RALPH FIENNES Biography - Other artists & entretainers


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Birth Name : Ralph Nathaniel Fiennes
Date of birth  : 22 December 1962
Location : Suffolk, England, UK


A magnetic stage actor with England’s National Theatre and Royal Shakespeare Company, Ralph Fiennes is perhaps best known by Americans for his string of unforgettable performances in war dramas filmed in the 1990s. The British actor, who won a 1995 Tony Award for his portrayal of “Hamlet", received critical raves and an Oscar nomination for his horrifying yet complexly human portrayal of Amon Goeth, commandant of the Nazi concentration camp at Plaszow, in his first major American movie–Steven Spielberg’s acclaimed epic of the Holocaust “Schindler’s List” (1993).


The oldest of six children, Fiennes was born in Suffolk on December 22, 1962. His father was a self-taught photographer and his mother a novelist who wrote under the pen name Jennifer Lash, professions which virtually ensured a unique upbringing. Fiennes’ family moved a number of times while he was growing up, and the children were encouraged in their creative pursuits. Thus, it is less than surprising that four out of the six Fiennes siblings went on to work in the entertainment business, with Ralph and his brother Joseph becoming actors, his two sisters a director and a producer, and another brother a musician. Originally wanting to be a painter, Fiennes enrolled at the Chelsea College of Art and Design before transferring to London’s Royal Academy of Dramatic Art to study acting. Following graduation, he joined the Royal National Theatre in 1987, and he became part of the Royal Shakespeare Company a year later. While a member of the company, he performed a wide range of the classics, playing everyone from Romeo to King Lear’s Edmund.


Soft-spoken with light brown hair and piercing grey-green eyes, Fiennes revisited World War II Europe in “The English Patient” (1996), “The End of the Affair” (1999) and “Sunshine” (2000), playing several characters who tragically fall in love with other men’s wives, assuring that his name would be synonymous with the phrase “tortured soul". Although some complained that his doomed-lover act was wearing thin, most critics and audiences praised the actor for his understated, multi-layered performances.


      After giving up painting to pursue a career in acting, Fiennes quickly bounded from his studies at RADA to acclaim onstage as Troilus and Henry VI. He had first appeared in features opposite Juliette Binoche in the role of Heathcliff in “Emily Bronte’s ‘Wuthering Heights’” (1991), the first effort from Paramount’s European wing. The film was widely panned by British critics and received only very limited release in the UK, eventually surfacing on US television on TNT in 1994. Also little seen were Peter Greenaway’s historical “The Baby of Macon” and the morality play “The Cormorant” (both 1993). Fiennes scored a success as Charles Van Doren, a central figure in the TV game show rigging scandals of the 1950s in Robert Redford’s superb “Quiz Show” (1994).


      In another in a series of dark characters, the painfully shy, intensely private actor was (mis)cast as Lenny, a sleazy dealer of high-tech contraband, in the futuristic thriller “Strange Days” (1995). In the same vein, but in a much more successful matching of actor and character, Fiennes had the title role in Anthony Minghella’s brilliant adaptation of “The English Patient", the Oscar-winning epic that re-teamed him with Binoche. For half the film, the actor was virtually unrecognizable under burn makeup but used his expressive eyes and rich voice. In the flashback sequences, he radiated a sexual heat and his chemistry with co-star Kristin Scott Thomas was palpable. Fiennes earned a Best Actor Oscar nomination for his nuanced and rich work. He was again in period garb as an eccentric English clergyman with a penchant for gambling in Gillian Armstrong’s “Oscar and Lucinda” (1997). With his hair dyed bright red, Fiennes offered a wonderful turn as a “holy fool” who demonstrates his repressed love for an heiress by transporting a glass church into the outback of Australia.


      Donning a bowler and wielding an umbrella, Fiennes stepped into Patrick Macnee’s shoes as John Steed in the disastrous big screen version of “The Avengers” (1998), alongside Uma Thurman’s Mrs. Peel. The actor attempted to inject a lighter, more comic approach to the role, one which echoed Cary Grant. He was back to more dour territory starring in and executive producing “Onegin” (1999), directed by his sister Martha and adapted from the Pushkin novel. Once again Fiennes played a man pursuing a married lover, this time in the form of the lovely Liv Tyler. That same year, Fiennes essayed the role of a heartbroken writer mourning “The End of the Affair” he had with the wife of his civil-servant friend in London during the blitzkrieg.


The actor followed that up with the seamless execution of three principle roles in “Sunshine/A Taste of Sunshine", an ambitious epic that chronicled one family’s history for nearly a century. Released theatrically in 2000, “Sunshine” traced the fascinating saga of one Hungarian Jewish family in Budapest against the backdrop of three calamitous political regimes stretching from the late 19th Century through 1960. During the course of the three-hour film, Fiennes deftly played the distinct characters of a grandfather, father and grandson. In a departure from his patented bitter romantic roles, Fiennes voiced Jesus Christ in the 2000 ABC-TV Claymation movie “The Miracle Maker” (released theatrically in his homeland). This marked the second time Fiennes lent his voice to a biblical cartoon character, having vocalized Rameses to Val Kilmer’s Moses in the 1998 animated musical “The Prince of Egypt", even warbling the song “The Plagues” on the film’s soundtrack.


      Despite his busy film schedule, Fiennes has not abandoned his stage roots, periodically returning to the theater. He forged an alliance with Jonathan Kent’s Alameida Theatre in England, where he premiered his “Hamlet” in 1995 before moving it to Broadway later that year. While reviewers faulted the overall production, the leading actor won raves for his dynamic portrait of the Melancholy Dane and was crowned with a Best Actor Tony Award at season’s end. Fiennes seemed perfectly cast in the angst-ridden part of “Ivanov", starring in David Hare’s new version of the Chekhov classic in 1997, and he received excellent notices for his performances of the title characters in the Shakespeare double act of “Richard II” and “Coriolanus” at the old Gainsborough Studios and Brooklyn’s Academy of Music in 2000. In 2002 Fiennes starred at London’s National Theatre in “The Talking Cure,” a new play by Christopher Hampton, followed by a run with the Royal Shakespeare Company, in the title role of Ibsen’s Brand.