Tom Hollander (Rev, Any Human Heart) is to play the lead role in Andrew Davies’ (South Riding, Little Dorrit) brand new single drama, A Poet in New York, for BBC Two and BBC One Wales.
Made by Modern Television for the BBC, to mark the centenary of Dylan Thomas’s birth, the drama will explore how Dylan Thomas, the creator of some of the most memorable lines in the English language, died in a smog-ridden New York on a November day in 1953, aged 39.
Set in New York and Laugharne, A Poet In New York begins when Dylan (Tom Hollander) arrives in the city on his fourth and fatal visit to rehearse, write and party. One of the most famous poets in the world by the early 1950s, Dylan’s popular and electrifying tours had also made him a much loved celebrity in America.
He was on his way to Hollywood to write an opera with Stravinsky. But, before he headed west, he had to earn enough to fund the trip by fulfilling a commitment to take part in a production of the recently completed Under Milk Wood at the prestigious Poetry Centre in Manhattan. What might have been a triumphant new departure in his career and life turned instead into a requiem for a man whose life had spiralled out of control.
A Poet in New York, directed by Aisling Walsh (Room At The Top, Loving Miss Hatto), will explore how Dylan’s past made his present virtually untenable and the part that he played in his own demise.
Tom Hollander says: “I am thrilled to be playing Dylan Thomas for Aisling Walsh in Andrew Davies’ wonderful A Poet in New York, produced by Modern Television. Thomas was a great poet, whose blazing life and premature death left both a considerable poetic legacy and an enduring reputation for bad behaviour. He was also quite fat. Playing him is both a wonderful acting challenge and a great opportunity to eat things that I would normally have to avoid.”
A Poet in New York will also star Essie Davis (The Slap, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries), as Dylan’s wife Caitlin, Ewen Bremner (Trainspotting, Page Eight), Phoebe Fox (Switch, New Tricks).
Writer Andrew Davies says: “I‘m delighted that we’ve secured Tom Hollander to play Dylan. He’s a wonderful actor, with a striking resemblance to the poet, he’s captured the wonderful voice, and he has, more than any other actor I can think of, that outrageous charm that drew so many people to Dylan.”
Griff Rhys Jones, Executive Producer, Modern Television, says: “We are delighted to have developed this project with the BBC. Andrew Davies has written a moving, exciting and sensitive script about the tragic end of a huge figure. It does full justice to Dylan and his legacy. In Ruth Caleb and Aisling Walsh we have the experience and expertise to produce what we hope will be a memorable drama.”