Oscar Actors: Fiennes, Ralph–Background, Career, Awards

December 15, 2020
Ralph Fiennes Career Summary:

Occupational Inheritance: No

Social Class: Middle; father farmer and photographer, mother writer





Teacher/Inspirational Figure:

Radio Debut:

TV Debut:

Stage Debut:

Broadway Debut:

Film Debut:

Breakthrough Role:

Oscar Role:

Other Noms:

Other Awards:

Frequent Collaborator:

Screen Image: character actor

Last Film:

Career Output:

Film Career Span:





Ralph Nathaniel Twisleton-Wykeham-Fiennes (born December 22, 1962) is an English actor, film producer, and director. A Shakespeare interpreter, he first achieved success onstage at the Royal National Theatre.

Fiennes’s portrayal of Nazi war criminal Amon Göth in Schindler’s List (1993) earned him nominations for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor and Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor, and he won the BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role.

His performance as Count Almásy in The English Patient (1996) garnered him a second Oscar nomination, this time for Best Actor, as well as BAFTA and Golden Globe nominations.

Fiennes has appeared in a number of other notable films, including Quiz Show (1994), Strange Days (1995), The End of the Affair (1999), Red Dragon (2002), Maid in Manhattan (2002), The Constant Gardener (2005), In Bruges (2008), The Reader (2008), Clash of the Titans (2010), Great Expectations (2012) and The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014). He voiced Rameses in The Prince of Egypt (1998), Lord Victor Quartermaine in Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005) and Alfred Pennyworth in The Lego Batman Movie (2017). Fiennes starred in the Harry Potter film series (2005–2011), in which he played the franchise’s main antagonist, Lord Voldemort. He stars in the James Bond series, in which he has played Gareth Mallory / M, starting with the 2012 film Skyfall.

In 2011, Fiennes made his directorial debut with his film adaptation of Shakespeare’s tragedy Coriolanus, in which he also played the title character. In 1995, he won a Tony Award for playing Prince Hamlet on Broadway. Since 1999, Fiennes has served as an ambassador for UNICEF UK. Fiennes is also an Honorary Associate of London Film School.[3] For his work behind the camera, in 2019 he received the Stanislavsky Award.

Fiennes was born in Ipswich, England, on 22 December 1962. He is the eldest child of Mark Fiennes (1933–2004), a farmer and photographer, and Jennifer Lash (1938–1993), a writer.[5] He has English, Irish, and Scottish ancestry.[6] His surname is of Norman origin.[7] Because his given name is pronounced /reɪf/, it is sometimes seen (incorrectly) spelt as Rafe.[2] His grandfathers were industrialist Sir Maurice Fiennes (1907–1994) and Brigadier Henry Alleyne Lash (1901–1975).

He is the eldest of six children. His siblings are actor Joseph Fiennes; Martha Fiennes, a director (in her film Onegin, he played the title role); Magnus Fiennes, a composer; Sophie Fiennes, a filmmaker; and Jacob Fiennes, a conservationist. His foster brother, Michael Emery, is an archaeologist. His nephew, Hero Fiennes-Tiffin, played Tom Riddle, young Lord Voldemort, in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.[8]

The Fiennes family moved to Ireland in 1973, living in West Cork and County Kilkenny for some years. Fiennes was educated at St Kieran’s College for one year, followed by Newtown School, a Quaker independent school in County Waterford. They moved to Salisbury in England, where Fiennes finished his schooling at Bishop Wordsworth’s School. He went on to pursue painting at Chelsea College of Art before deciding that acting was his true passion.[9]

Fiennes trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art between 1983 and 1985. He began his career at the Open Air Theatre, Regent’s Park and also at the National Theatre before achieving prominence at the Royal Shakespeare Company.[7] Fiennes first worked on screen in 1990 and made his film debut in 1992 as Heathcliff in Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights opposite Juliette Binoche.

1993 was his “breakout year”. He had a major role in Peter Greenaway’s film The Baby of Mâcon with Julia Ormond, which provoked controversy and was poorly received. Later that year, he became known internationally for portraying the brutal Nazi concentration camp commandant Amon Göth in Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List. For this, he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.[7] He did not win the Oscar, but did win the Best Supporting Actor BAFTA Award for the role. His portrayal of Göth also saw him listed at number 15 on the AFI’s list of the top 50 film villains. Fiennes gained weight to represent Göth, but shed it afterwards.[2] Fiennes later stated that playing the role had a profoundly disturbing effect on him.[10] In a subsequent interview, Fiennes recalled:

Evil is cumulative. It happens. People believe that they’ve got to do a job, they’ve got to take on an ideology, that they’ve got a life to lead; they’ve got to survive, a job to do, it’s every day inch by inch, little compromises, little ways of telling yourself this is how you should lead your life and suddenly then these things can happen. I mean, I could make a judgment myself privately, this is a terrible, evil, horrific man. But the job was to portray the man, the human being. There’s a sort of banality, that everydayness, that I think was important. And it was in the screenplay. In fact, one of the first scenes with Oskar Schindler, with Liam Neeson, was a scene where I’m saying, “You don’t understand how hard it is, I have to order so many-so many meters of barbed wire and so many fencing posts and I have to get so many people from A to B.” And, you know, he’s sort of letting off steam about the difficulties of the job.[11]

