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Few actors seem timeless, as if they could have fit into a Golden Age film just as easily as a film of the present day, but one who does is Ralph Fiennes.
Fiennes, who is now 48, has been giving standout performances for 20 years. His memorable roles include a most sadistic Nazi in Steven Spielberg‘s Schindler’s List (1993), a conniving contestant in Robert Redford‘s Quiz Show (1994), a romantic cartographer in Anthony Minghella‘s The English Patient (1996), a crusading diplomat in Fernando Meirelles‘ The Constant Gardener (2005), a love-scarred German in Stephen Daldry‘s The Reader (2008) and the list goes on. These films share little in common except for the fact that they are all intensely serious — and among the finest of their era.
Though Fiennes has been nominated for an Academy Award twice — a best supporting actor nod for Schindler’s List and a best actor nod for The English Patient — he has never won, a mistake that must one day be corrected. It is perhaps an even greater testament to his abilities, however, that no fewer than three actresses have received Oscars for their work opposite him: Juliette Binoche for The English Patient, Rachel Weisz for The Constant Gardener and Kate Winslet for The Reader. His involvement in a project simply makes everyone around him better.
Now, for the first time, he has made a movie of his own: Coriolanus, a reimagining of William Shakespeare‘s 17th century play of the same title that chronicles the life of a Roman war hero whose pride leads to his demise. This version is set in the present, features present-day dress and incorporates modern technology, but largely retains the Bard’s inimitable dialogue and emotional urgency and power. Suffice it to say Fiennes didn’t dive into the shallow end of the pool.
The film — which premiered at the Berlin Film Festival in February, then went away until the Toronto International Film Festival in September and then went away again until the Weinstein Co. began screening it again in recent days — will be released in theaters Jan. 20. In the meantime, though, it has received an Oscar-qualifying run, and Fiennes is making the rounds talking about it, with the hope that it does well enough that he may have an opportunity to direct again.
I was honored to have the chance to speak with him about his life and work Wednesday in New York.
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