Simon Lewis // Daily Mail
With London 2012 just around the corner, the BBC isÂ celebrating the Cultural Olympiad with anÂ epic production ofÂ Shakespeareâs history plays. Simon Lewis meets the men atÂ the heart ofÂ the action
This epic âHenriadâ, telling ofÂ Englandâs bloody rebellions and wars around the turn ofÂ the 15th century, was overseen byÂ James Bond director Sam Mendes, part-funded byÂ American networks and filmed onÂ aÂ huge scale. Itâs the most ambitious Shakespeare project onÂ television since the BBCâs complete works inÂ 1978-85.
WeÂ gathered the lead actors inÂ the new productionsÂ â David Suchet, Tom Hiddleston, Rory Kinnear and Ben WhishawÂ â atÂ aÂ London studio toÂ discuss what Suchet calls the âHenry-festâ.
First ofÂ all, what doÂ you know about the Cultural Olympiad, ofÂ which this isÂ aÂ part?
Rory Kinnear Itâs trying toÂ bring the focus ofÂ the Olympics onÂ toÂ these other things weâre goodÂ at. Iâm soÂ excited that theyâre coming toÂ London. Having only got two tickets toÂ the boxing, IÂ wonât beÂ seeing much ofÂ the sporting action. SoÂ Iâm glad toÂ beÂ involved inÂ the Cultural Olympiad.
Whatâs most important, drama orÂ athletics?
David Suchet For me? Drama, all myÂ lifeÂ â andÂ I was quite aÂ successful sportsman atÂ school. But take drama away, and weâre sitting onÂ aÂ two-legged stool.
Tom Hiddleston Winston Churchill said, âIf weÂ cut funding toÂ the arts, then what are weÂ fighting for?â WeÂ have anÂ incredibly rich arts culture here: British actors and films are winning Oscars, Adele won all those Grammys. British theatre isÂ the best inÂ the world. WeÂ should beÂ very, very proud. But IÂ love sport too.
RK The thing about sport isÂ that itâs got untold drama inÂ it. Itâs why Shakespeare wrote about kings: where the stakes are highest, people live inÂ heightened states.