Fiennes handprints from 1996 at Leicester Square, London
In 1994, he portrayed American academic Charles Van Doren in Quiz Show. In 1996, he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor for the epic World War II romance The English Patient, in which he starred with Kristin Scott-Thomas.[7] Fiennes’ film work has encompassed a variety of genres, including thrillers (Spider), an animated Biblical epic (The Prince of Egypt), camp nostalgia (The Avengers), romantic comedy (Maid in Manhattan), and historical drama (Sunshine).

In 1999, Fiennes had the title role in Onegin, a film which he also helped produce. His sister Martha Fiennes directed, and brother Magnus composed the score. Fiennes portrayed Francis Dolarhyde in the 2002 film, Red Dragon, a prequel to The Silence of the Lambs and Hannibal. Fiennes’ performance as a sympathetic serial killer with a romantic relationship with a blind girl, played by Emily Watson, was praised, with film critic David Sterritt writing, “Ralph Fiennes is scarily good as [Hannibal Lecter’s] fellow lunatic.”[12]

The Constant Gardener was released in 2005, with Fiennes in the central role.[7] The film is set in Kenya. It was filmed in part with the actual residents of the slums of Kibera and Loiyangalani. The situation affected the cast and crew to such an extent that they set up the Constant Gardener Trust to provide basic education for children of these villages. Fiennes is a patron of the charity.[13] He is also a patron of the Shakespeare Schools Festival, a charity that enables school children across the UK to perform Shakespeare in professional theatres.[14] Fiennes voiced Lord Victor Quartermaine in the 2005 stop-motion animated comedy Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit. The role saw him play a cruel upper class bounder who courts Lady Tottington (Helena Bonham Carter) and despises Wallace and Gromit.[15][16]

Fiennes meets young journalists in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, in 2003 during his visit as a UNICEF UK ambassador.
Fiennes portrayed Lord Voldemort in the 2005 fantasy film Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. He returned to the role for other films of the series: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, and both Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1 and Part 2. In an interview with Empire magazine, Fiennes said his portrayal of Voldemort was an “instinctive, visceral, physical thing”.[17]

Fiennes’ 2006 performance in the play Faith Healer gained him a nomination for a 2007 Tony Award. In 2008, he worked with frequent collaborator director Jonathan Kent, playing the title role in Oedipus the King by Sophocles, at the National Theatre in London. In 2008, he played the Duke of Devonshire in the film The Duchess; he also played the protagonist in The Reader, adapted from the novel of the same name. In February 2009, Fiennes was the special guest of the Belgrade’s Film Festival FEST. He filmed his version of Shakespeare’s Coriolanus in the Serbian capital of Belgrade.

Ralph Fiennes with Eddie and Gloria Minghella at the 2011 Minghella Film Festival on the Isle of Wight, England
Fiennes reunited with Kathryn Bigelow for her Iraq War film The Hurt Locker, released in 2009, appearing as an English Private Military Contractor. They had previously worked together on Strange Days (1995). In April 2010, he played Hades in Clash of the Titans, a remake of the 1981 film of the same name. In 2012, he starred in the twenty-third James Bond film, Skyfall, directed by Sam Mendes. He replaced Dame Judi Dench as M in subsequent Bond films.[18] In 2013, Fiennes was both the director and the leading actor (in the role of Charles Dickens) in the well-received film The Invisible Woman.[19]

Though he is not commonly noted as a comic actor, in 2014, Fiennes made an impression for his farcical turn as concierge Monsieur Gustave in The Grand Budapest Hotel. Fiennes used his time as a young porter at London’s Brown’s Hotel to help construct the character.[20] A film critic stated, “In the end it’s Fiennes who makes the biggest impression. His stylised, rapid-fire delivery, dry wit and cheerful profanity keep the film bubbling along.”[21] For his performance, Fiennes was nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy and the BAFTA Award for Best Actor. Film magazine Empire ranked Fiennes’ portrayal as Gustave the 17th Greatest Movie Character of All Time.[20]

In 2015, Fiennes starred in Luca Guadagnino’s thriller A Bigger Splash. In 2016, Fiennes starred in the animated film Kubo and the Two Strings where he voiced Raiden the Moon King, Kubo’s grandfather.[22] In 2017 he voiced the British butler Alfred Pennyworth in The Lego Batman Movie, and reprised the role in The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part (2019).[23]

Personal life

Fiennes (right) and Liam Neeson at a U2 concert in New York, 2005
Fiennes is a UNICEF UK ambassador and has done work in India, Kyrgyzstan, Uganda, and Romania.[24] Fiennes is also a member of the Canadian charity Artists Against Racism.[25]

