Rhys was to have joined Ralph Fiennes, Simon Russell Beale and a cast of around 130 for the staging, which will start at London’s Barbican Theatre and then tour Europe.
Lesser will play Brutus. His long Shakespeare pedigree includes Romeo, Richard III and Petruchio for the Royal Shakespeare Company. At the National Theatre, he starred in Howard Davies’ revisionist production of Noel Coward’s Private Lives. His West End outings include Art.
Rhys has had to leave the cast due to a virus, allied to exhaustion from exhausting filming work — he recently filmed the latest in the “Hellraiser” series.
Other casting announcements include Fiona Shaw as Portia and John Shrapnell as Caesar. Both are among the UK’s best-known classical actors. Shaw, a regular Warner collaborator, enjoyed high-profile successes in the latter’s London productions of Medea (a show that went to Broadway in 2002, bagging Shaw a Tony nomination) and Richard II (where Shaw cross-dressed to play the king). The tiny role of Portia, however, is smaller than the stage roles she now usually accepts. Shrapnel, a stage veteran, has also recently been building up his film career — with roles in "Notting Hill," "Gladiator" and "Troy."
The show will play from April 14 to May 14 at the Barbican, who co-produce the show with BITE:05 and the Gran Theatre de la Ville, Luxembourg. After that, it will visit Paris, Madrid and Luxembourg. For more information, call (0)845 120 7516.