In a small room in Soho, Anne Boleyn is very far from dead. “She is tightly bound and birdlike, bony and mean,” Claire Foy says with feeling, as if describing a difficult friend. “She’s incredibly holy in a way. But then she’s horrible and pinches people. She’s violent, and she’s a snob.”
If Anne Boleyn has been gone since May 19 1536, beheaded at the Tower of London, her fame has kept her awkwardly alive: as shrew, victim, schemer or saucepot, depending on your version of events.
Foy knows Boleyn the hard way: she plays the Tudor queen in the BBC’s forthcoming miniseries Wolf Hall, a bewitching six-part adaptation of Hilary Mantel’s novels. It’s a part that demands she be dislikeable, a part that she says she initially decided not to “go near with a bargepole”. But it wasn’t Anne’s spikiness or the overcrowding of actresses who have already chalked up the role, but rather Mantel’s telling of the story in Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies that made her wary.
“I was totally obsessed [by the books]. I loved them so much and had such a clear idea in my head of what she was like. When Peter [Kosminsky, Wolf Hall’s director] asked me to audition for it I said, ‘I don’t think this is a good idea. I don’t want to let you down because I love you.’ ”
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