Mark Rylance, the multiple award winning British actor, has pulled out of the Olympics opening ceremony following the shock death of his step-daughter, 28-year-old Nataasha van Kampen, reports the UK's Guardian newspaper.
The actor had been integral to Danny Boyle's plans for the opening ceremony, and was reportedly set to read from Shakespeare's The Tempest. In a statement, Rylance said Nataasha - the daughter of his wife Claire van Kampen - died suddenly last Sunday, though did not specify the cause of death. He said, "Our beloved daughter and sister Nataasha passed away of unsuspected natural causes early on Sunday morning. Because of our bereavement, I have decided to withdraw from my commitment to the opening ceremony of the Olympics". The Rylance family also asked, "that their privacy is respected at this sad and difficult time". The actor - who most recently starred in the critically acclaimed play 'Jerusalem' - said that he and his wife would continue to work on Richard Iii and Twelfth Night. The productions will mark his return to Shakespeare's Globe, a theatre that he ran as artistic direction for ten years.
Last month, Rylance revealed that he was in two minds about appearing in the Olympics opening ceremony because of all the corporate sponsorship. In April, he was a signatory in a letter in which he stated "BP has no place in arts sponsorship". Appearing on the Radio 4 Today programme, he said there were, "big questions about BP, big questions about MCDonald's and the amount of sugar and obesity that is costing the Nhs millions".