Actor Ralph Fiennes
Critics consider Ralph Fiennes to be one of the top actors in the world. Recently Fiennes appeared at the Oxonian Society where the following dialogue ensued. He might be best known for his role in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire but received numerous accolades including an Oscar nomination for his portrayal of the commandant of the Nazi concentration camp in Steven Spielberg’s acclaimed epic Schindler’s List. In The English Patient, Fiennes and his co-star Juliette Binoche also received Academy Award nominations for their performances. Most recently Fiennes appeared in John Le Carer’s The Constant Gardener. He won a 1995 Tony Award for his portrayal of Hamlet, and this year was nominated for another Tony for his performance in Faith Healer.
Q & A
Q: There are few actors in the world that have the command of the screen and stage like you. You are becoming the new Laurence Olivier. What do you attribute your diverse range and style to?
A: The first movie and words I can remember was a film of Laurence Olivier my Mum showed me when I was a toddler. I didn’t understand the words fully, but it sounded beautiful. My acting comes from a place inside, and my imagination. Drama school has tuned the techniques.
Q: Why do you think many of the great actors are from the U.K.? Do you attribute it to the culture, emphasis on theatre, or the national institutions?
A: I think it is due to the playwrights. Since Elizabeth I and Shakespeare, playwrights have played a major role and influence in British culture.
Q: Can you elaborate on the difference between British and American acting?
A: I don’t believe there is any difference. Acting is something personal and comes from inside. What you see is a projection of that individual’s imagination and interpretation.
Q: Your performance in Schindler’s List was terrifying. Audiences around the world cringed in their seats. Holocaust survivors thought your performance was so accurate and realistic. Please elaborate how you prepared for this role.
A: I read books on Schindler and spent a lot of the time in the archives of the Imperial War museum in London and imagined and created a picture of the commandant of the concentration camp.
Q: In a heart-breaking scene in Schindler’s List you show some humane character, even if it is only for a moment, by feeling and being attracted to the Jewish girl who is your servant. Did you improvise that scene and please explain how you so vividly transformed yourself from caring for a split second to the administration of the concentration camp?
A: It was written in the script. I like scenes that have range and can go from one extreme to another on a dime.
Q: What was it like filming in Poland in the winter and what was it like visiting Auschwitz and some of the other camps?
A: We filmed in Krakow and the city and streets have not changed much physically since the War. It is emotional content, but the cast and larger crew formed a unique bond and in the evenings we would relax over drinks and stories.
Q: What did you think of the heart-breaking ending of the End of an Affair?
A: The book and screenplay are different. Juliana’s character dies halfway through in the book. However, in the screenplay she dies at the end. It works in the movie. I hate to say it but I like sad endings.
Q: Very few actors return to the stage after they become a brand name in film. Nevertheless, you continue to return to the stage whenever you have a chance trying to tackle more complex work and characters.
A: Many actors are glad to leave the stage permanently. I love the stage. It is where I began. I feel a unique connection with the audience. And every evening is different. The connection with the audience is what draws me to the theatre.
Q: Are you trying to reach a certain level in your career? And how do you know when you have reached it? It seems like you continue to push your boundaries and performances to the edge.
A: I like material that is complex and has range. I believe in challenging and well-written material.#
The Oxonian Society is open to people of all educational experiences and backgrounds. Visit www.oxoniansociety.com.