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Ralph Fiennes: Shakespeare Would Make a Great Screenwriter (Berlin)

Coriolanus
Courtesty of Berlinale 2011

At a press conference at the European Film Market, where the actor-director's "Coriolanus" screened, he said that he would like to do another contemporary-set version of one of the playwright's works.

BERLIN -- Ralph Fiennes, whose directorial debutant effort Coriolanus unspooled in competition at the Berlinale on Monday, made the three producers of the film stand up and take a bow when he met the press pack.

Fiennes wanted “the roomful of film journalists who know how difficult it is these days to get an independent film made” to give the trio a round of applause. Julia Taylor-Stanley, Gaby Tana and Colin Vaines somewhat abashedly rose to clapping from the packed room of hacks.

Fiennes certainly gave them all pause for thought, musing that he would like to do another contemporary-set version of a Shakespeare play.

“We have talked about it and, well it’s Anthony and Cleopatra that I keep coming back to. Apart from the fact it is one of the greatest love stories ever told, it also moves effortlessly between Egypt to Rome to the ocean and is very cinematic.”

Fiennes, alongside his cast members Vanessa Redgrave, Gerard Butler, Jessica Chastain and Gladiator scribe John Logan, who shaped Shakespeare’s play for Fiennes to take to the big screen, said he thought if the English playwright had been working today, he’d be writing blockbusters.

“I can’t help thinking if he [Shakespeare] were alive and writing today, he’d be writing for cinema. His stories and language are cinematic,” Fiennes said.

Appearing relaxed — not once did he correct the myriad mispronunciations of his name — Fiennes also noted his intent to fill the fight scenes between him and Butler with sexual tension. “I did [as a director] strive to make the fights between us appear like a sexual act,” he smiled.

Redgrave, introduced as the finest actresses of our time, held court on her methods of acting and how she was used to the language of the script -- lifted in chunks directly from the bard’s work — because of her childhood.

Redgrave said she was familiar with the language because the translation of her bible and prayer book had originally been done around the same time as Shakespeare had been writing.

The press pack attending this particular event seemed unusually female dominated and glamorous, perhaps reflecting the presence of Fiennes and Butler.

It was Butler who secured the biggest laugh.

When asked what it was like for him — as an actor known for muscular masculine roles on one hand and rom coms on the other — to do something a bit more intellectual, Butler didn’t miss a beat.

“Yeah, something intellectual is always challenging for me,” he laughed. He went on to reveal that his very first professional paid engagement as an actor had come in Coriolanus back in the day.