David Mark Rylance Waters (born 18th January 1960) is an English actor, theatre director and playwright. He was the first artistic director of Shakespeare's Globe in London, from 1995 to 2005. His film appearances include Prospero's Books (1991), Angels and Insects (1995), Institute Benjamenta (1996), and Intimacy (2001). Rylance won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor and the BAFTA Award for Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of Rudolf Abel in Bridge of Spies (2015). He played the title role in Steven Spielberg's The BFG (2016), a live-action film adaptation of the children's book by Roald Dahl, and in Christopher Nolan's Dunkirk (2017) based on the British evacuation in WWII.
After training at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London, Rylance made his professional debut at the Citizens Theatre, Glasgow in 1980. He went on to win the Olivier Award for Best Actor for Much Ado About Nothing in 1994 and Jerusalem in 2010, and the Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play for Boeing Boeing in 2008 and Jerusalem in 2011. He won a third Tony Award in 2014 for Twelfth Night. On television, he won the BAFTA TV Award for Best Actor for his role as David Kelly in the 2005 Channel 4 drama The Government Inspector and for playing Thomas Cromwell in the 2015 BBC Two miniseries Wolf Hall. For Wolf Hall, he also received Emmy and Golden Globe nominations.
Rylance is a patron of the London International Festival of Theatre. He is also a patron of the London-based charity Peace Direct which supports peacebuilders in areas of conflict, and of the British Stop the War Coalition. In 2016 he was named in the Time 100 list of the most influential people in the world.
Rylance was born in Ashford, Kent, to Anne (née Skinner) and David Waters, both English teachers. One of his grandmothers was Irish. Both his grandfathers were POWs of the Japanese during World War II. Rylance has a sister named Susannah, an opera singer and author, and a brother, Jonathan, who works as a sommelier at Alice Waters' (no relation) restaurant Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California. His parents moved to the United States in 1962, first to Connecticut and then Wisconsin in 1969, where his father taught English at the University School of Milwaukee. Rylance attended this school. He starred in most of the school's plays with the theatre's director, Dale Gutzman, including the lead in a 1976 production of Hamlet, He played Romeo in the school's production of Romeo and Juliet.
Rylance started dating director, composer and playwright Claire van Kampen in 1987 while working on a production of The Wandering Jew at the National Theatre, and they married in Oxfordshire on 21 December 1989. Through this marriage, he became a stepfather to her two daughters from a previous marriage, actress Juliet Rylance and filmmaker Nataasha van Kampen. Nataasha died in July 2012 at the age of 28, following which Rylance withdrew from his planned participation in the 2012 Summer Olympics opening ceremony in London and was replaced by Kenneth Branagh.
Rylance has been a supporter of the indigenous rights organisation Survival International for many years. He is the creator and director of "We Are One", a fundraiser that took place at the Apollo Theatre in April 2010. The evening was a performance of tribal prose and poetry from some of the world's leading actors and musicians.
Rylance is a patron of the London-based charity Peace Direct which supports grassroots peacebuilders in areas of conflict, and of the British Stop the War Coalition. He is a member of the Peace Pledge Union, a network of pacifists in the UK. He performed the life and words of Henri, a man living in war-torn eastern Congo, during a presentation in New York City in 2011. He is also patron of The Outside Edge Theatre Company. It works from the perspective of creating theatre and drama with people affected by substance abuse. It provides theatre interventions in drug and alcohol treatment and general community facilities throughout Britain, as well as producing professional public theatre productions that take place in theatres, studio theatres, and art centres.
Rylance became a patron of LIFT (London International Festival of Theatre) in 2013. He said about the festival: "I feel LIFT has done more to influence the growth and adventure of English theatre than any other organisation we have."
Rylance became patron of the London Bubble Speech Bubbles project in 2015. "I found a voice through making theatre and am proud to be the patron of Speech Bubbles, which helps hundreds of children to do the same."