The English Patient
"I veer away from trying to understand why I act. I just know I need to do it." Ralph Fiennes
Two-time Academy Award nominee Ralph Fiennes gathered rave reviews for portraying evil Nazi commander Amon Goeth in Stephen Spielberg’s Schindler's List (1993) and for playing English mapmaker Count Laszlo de Almásy in Anthony Minghella's The English Patient (1996). He also gained praise on stage and won a Tony Award for playing the title role on Broadway’s “Hamlet.” Debuting in Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights (1991), Fiennes later played lead roles in such films as Quiz Show (1994), Oscar and Lucinda (1997), The Avengers (1998), Sunshine (1999), Spider (2002), Red Dragon (2002), Maid in Manhattan (2002), The Constant Gardener (2005) and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005, as Harry Potter’s enemy Lord Voldemort). His upcoming films include Land of the Blind, Bernard and Doris, and Who Killed Norma Barnes.
The blue-eyed, 5' 11" British actor was one of Empire magazine’s “The 100 Sexiest Stars in Film History” (1995) and Empire (UK) magazine's “The Top 100 Movie Stars of All Time” (October 1997). On a more personal note, the ex-husband of actress Alex Kingston, Ralph Fiennes is involved with actress Francesca Annis.
Childhood and Family:
"It's 'Rafe,' actually." Ralph Fiennes
The oldest child of parents Mark Fiennes (farmer, photographer) and Jini Fiennes (a.k.a. Jennifer Lash; novelist; travel writer; born in 1939; died on Christmas 1993 of breast-cancer complications), Ralph Nathaniel Fiennes was born on December 22, 1962, in Suffolk, England, U.K. He has 5 younger siblings: sisters Sophia Victoria Fiennes (a.k.a. Sophie Fiennes; producer), Martha Maria Fiennes (director; born in 1964), and brothers Magnus Hubert Fiennes (musician), Joseph Fiennes (actor; twin of Jacob; born on May 27, 1970), Jacob Mark Fiennes (gamekeeper; twin of Joseph) and Michael Fiennes (a.k.a. Mick Fiennes; archaeologist; foster brother; family took in when he was 11). His uncle, Nicholas Lash, is a former priest and Cambridge theology professor, and his great-uncle, Dom Patrick Moore, is a Benedictine monk. Ralph is also the great nephew of British explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes.
Ralph Fiennes, pronounced "rafe fines," attended the Bishop Woodsworth Boys' School. Originally thinking of becoming a painter, he studied painting for one year before changing his major to acting at the Chelsea College of Art and Design, in London. Fiennes attended the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and became a member of the RADA class of 1985 (he attended for three years). While studying there, Fiennes received The Kendal, Emile Littler and Forbes-Robertson Awards. After graduation, he joined the National Theatre Company in 1987 and the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1988.
In September 1993, Ralph Fiennes tied the knot with actress Alex Kingston (born on March 11, 1963). The couple divorced in October 1997.
The Constant Gardener
"I did not become an actor because I wanted to be in magazines. I became an actor because I love the theater, because I love language. I love painting. I love all art forms!" Ralph Fiennes
Ralph Fiennes spent his early years acting in theaters. He joined the Theatre Clwyd in Wales and then the Open Air Theatre in 1986, where he performed in such productions as "A Midsummer Night's Dream," "Twelfth Night" and "Ring Around the Moon." The next year, he was invited to join Michael Rudman's company at England's National Theatre. Fiennes later signed up with the Royal Shakespeare Company for two seasons and performed in several productions like "King Lear," "Love's Labour's Lost," "Troilus and Cressida" (as Troilus) and "Henry VI" (as Henry).
In the early 1990s, Fiennes stole TV viewers’ attention with his titular character of legendary British officer T.E. Lawrence in the acclaimed British made-for-television sequel to Lawrence Of Arabia, Christopher Menaul-directed A Dangerous Man: Lawrence After Arabia (1990, alongside Alexander Siddig; shown on PBS' Great Performances in 1992). Fiennes subsequently appeared in another Christopher Menaul’s television movie project, the crime drama Prime Suspect (1991, aired in the USA in 1992), starring Helen Mirren.
Fiennes soon gained further exposure with his feature film debut in Peter Kosminsky's sweeping, epic production of Emily Brontë's classic tale Wuthering Heights (1992). In the romantic drama film, Fiennes costarred with Juliette Binoche, playing star-crossed lovers Cathy and Heathcliff. The film was a flop in Britain and later aired on TNT in the United States in 1994. Subsequently, Fiennes landed roles as the Bishop's son in writer-director Peter Greenaway's The Baby of Mâcon and as Helen Schlesinger's husband in a horror TV movie based on Stephen Gregory's novel, The Cormorant (both in 1993).
Steven Spielberg's biopic Schindler's List (1993), based on Thomas Keneally's book, helped Fiennes catapult his name toward the spotlight. In the film, starring Liam Neeson, Fiennes won the supporting role of Nazi concentration camp commander Amon Goeth. His divergent performance received critical acclaim and earned him a Best Supporting Actor Academy Award nomination. The character Amon Goeth required Fiennes to gain 28 pounds and was ranked #15 on the American Film Institute's villains list in their compilation of “100 Years of The Greatest Screen Heroes and Villains.”
Robert Redford then cast Fiennes to play Charles Van Doren, the wildly popular champion of a successful TV show, in his true story-based film, Quiz Show (1994). In the Academy Award-nominated film, adopted form Richard N. Goodwin's book, Fiennes costarred with John Turturro and Rob Morrow. He also debuted on Broadway, playing the title role in the 1995 Almeida Theatre production, directed by Jonathan Kent, “Hamlet.” His strong performance won a Tony Award. Fiennes also took home Drama Desk and Theater World awards.
