-built venue just yards away on Upper Street.

But, with no lottery money, it has so far only raised £1.3m of the £3.5m required. Ian McKellen will generously donate a proportion of the takings from his one-man UK tour, and a fundraising dinner, with Mark Gatiss and Su Pollard among big name attendees, will be held next Sunday. Details are on the King’s Head theatre website. I hope it turns out to be a happy 50th birthday year.

The King’s Head theatre pub in north London.
The King’s Head theatre pub in north London. Photograph: Jeffrey Blackler/Alamy

Contributor

Richard Brooks

The GuardianTramp

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