Mark Rylance Biography

Mark Rylance photo

Born: January 18, 1960


Date of Birth: January 18, 1960

Actor Mark Rylance was born Mark Waters in Ashford, England to two English teachers, a fact that may have contributed to his early and continued love of Shakespearean theater.

He and his parents moved to Wisconsin in 1969, where Mark attended the University School of Milwaukee and starred in most of the school's plays, including playing the lead role of Romeo in Romeo and Juliet.

When Mark decided to become a professional actor, he took his middle name "Rylance" as his stage name because Mark Waters was already registered by an actor in the British Actors' Equity Foundation. Mark attended the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art until 1980 and soon got his first professional theater job at the Glasgow Citizens' Theatre.

This forward momentum continued and in 1982 Mark performed for the first time with the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC), a company he would continue to work with frequently in later years. In 1988, Mark played Hamlet, again with the RSC, in Ron Daniels' production of Hamlet. Two years later, Mark and his girlfriend Claire (and later wife) founded their own theater company, Phoebus' Cart.

Over the next decade and a half Mark appeared and starred in many high-profile Shakespeare stage productions, including Matthew Warchus' 1993 production of Much Ado About Nothing at the Queen's Theater, a role which won Mark his first Olivier Award.

Mark is not only an actor, but a talented theater director and playwright as well. In 1995, he became the first artistic director of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre in London and remained in that position for the next decade. During this time, he directed and acted in every season.

Mark has won three Tony awards in his storied theater career, first for his lead performance in 2008's revival of Boeing Boeing, then in 2011 for his role as Johnny Byron in Jerusalem and again in 2013 for his featured role as Olivia in the all-male Broadway production of Twelfth Night at the Shakespeare's Globe Theatre.

Despite his vast work in the theater, Mark has also appeared in many well-known film and television productions. In 2008, he portrayed Thomas Boleyn in the film adaptation of Phillipa Gregory's The Other Boleyn Girl and in 2011, he played Henry Condell in the historical drama Anonymous.

His work in the television drama Wolf Hall has been widely acclaimed, earning him Golden Globe, SAG and Emmy Awards nominations in 2015.

Mark received a 2016 Golden Globe nomination and took home an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of Rudolf Abel in the Steven Spielberg thriller Bridge of Spies.

Since then, he's starred in the Disney flick The BFG (2016) and has been seen in the Christopher Nolan film Dunkirk (2017) and the sci-fi action/adventure Ready Player One (2018) as the brilliant and eccentric James Halliday.

Mark has been married to musical director and playwright Claire van Kampen since 1989.


Ready Player One (2018)
Dunkirk (2017)
The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara (2017)
The BFG (2016)
Bridge of Spies (2015)
The Gunman (2015)
Days and Nights (2014)
Twelfth Night (2013)
Anonymous (2011)
The Other Boleyn Girl (2008)
Angels and Insects (1995)
Institute Benjamenta, or This Dream That One Calls Human Life (1995)
Prospero's Books (1991)
Hearts of Fire (1987)
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