Ralph Nathaniel Twisleton-Wykeham-Fiennes
December 22, 1962 (Ipswich, Suffolk, England, UK)
Today is the 50th (!) birthday of one of my absolute favorite actors - Ralph Fiennes. The only thing longer than his real name is the list of the outstanding performances he has given over the years - it was actually hard to choose only 10. His work as Amon Goeth in Steven Spielberg's Schindler's List is my number 3 on the finest performances of all time list. In addition, his performance as Harry in In Bruges is one of the funniest things I've seen in my life.
Fiennes has a very rare and uncanny ability to make the bad guys and grotesque villains look human. In Red Dragon he played demented serial killer, yet in his scenes with Emily Watson's character you could really sense that there is also kindness and vulnerability in his character. In Duchess he played Keira Knightley's terrible husband yet in one scene, where he took her hand near the end of the movie, you saw that he really cared about her, regardless of what happened and didn't want her to suffer. And then there is his master work as Goeth - Nazi, sadist and a man torn between his duty and love for the Jewish maid.
Sometimes he goes all out - like he did with his Voldemort, which is probably the performance for which the younger crowd recognizes him best. Still, there is so much thought in this work - the way the iconic villain moves, the way his mood swings from eerily calm to extremely furious. Fiennes's work as Voldemort was definitely best in the first Harry Potter he appeared in - Goblet of Fire - where you could really see the crazy ambition and sadistic nature of this villain. And let's not forget his Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights - he is so bad, but who could resist?
But Fiennes doesn't just play villains - in fact, he is just as great playing good guys. His performance in The Constant Gardener, where he played calm, shy man trying to uncover the truth about the death of his beloved wife, broke my heart into tiny, pathetic pieces. And then there is Quiz Show, which wouldn't be half as great without Fiennes's thoughtful and compassionate performance of a man who is defeated by his own ambition and the desire to impress those around him. I adore his work in Strange Days - where he is so laid back, which really isn't a word that I usually use to describe his characters. And he managed to be good even in something as mediocre as Maid in Manhattan, where he played the modern Prince Charming.
Though Fiennes appeared in some horrible movies, especially Avengers, at one point I actually wondered if he consults psychics when he chooses his movies. He has appeared in so many films that were in Oscar races, often even winning - like with The English Patient and Schindler's List. He even randomly popped up in the middle of the desert in another Best Picture winner - The Hurt Locker. Fiennes himself remains without Oscar, which is long overdue.
10 favorite films:
Harry Potter and Deathly Hallows part 2
The Constant Gardener
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
The End of the Affair
10 favorite performances:
The Constant Gardener
The End of the Affair
10 fun facts:
- His name is pronounced "Rafe".
- His performance as Amon Goeth from his film Schindler's List was ranked #15 on the American Film Institute's Villains list in their compilation of the 100 years of The Greatest Screen Heroes and Villains.
- Fiennes designed his own dentures for Red Dragon.
- 8th cousin of Prince Charles.
- Good friends with Jay-Z.
- Huge fan of Professional Wrestling.
- Has shared two roles with Peter O'Toole. They have both played Hamlet on stage, and both made their film debut playing T.E. Lawrence.
- When he noticed that children watching the filming were scared of him as Voldemort in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, he knew he had the character right.
- He and his brother, Joseph Fiennes, have both worked with Cate Blanchett (Oscar and Lucinda (1997) and Elizabeth (1998)), Rachel Weisz (The Constant Gardener (2005) and Enemy at the Gates (2001)) and Liv Tyler (Onegin (1999) and Stealing Beauty (1996)).
- The Hurt Locker marks the third best picture Oscar winning film that Ralph Fiennes has co-starred in. In addition, the other two, Schindler's List (1993; Best Supporting Actor Oscar nominee) and The English Patient (1996; Best Actor Oscar nominee), were also dramas set during wartime.