Ralph Fiennes
(1962 - )

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The thinking woman's Brad Pitt might be the best way to describe Mr Fiennes. A consummate actor in both film and on the boards he has represented characters as diverse as Nazi’s, aristocrats, republican senators and even the voice of Jesus! Considering how utterly English Fiennes seems in his gentlemanly, held-down sensuality, it is surprising to note that only four films of his films during the 1990’s were distinctly British in culture or production.

The oldest of six children, Fiennes was born in Suffolk on December 22, 1962 and is the eldest of six children - Martha, a director; Magnus, a musician; Sophie, a producer; and twins Joseph, an actor, and Jacob, a gamekeeper. He also has a foster brother Michael (Mick) who is an archaeologist. His father, Mark Fiennes is a photographer, and his mother Jini died during Christmas 1993 from breast-cancer complications. He is the cousin of British explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes.

Originally wanting to be a painter, Fiennes enrolled at the Chelsea College of Art and Design before transferring to London's Royal Academy of Dramatic Art to study acting. Following graduation, he joined the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1988 where he remained until 1990 playing various roles including: the title role in ‘Henry VI’, Claudio in ‘Much Ado About Nothing’, Henry VI in ‘Richard III’, Dauphin in ‘King John’, Troilus in ‘Troilus and Cressida’ to name but a few.

Fiennes first became known to a wider audience in 1991, when he starred as the title character in the acclaimed British television production of ‘A Dangerous Man: Lawrence After Arabia’. The next year he gained additional exposure, making his film debut as Heathcliff in ‘Wuthering Heights’. Starring opposite Juliette Binoche, Fiennes glowered his way across the screen with suitable aplomb, something that he would do again to devastating effect the next year in Schindler's List (1993).
As the psychotic Nazi Commandant Amon Goeth, Fiennes blended quiet yet absolute menace with surprising charisma (even more surprising given that he had gained over thirty pounds for his role) to such great effect that he earned a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination and a British Academy Award for his portrayal. Seldom has a more frightening character been seen on screen – I would have to say I would prefer to meet Megan from the Exorcist on a dark night rather than Fiennes’. His work in the film incited a flurry of interest in the actor, whose intensity and odd name (its correct pronunciation is "Rafe Fines") made him the subject of many a magazine article.

Interest in Fiennes only increased the following year, when, back to his normal weight and sporting an American accent, he played the more sympathetic (but tragically flawed) Charles Van Doren in Robert Redford's ‘Quiz Show’ (1994). Critics loved him in the role.

He further consolidated his acclaim two years later in Anthony Minghella's Oscar-winning adaptation of Michael Ondaatje's The English Patient (1995), which won Fiennes Oscar and Golden Globe nominations as Best Actor. He lost both of those but the Oscars as we know (seldom / rarely) actually reflect an objective test. Playing an anti-hero is never easy and Fiennes made it look like in was a stroll in the park. His interaction with Scott-Thomas was smoldering and his reflections on the desperate situation he found himself in were engaging.

Given his newfound heartthrob status, many audience members were surprised to see Fiennes next turn up in the title role of the gawkish, ginger-haired minister with a gambling problem in ‘Oscar and Lucinda’ (1997). He gave a highly eccentric performance in the film, which received a mixed critical reception. Where ‘Oscar and Lucinda’ was only vaguely disappointing, Fiennes' next project, a 1998 film version of the popular 1960s TV series ‘The Avengers’, was one of the most lambasted films of the year. Fiennes somehow managed to avoid most of the critical wrath directed at the film, and in 1999 he could be seen starring in no less than three disparate projects. In ‘Onegin’, directed by his sister, Martha, Fiennes played the title character, a blasé Russian aristocrat; in ‘The End of the Affair’, he portrayed a novelist embroiled in an adulterous affair with the wife (Julianne Moore) of his best friend (Stephen Rea); while in ‘Sunshine’, he played three different roles in a saga tracing 150 years of the affairs and intrigues of a family of Hungarian Jews.






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