The Collider &amp AICN Interview: Ralph Fiennes

     August 30, 2005

Posted by Mr. Beaks

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This is Part Deux of an interview that begins over at Ain’t It Cool News.; Read that part first, then click over here for the thrilling finish.)


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It’s interesting that you talk about shadings.; I just call it understatement, which is so difficult for actors.; I mean, it’s good for actors to be big, because then you can pare away and find the nuances, but you seem to thrive on the nuances.;

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Yeah.; I learned a lot from working with István, I feel.; And from Anthony.; I loved working with Anthony Minghella and István Szabó because they are people who know the power of the close-up is about the tiniest thing.; It doesn’t have to be absurdly tiny, but, again, as I was saying, if you watch people in life, they’re not showing everything.; And then they can have moments where suddenly something extraordinary erupts; like there’s a scene in Sunshine where Istvan wanted my character – well, Ignatz, the first one – to be provoked by his wife.; It was sort of a fury of justification, and I wouldn’t call that moment understated for me.; It builds into a sort of (a controlled explosion, as Ralph begins pounding the table) rage, and “CAN’T YOU SEE WHAT I’M DOING!” (subsiding on a dime), which I’ve seen in my parents.; And a lot of that comes from direction, too.

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Well, that roiling, occasionally erupting undercurrent is also very present in The End of the Affair.; There are stunning crescendos; although, I think that character…

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He’s very locked down.; He is.; Bendrix is really full of something sort of eating away at him inside.

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He’s a Graham Greene protagonist.

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Yeah.; He is.; I mean, it’s a totally internal part, that.; The book isn’t.; As you know, it’s in the first person from Bendrix; there’s a whole monologue going on.; The film has a voiceover, I think.

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Shooting on location in Africa, it had to impact your performance being witness to at least some of the misery in Kenya.

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I don’t know if it affected Justin particularly.; It affected me.; The thing is, the film punches hard with these images – in Kibera particularly.; When you’re there, and you’re seeing a lot of other aspects of Nairobi, that’s just one – there is also an ex-pat community, a business community and whole other areas of Nairobi that are fine.; But some of it’s very run down; it’s a big city.; In my head, as Justin, he only went to Kibera once or twice.; He goes with visiting people who want to [see it].; Because Kibera is a place to go to.; It’s full of vibrancy and life and unpleasant smells and smiling faces and dust and dirt; it’s lively, and it just sort of hits you.;

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As a visitor myself, I’m just affected by the complexity of it.; I find talking about this very hard – the Kenya/Africa thing – because Africa seems massive and complex.; And being a white European with all the historical baggage that brings, I’m hesitant; I still don’t know quite what I’m feeling except that it’s affected me a great deal and I want to go back.; And I’ve been there before, anyway, a few times.; I think Justin would’ve gone, but there’s something about the argument in the car with Tessa when she wants to stop.; I think that sort of shows his feelings:; there are people taking care of all this, and we can’t take it onboard.; There are people whose job it is to look after people, and not everyone can to it.; And there’s sort of a truth to that – not everyone can be a savior.; People have to do what they do.; But certainly I want to go back.

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The producer, Simon [Channing Williams], has created a charity in conjunction with the film.

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I know he feels deeply about the need to help particularly inspired by Loiyangalani, which is the location at the end.; A lot of things need support there.

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It’s a remarkable location.

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Well, it’s an extraordinary achievement to have filmed up there because it’s two days by road, and a three hour flight from Nairobi.; He had to build that landing strip where the Buffalo lands.; I think it’s the minimum length for that particular aircraft; you actually see in the film that it bounces.; In order to land on that length of land, I think it needs to do a technique that’s like a helicopter; it comes in very steeply and bounces.; (Mimics this by slamming his hand on the table.); It can’t come in slowly.; It was a buzz just to watch that.;

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But Simon Channing Williams, he is responsible for setting up The Constant Gardener Trust, and it’s in its baby stages; it’s not fully up and running.; I think the thing that impressed me about him is not only did he make a film in Kenya, but his determination to stay in touch and not to just come in and fuck off again – to really be in it for the long term, which is really impressive.

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You know, I’ll get hanged, given our readers and their interests, if I don’t broach the subject of “He Who Must Not Be Named”.

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Yes.

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The challenge of tackling a character whose grand entrance has been built up over three books, and, now, three movies must be daunting.;

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Either it’s a blessing or it’s a curse, but I wasn’t aware it was that huge.; I was aware of the phenomenon, I just wasn’t aware of the story and the buildup.; I don’t have that.; I think it would probably have been pretty intimidating if I was an official Harry Potter fan.; I’m a friend.; But it doesn’t consume my every waking minute.; It’s a wonderful part.; In this film, it’s just one big scene, and I loved it.; I don’t know how the Harry Potter fans will take it; I hope they like me.;

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You’re going to be very busy.; You’re doing a Brian Friel play, and you just worked with all of the Redgrave women in James Ivory’s The White Countess.

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Yeah, The White Countess… I loved the screenplay by [Kazuo] Ishiguro.; It’s an original screenplay.; I think people assume because he’s a novelist that it’s an adaptation, but it’s not.; Mostly, my scenes are with Natasha [Richardson].;

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And the Brian Friel?

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[Faith Healer] is a play that’s been very successfully performed in Ireland and London.; It had a very limited outing in New York in 1979, I believe with James Mason.; Brian is keen that it has another life on Broadway.; It’s a wonderful piece for three actors.

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Sounds like I’ll be making a trip to New York City next spring.; Until then, you’re advised to check out The Constant Gardener, which opens nationwide on Wednesday, August 31st.

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