I was initially going to call this article The Return of Ralph Fiennes but then I thought better ’cause he’s never been gone! Sure, his leading man status has changed over the years, and his best known work of the past decade has been as the diabolical Voldemort in the “Harry Potter” series, a role in which he was perfectly cast but didn’t exactly make him recognizable to a younger generation of moviegoers. He might not have as much hair as in his early thirties but, now at 50, Fiennes seems to be taking more risks: taking on the challenge of directing two feature films and playing interesting supporting roles, Fiennes seems set to hit the spotlight once again and thankfully so ‘cause he sure is one hell of an actor. We are therefore experiencing The Ralph Fiennes Renaissance!
Like most people, Ralph Fiennes came to my attention in arguably the best role of his career as Nazi Commander Amon Göth in “Schindler’s List”. That was twenty (yes, twenty!!) years ago. His terrifying portrayal of Göth immediately put him on the map, garnering an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor and opening the door to leading man (and sex symbol!) status. To refresh your memory, here’s one particular scene from Steven Spielberg’s “Schindler’s List” titled A small pile of hinges. That scene still gives me the creeps after all these years; there’s an anger to his character that makes him so despicable that your skin crawls every time he appears on screen. Fiennes’ portrayal of Göth justifiably makes his character one of the most evil in cinematic history.
Of course, two years later came “The English Patient”, but I must admit (perhaps due to the fact that I was 17 when the movie came out and thus did not know how to appreciate a film like that one), I did not like it! In fact, though I did think Fiennes and his co-star Kristin Scott Thomas lit up the screen, I felt like Elaine Benes on that episode of “Seinfeld” where everyone loved “The English Patient” except her… but I digress! Fiennes was a powerhouse and the role garnered him his second Academy Award nomination.
Except for Robert Redford’s underrated “Quiz Show” (RENT IT!), and the beautiful “Oscar and Lucinda” (1997), Fiennes’ following roles in the 90s and 2000s were eclectic and did not attract as much attention… Diversifying ones’ roles is not a bad thing, au contraire, but Fiennes’ roles and films did not seem to resonate as much with viewers. Think “The Avengers” (not the superhero movie but a horrible adaptation of the British TV series), “Maid in Manhattan” (WTF?) or “Spider” (weird!). That being said, Fiennes still managed to navigate the waters and has recently reemerged with a string of projects that make him as relevant, if not more, as he was in the early 90s.
Now let’s look into those upcoming projects:
- His second directorial effort, “The Invisible Woman” (February 7, 2014)
I saw and reviewed Fiennes’ film when at TIFF. I won’t talk about the lack of chemistry between the two leads here, but for a new director, there’s a confidence behind the camera that is rare. I do intend on seeing his first directorial effort “Coriolanus”, but seeing the craftsmanship behind “The Invisible Woman”, I do look forward to Fiennes next film as a director. But I must mention it was nice to see Fiennes playing the exuberantly joyful and youthful Charles Dickens!
- The role of “M” in the James Bond franchise (next film set for 2015)
I was surprised to see Fiennes in a Bond film when he graced us by his presence in “Skyfall” last year, but then again, with his role of Voldemort in the Potter series, it made sense for him to also be part of the greatest British film franchise. Though his role was far from splashy, he held his own against Judi Dench and Daniel Craig, and when it is revealed that he’s taking over as “M”, I couldn’t help but smile and tell myself how happy I am to know that I would see Fiennes again in a Bond film.
- “The Grand Budapest Hotel” (March 7, 2014)
Amongst the drama heavy films of the fall, how pleasant to have the trailer for the newest Wes Anderson to uplift the cinemasphere and with Ralph Fiennes in the leading role, no less! Looking through his filmography, I don’t think he’s played in such a light-hearted film before which makes it even more intriguing, and with Anderson’s trademark wit, humor, quirkiness and visual aesthetics, how can one not be excited about this film? It’s when I saw this trailer that I got the idea to write this article, I couldn’t help but tell myself, how cool is Ralph Fiennes to do this? “Cool” and Ralph Fiennes in the same sentence sounds like something we’ll be hearing more often! 😉
How can I leave you without the film’s wonderful trailer? Enjoy! 🙂