Wolf Hall star Mark Rylance has revealed he turned down Steven Spielberg’s offer of a chance at Hollywood stardom after consulting an ancient Chinese fortune-telling text.

The actor, who plays Thomas Cromwell in the BBC2 drama, makes the revelation as a guest on today’s Desert Island Discs. He tells Kirsty Young, the host of the long-running Radio 4 programme, how he was offered a “very small part” in Steven’s 1987 film Empire Of The Sun at the same time as being offered a role at London’s National Theatre. 

To help him make a decision about which job he should take, he consulted the I Ching – which uses random numbers and hexagrams to guide people’s decisions.

“I turned to the I Ching,” he says. “You just ask it where now and it gives an answer and the answer it gave if I went to the theatre was ‘community’ and that swayed it for me. I had never experienced community on film sets because the community is amongst the technicians, the actors come and go, but in the theatre you go through the deaths and the births and the happy and low moments of the group.”