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Drama that's fit for a king; Benedict Cumberbatch plays villainous monarch Richard III in star-studded three-part adaptation.

Richard III might not be one of Britain's favourite kings - but he is certainly one of the most famous.

Since his remains were found under a car park in Leicester in 2012, much of what we know about the last Plantagenet king has been re-evaluated.

Thanks to William Shakespeare and his play Richard III, the king who died in 1485 has been portrayed as an evil hunchback, seen as weak both for his stature and his actions.

But his skeleton showed that while he had severe scoliosis of the spine, it may not have been obvious. Many historians also claim he wasn't as bad a person as history claims - and was tarnished by the Tudors to legitimate their own claim on the throne.

Many great actors have played Richard III including Ian McKellen, Laurence Olivier, Al Pacino and Kenneth Branagh. Now Sherlock actor Benedict Cumberbatch is putting his own spin on the man in The Hollow Crown: The Wars of the Roses, a special three-part drama adapted from Shakespeare's history plays.

Henry VI Part One, Part Two and Part Three, will be adapted into two two-hour films, followed by the final film adapting Richard III. Benedict steals the show in the second cycle, showing the deformities said to have spurred him on to become king through sheer bloody violence. This will be no Poldark-style chest fest.

He said: "In the opening shots we have him topless so you can see every detail of the curvature of his spine.

"Audiences don't necessarily side with him but they revel in his villainy. Richard is described as a hunchback with disproportionate legs. He was kept at a distance from his family, and his deep-seated anger and hurt leads to his ambition.

"It took me three to four hours to put on the prosthetics. The weight of the silicone is incredible. It's painted to match the skin tone and it looks distressingly real. By contrast on stage Richard's body has always been something to hide."

Despite calls to change our perception of the king's place in history, Benedict didn't want to change his physical deformity as we usually know it. He said: "Physicality has always been at the centre of playing Richard III. He is very clearly described as a hunchback with Benedict disproportionate legs. His physicality is in the play and the script, in his own analysis and in other people's name-calling. It is unavoidable."

The film follows the successful first adaptation of the history plays in 2012 which starred Ben Whishaw, and Tom Hiddleston. The new adaptations are even more star-studded with a cast including Dame Judi Dench, Hugh Bonneville, Keeley Hawes and Philip Glenister. And there's no shortage of drama. We see Joan of Arc burnt at the stake, six bloody battles from the Wars of the Roses and gory beheadings. Naturally, Benedict and his co-stars got the chance to brush up on their history - and fighting skills.

He said: "We carried around weapons of steel and aluminium, which were props but could still do a great deal of damage. We were fighting in fields and in rivers with water up to our chests. It was brutal.

"The broadsword could crack your skull open with a glancing blow. It is such a barbarous way to win power. I'm in awe of it. The training was tough all of us would come away shell-shocked and pale."

see of of his three to put prosthetics cumberbatch " Downton Abbey actor Hugh and Adrian Dunbar star in the first film, shown tonight on BBC2. Set 17 years after the death of Henry V, England is ruled by the Duke of Gloucester (Hugh) and tensionsbuild when Margaret of Anjou (Sophie Okonedo) is introduced at court Benedict reckons bringing such a good cast together could only happen on TV. He said: "It took Judi Dench a matter of days to film her scenes as my mother, but to get someone of that ilk to do that on stage would be tricky, if not well nigh impossible.

l The Hollow Crown: The War of Roses, tonight, BBC2 at 9pm.

such a power. training of us after Henry ruled legs. You can see every details of the curvature of his spine. It took three to four hours to put on the prosthetics it's distressingly real Benedict Cumberbatch


to on BURIED... Remains were found in 2012

RULER... Benedict as King Richard III

CUT ABOVE... Benedict, centre, with co-stars Hugh Bonneville, Sophie Okonedo, Judi Dench and Tom Sturridge
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:May 7, 2016
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