The director of the BBC’s epic Hollow Crown on Shakespeare, Judi Dench, Hugh Bonneville and Benedict Cumberbatch.
The histories are still less well known than the great tragedies and comedies. Do you think there’s any reason for that?
Partly they’re expensive and difficult to do and partly the Henry VIplays are complex and tricky to make work. Richard IIIhas such an immediacy because the central character is so compelling and recognisable. Henry Vhas patriotism and war and all that universal stuff, but I think Henry VIraises more complex questions. It’s an oddball piece and doesn’t really have a classic leading character. And obviously there are three plays and it’s hard to produce without doing all three. We’ve turned those three plays into two films, so we’re dealing with a slightly different beast, but I think that’s partly to do with it.
Did Shakespeare ever think of the eight Plantagenet history plays as a cycle?
Well, he wrote the Henry VIplays first – they were his first commercial success – and they really worked. And I think one of the reasons they worked is that he hit on a really commercial formula....