Fiennes met English actress Alex Kingston while they were both students at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. After dating for ten years, they married in 1993 and divorced in 1997 following his affair with Francesca Annis.[26] Annis and Fiennes announced their separation on 7 February 2006, after 11 years together,[27][28][29] in a parting described as “acrimonious”, following rumours that he had an affair with the Romanian singer Cornelia Crisan.[27]

On 7 September 2017, Fiennes was granted Serbian citizenship, which was awarded to him because of his work in the country. The decision was signed by Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabić.[30]

Fiennes opposed the UK leaving the European Union (Brexit). Following the EU membership referendum in 2016, Fiennes stated, “I’m strongly a remainer. I think that our connection with Europe, faulty as it may be in its current state…it seems to me that the point of the EU was to take down barriers of interactive trade, culture, talk dynamic between cultures, nations.”[31]

Fiennes has stated in an interview with the Evening Standard, ‘I don’t collect anything as such. I buy a lot of books and that’s the closest I come to collecting anything.'[32]

Ralph Fiennes film work
Year Title Role Notes
1992 Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights Heathcliff
1993 The Baby of Mâcon The Bishop’s son
Schindler’s List Amon Göth BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role
Nominated—Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor
Nominated—Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture
1994 Quiz Show Charles Van Doren
1995 Strange Days Lenny Nero
1996 The English Patient Count László de Almássy Nominated—Academy Award for Best Actor
Nominated—BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role
Nominated—Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama
1997 Oscar and Lucinda Oscar Hopkins
1998 The Avengers John Steed
The Prince of Egypt Ramesses II Voice; Nominated—Annie Award for Voice Acting in a Feature Production
1999 Sunshine Ignatz Sonnenschein/Adam Sors/Ivan Sors
Onegin Evgeny Onegin Also executive producer
The End of the Affair Maurice Bendrix Nominated—BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role
Seasons of Giving Narrator Voice; direct-to-video
2000 The Miracle Maker Jesus Christ Voice
2002 Spider Dennis “Spider” Cleg
The Good Thief Tony Angel Uncredited
Red Dragon Francis Dolarhyde
Maid in Manhattan Christopher Marshall
2005 The Chumscrubber Mayor Michael Ebbs
Chromophobia Stephen Tulloch
The Constant Gardener Justin Quayle Nominated—BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role
Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit Lord Victor Quartermaine Voice; Nominated—Annie Award for Voice Acting in a Feature Production
The White Countess Todd Jackson
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire Lord Voldemort Nominated—MTV Movie Award for Best Villain
2006 Land of the Blind Joe
2007 Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix Lord Voldemort
2008 In Bruges Harry Waters Nominated—BIFA Award for Best Supporting Actor
The Duchess William Cavendish, 5th Duke of Devonshire Nominated—Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture
The Reader Older Michael Berg
2009 The Hurt Locker Contractor Team Leader Nominated—Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince Lord Voldemort Cameo
2010 Cemetery Junction Mr. Kendrick
Clash of the Titans Hades
Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang Lord Gray
The Wildest Dream George Mallory
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1 Lord Voldemort
2011 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 Lord Voldemort Scream Award for Best Villain
Teen Choice Award for Choice Film Fight
Nominated—MTV Movie Award for Best Fight
Nominated—Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actor
Coriolanus Coriolanus Also director and producer
Nominated—BAFTA Award for Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer
2012 Wrath of the Titans Hades
Skyfall Gareth Mallory / M
Great Expectations Magwitch
2013 The Invisible Woman Charles Dickens Also director
2014 The Grand Budapest Hotel Monsieur Gustave H. Nominated—BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role
Two Women M.A. Rakitin
2015 A Bigger Splash Harry Hawkes
Spectre Gareth Mallory / M
2016 Hail, Caesar! Laurence Laurentz
Kubo and the Two Strings Moon King / Raiden Voice
2017 The Lego Batman Movie Alfred Pennyworth Voice
Sea Sorrow Prospero
2018 The White Crow Pushkin Also director and producer
Holmes & Watson Professor James Moriarty/Jacob Musgrave
2019 Official Secrets Ben Emmerson
The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part Alfred Pennyworth Voice; cameo
2020 Dolittle Barry Voice
2021 The Dig Basil Brown Post-production
The King’s Man Duke of Oxford Post-production
No Time to Die Gareth Mallory / M Post-production
TBA The Forgiven David Henninger Post-production
Ralph Fiennes television work
Year Title Role Notes
1990 A Dangerous Man: Lawrence After Arabia T. E. Lawrence
1991 Prime Suspect Michael
2008 Bernard and Doris Bernard Lafferty Nominated—Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Miniseries or Television Film
Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie
Nominated—Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Miniseries or Television Movie
2011 Page Eight Alec Beasley Television film
2011–2014 Rev. Bishop of London 2 episodes
2014 Turks & Caicos Alec Beasley Television film
2014 Salting the Battlefield Alec Beasley Television film