The actor’s experience with the film largely soured him on playing characters based on real people.
Mark Rylance is back in theaters this weekend with “The Phantom of the Open,” a new comedy that sees the Oscar winner play famously bad amateur golfer Maurice Flitcroft. It’s Rylance’s first time portraying a real person since he played lawyer William Kunstler in “The Trial of the Chicago 7.” But the actor appears to be having a lot more fun with this movie than he did with Aaron Sorkin’s 2020 historical drama.
In a new interview with the New York Times, Rylance opened up about the difficult experience of playing Kunstler, and said he received malicious feedback from real people who were involved with the trial. Those comments, and the toll they took on his mental health, have made him more hesitant to take roles based on real people.
“I’m wary of playing very famous people,” Rylance said. “Even William Kunstler is a bit on the edge of people really knowing him. The comments from some of the real-life Chicago Seven people, when they saw the film, and the nasty things they said about us trying to portray these characters, stung. I’ve been asked to play Truman and different people like that. The shoe is a bit too tight.”
That said, Rylance overcame his newfound aversion to playing real people for “The Phantom of the Open.” He said that the decision was made partly because he enjoys comedic acting but rarely gets the opportunity to do it.
“This is one of the few comedies I’ve been asked to be a part of in film,” Rylance said, adding that the movie has “a lot of aspects of Don Quixote, jousting at windmills, believing his own identity, not being persuaded by other people’s perception of who he is. Not sociopathic or psychopathic, where he doesn’t even hear what other people are saying — there’s a dignity to Maurice, that he honors his own truth, and I loved that about it.”
It appears that Rylance’s decision paid off, as critics have praised the casting. IndieWire’s David Ehrlich wrote that the actor “embodies Maurice Flitcroft with such fidgety sweetness that he seems to be simpering toward self-parody by the end of the very first scene, and yet with ‘The Phantom of the Open’ he’s found a movie that’s willing to meet the actor on his wavelength — a movie in which everything is so gently over-cranked that Rylance’s character feels more like a natural response to the world around him than he does an aberration from it.”
“The Phantom of the Open” is now playing in select theaters.