Ralph Fiennes
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Given his newfound heart throb 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 blasť 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.

 

If his roles to date had served to showcase Fiennes' talent at about the rate of a solid performance per year, 2002 provided a trio of diverse and demanding roles that would prove just how well he could perform under pressure. In Red Dragon (2002) - the first of those efforts to hit stateside screens that year - Fiennes' chilling performance as serial killer Francis Dolarhyde shifting between meek and menace at the drop of a hat. Portraying an abused child / serial murderer and engendering loathing and sorrow in audiences – Fiennes’ screen appearance was at least on a par with Norton and Hopkins.


A few short months later audiences were treated to yet another deeply disturbed characterization by Fiennes, that of a schizophrenic man haunted by his childhood in director David Cronenburg's dark psychological drama ‘Spider’. Based on author Patric McGrath's bleak novel of the same name, Cronenberg's performance substituted the menace of Red Dragon with a more sympathetic protagonist whose memory slowly regresses to reveal a scarring childhood tragedy. No doubt having had his fill of disturbed characters that year, Fiennes once again caught audiences off guard with a disarmingly charming role in the romantic comedy Maid in Manhattan. The film didn’t receive universal critical acclaim (romantic comedies seldom do) but Fiennes was believable as a sensitive republican senator. J-Lo - no comment.


In November 2000 Ralph went to Uganda with UNICEF, on a special mission to mark World Aids Day, and see for himself the impact that Aids has on the children of Africa. ‘
‘My interest in Unicef was probably sparked off last year, when I was part of a Unicef fundraising event for Kosovo and was very impressed with the way it was organised’


Then in 2005 came ‘The Constant Garden’ – there are several layers to this film and it would perhaps do it on justice to describe it as examining the evils of the pharmaceutical industry in Africa. Anyway Ralph delivers a compelling (but often-overlooked) performance as the confused but determined husband of the murdered women (Rachel Weisz) he loved so dearly steals the show. More recently he has been playing the role of the evil Wizard Lord Voldemort in the Harry Potter film adaptations Goblet of Fire (2005) and the Order of the Phoenix (2007) – no doubt he’ll be back for some ‘Deathly Hallows’.


Few actors have had the versatility that Ralph Fiennes has shown. The record for versatility and serious application would be hard to match in the late 20th century cinema. He has been nominated for 2 Oscars and 5 British Academy Awards, his career is yet young…

 


Quotes:
I veer away from trying to understand why I act. I just know I need to do it.

I'm sure acting is a deeply neurotic thing to do.


Autobiographies:

 

Suggested films to see:

The English Patient (1996)
Red Dragon (2002)
Schlinders List (1993)

 









 




 

 

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