Another Academy Award nomination, this time for Best Actor, arrived in 1996 thanks to the portrayal of English mapmaker Count Laszlo de Almásy in Anthony Minghella's adaptation of Michael Ondaatje's Booker Prize-winning novel, The English Patient. Being asked about his role, Fiennes explained, "The screenplay spoke to something inside me, I suppose. It's a love story, a tragic love story, but more than that. It's multi-layered, with several protagonists traveling on their own journeys who intersect. It wasn't just my part, you see, it was the context in which it all happened. And it was also the way it was written, the way the dialogue lives on and off the page."
With two Academy Award nominations under his belt, Fiennes landed more significant roles. He starred with Cate Blanchett, playing young Anglican priest Oscar, in Gillian Armstrong's romantic drama film inspired by Peter Carey's novel, Oscar and Lucinda (1997) and costarred with Uma Thurman, playing two British agents, in Jeremiah S. Chechik's film version of Sydney Newman's television series, The Avengers (1998). He also provided his voice for character Rameses, Moses' foster brother, in his first biblical animated feature, Prince of Egypt (1998, opposite Val Kilmer and Sandra Bullock).
Writer-director István Szabó's then challenged Fiennes to play three roles, Ignatz Sonnenschein, Adam Sors and Ivan Sors, in his epic tale about three generations of a Jewish-Hungarian family, in Sunshine (1999; premiered at the Toronto Film Festival; released theatrically in USA in 2000). He then executive produced and starred as the title role in Onegin (1999, directed by his sister Martha Fiennes). That same year, Fiennes also played the lead role of brooding novelist Maurice Bendrix, opposite Stephen Rea, in Neil Jordan's adaptation of Graham Greene's classic novel, The End of the Affair (also with Julianne Moore).
Entering the new millennium, Fiennes appeared on television as the great 20th-century French writer Marcel Proust in the drama-documentary, based on Alain de Botton's book, How Proust Can Change Your Life, and as the voice of Jesus in the Claymation production of The Miracle Maker (opposite Ian Holm and William Hurt; released theatrically in Great Britain and aired on ABC in the USA). He also appeared on stage in a production of "Richard II" and "Coriolanus" at London's old Gainsborough Studios (reprised performances at the Brooklyn Academy of Music).
Filmgoers watched Fiennes became a mentally disturbed man, who received the nickname Spider (2002), in David Cronenberg's mystery drama film with the same name (adopted from Patrick McGrath's novel). After an unaccredited appearance in Neil Jordan's crime drama The Good Thief (starring Nick Nolte), Fiennes was hired by director Brett Ratner to costar with Anthony Hopkins and Edward Norton, playing atrocious killer Francis Dolarhyde, in his adaptation of Thomas Harris' novel, the crime thriller Red Dragon (a prequel to Silence of the Lambs). He also portrayed a senatorial candidate who falls in love with a hotel maid (played by Jennifer Lopez), in Wayne Wang's romantic comedy Maid in Manhattan. On stage, Fiennes played the title role in Henrik Ibsen's "Brand" for the Royal Shakespeare Company and starred in Christopher Hampton's play "The Talking Cure" at London's National Theater.
In 2005, Fiennes played town mayor Michael Ebbs in Arie Posin's drama comedy The Chumscrubber (starring Jamie Bell) and rejoined writer-director and sister Martha Fiennes in her drama film Chromophobia (with Clive Carter, Ben Chaplin and Penélope Cruz). He later plunged himself into a dangerous odyssey in Academy Award-nominated director Fernando Meirelles' thriller, adopted from the best-selling John le Carré's novel, The Constant Gardener. After lending his voice for character Victor Quartermaine in the animated film Wallace & Gromit in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (alongside Peter Sallis), Fiennes costarred with Natasha Richardson in James Ivory's war drama film The White Countess. Additionally, Fiennes was chosen to portray Harry Potter's enemy, the evil Lord Voldemort, in the Mike Newell-directed Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, based on the fourth book in the fantasy series by J.K. Rowling.
"When children were introduced to Lord Voldemort, they looked suitably terrified, which gave me great gratification." Ralph Fiennes
In April 2005, Fiennes starred as Mark Antony in Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar" at London's Barbican Centre, in a production by Deborah Warner, with Fiona Shaw (Calpurnia) and John Shrapnel (Caesar). The production will be on tour in France and Spain later this year with the same cast. As for his upcoming films, Fiennes will costar with Donald Sutherland in writer-director Robert Edwards' drama Land of the Blind, and with Susan Sarandon in Bob Balaban's comedy Bernard and Doris. He is also set to star opposite Emily Mortimer in Malcolm McKay's dark tale of sexual obsession, based on Dostoyevsky's 19th Century novel "The Idiot," the British drama Who Killed Norma Barnes.
"As an actor, a part of you expects to be looked at. A part of you wants to be looked at. But when I'm playing a part, in my imagined world, I feel I'm not me. I may be using bits of me, but I love the sense that I'm being someone else." Ralph Fiennes
William Shakespeare Award, 2001
European Film: Best Actor, Sunshine, 1999
Drama Desk: Outstanding Actor in a Play, “Hamlet,” 1995
Theater World: “Hamlet,” 1995
Tony: Best Actor in a Play, “Hamlet,” 1995
London Critics Circle Film: British Actor of the Year, Schindler's List, 1995
Dallas-Forth Worth Film Critics Association: Best Supporting Actor, Schindler's List, 1994
National Society of Film Critics: Best Supporting Actor, Schindler's List, 1994
BAFTA: Best Supporting Actor, Schindler's List, 1993
New York Film Critics Circle Awards: Best Supporting Actor, Schindler's List, 1993
Boston Society of Film Critics Awards: Best Supporting Actor, Schindler's List, 1993