We grill actor Ralph Fiennes

We Grill: Ralph Fiennes

Karen Krizanovich talks to Ralph Fiennes who makes his directorial debut with a contemporary adaptation of Shakespeare’s Coriolanus.

Some actors are delighted foodies, willing to share recipes and write their own cookbooks. Others like to make food part of their public profile, with Sophia Loren famously saying, “Everything you see I owe to spaghetti” along with The Muppets’ Miss Piggy advising that one should, “Never eat more than you can lift.” On the dark side, it is now thought that Marlon Brando may have been a binge eater while Orson Welles cheerfully admitted, “My doctor told to me stop having intimate dinners for four unless there are three other people.”

Fiennes doesn’t fit into a foodie category: he is an enigma wrapped in a mystery and sealed with a combination lock. To fill the gap, his fans witter away about what they would feed him (shades of Stephen King’s Misery) and at least one would give him the job of dispatching live lobsters if he came to dinner.

The snapped-down privacy can make him seem a little robotic. But, as proof of humanity, Fiennes confesses, “I make very good scrambled eggs. They have to be runny. If they’re all horrible, stodgy or custardy, I can’t bear that.” Then he laughs as if it isn’t true. Ralph Fiennes is the only one who really knows. Fiennes is not the homely, familiar type. He’s cagey and charming when he chooses. He controls a conversation with chess-like care.

Fiennes will, however, happily teach you to swear like Shakespeare – his snarl du jour, “Get you home, you fragments!” is best said with a bit of flying spittle if you can manage it. Substitute that the next time you need to make a point. From making his name in theatre and then film with memorable performances in Schindler’s List, The English Patient and the Harry Potter franchise, Fiennes has segued into film directing by tackling Shakespeare’s toughest play, Coriolanus. Coriolanus was thought to be a Shakespearean tale too difficult for film.

Fiennes has made it as entertaining as a Jason Statham actioner and as moving as a war documentary. It is one blazingly watchable British film that gives thrills and chills as it proves Fiennes is not only one of the best actors of his generation but also now a world-class director. Like Alex Guinness, whose acting career received an unexpected boost playing Obiwan Kenobi in Star Wars, Fiennes has come to terms with being a classical actor in a popular series. It can only help, he says, if his fans are keen to see more. “It’s an amazing ride to play Voldemort, and I’m sure that, to play that – and to have so many younger people be curious now about what Voldemort is going to do next – is great,” says Fiennes. “Even doing [theatre], many Harry Potter fans coming to see The Tempest. Yes, I mean I had no idea when I started doing Voldemort quite what a ride it was going to be. But I am sure it’s had a very supportive impact on my sense of where I can take things.” In short, being Voldemort certainly didn’t hurt getting Coriolanus and we’re all the richer for it: Coriolanus is a truly wonderful film, packed with brilliant performances from Brian Cox, Vanessa Redgrave and Fiennes himself, amongst many others.

Coriolanus is out on Blu-ray, DVD , and digital download from 4th June.

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