Oscar Actors: Fiennes, Ralph

RALPH FIENNES plays the Duke of Devonshire in the new costume melodrama, THE DUCHESS.

Fiennes was born in 1962 in Suffolk, the first of six children. His father, Mark Fiennes, was a photographer and his mother was the novelist, painter and travel writer, Jini Fiennes.

After a foundation course at Chelsea School of Art in 1981, Fiennes soon discovered his real desire was to act. He auditioned and was accepted at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (R.A.D.A) from where he graduated in 1985. That summer he appeared at the Open Air Theatre in Regent’s Park where he appeared in “Twelfth Night, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and “Ring Round the Moon.

Following seasons at the Theatre Clwyd, the Oldham Coliseum and the Open Air Theatre again, Fiennes became part of Michael Rudman’s company at the National Theatre in 1987. In 1988 he joined the Royal Shakespeare Company where he gave notable and critically acclaimed performances during two seasons including Henry VI, Troilus, Edmund in “King Lear” and Berowne in “Love’s Labour’s Lost”.

In 1991, Fiennes landed his first television appearance in a small but telling role in the award-winning Prime Suspect and two leading screen roles in which he would take on the challenge of following two very famous pairs of footsteps. Cast by noted talent spotter David Puttnam as T.E. Lawrence in the two-hour film A Dangerous Man: Lawrence After Arabia, Fiennes then took on the leading role of Heathcliff in Paramount’s dark version of Emily Bronte’s WUTHERING HEIGHTS.

After Wuthering Heights Fiennes starred in Peter Greenaway’s THE BABY MACON, released in the UK in August 1993 and took the lead role in the BBC-2 drama The Cormorant, broadcast in February 1993.

Steven Spielberg was so impressed by his performance in WUTHERING HEIGHTS that he cast him as the sinister Nazi, Amon Goeth, in SCHINDLERS LIST, opposite Liam Neeson.

In December 1993, SCHINDLERS LIST opened in the US to huge acclaim with Fiennes’ chilling performance singled out by many critics. The same month he won the New York Film Critics’ Award as Best Supporting Actor for his role in the film. He also won the Boston and Chicago Film Critics’ Awards, the National Society of Film Critics’ Award, the London Film Critics’ Award as Best British Actor of 1994 and Golden Globe and Academy Award nominations. In April 1994 he was awarded the BAFTA Award for Best Supporting Actor.

QUIZ SHOW opened in the US at the end of 1994 to universal acclaim, followed by a sell-out production of Hamlet by Jonathan Kent for the Almeida Theatre Company at the Hackney Empire which became the theatrical event of the year. The production moved on to Broadway and in June 1995 Fiennes won the coveted Tony award for his performance.

He then starred in the Academy Award-winning THE ENGLISH PATIENT directed by Anthony Minghella from the Booker prize-winning novel by Michael Ondaatje for which he was nominated for an Academy Award, a Golden Globe and a BAFTA as Best Actor.

He recorded “Man and Superman” for BBC Radio 3 before starting work on Gillian Armstrong’s film of OSCAR AND LUCINDA, based on Peter Carey’s novel. In the film, which was shot on location in the UK and Australia, he plays Oscar.

In February 1997 he returned to the theatre in Jonathan Kent’s acclaimed production of “Ivanov” at the Almeida Theatre in London. The company also took the play to Moscow.

Following “Ivanov, Fiennes starred as the quintessential Englishman, John Steed, in THE AVENGERS. He then starred in ONEGIN, a film based on Pushkin’s Eugene Onegin which was filmed in Russia and the UK, on which he also served as Executive Producer. Martha Fiennes directed and Liv Tyler was his co-star. He followed this with Istvan Szabo’s SUNSHINE, in which he played three generations of one family and Neil Jordans THE END OF THE AFFAIR.

During 2000, Fiennes appeared triumphantly on the London stage in the title roles of Richard II and Coriolanus for the Almeida Theatre. The plays also transferred to New York and Tokyo.

In 2002, he triumphed in a guest cameo role in Kenneth Branaghs hilarious West End production of “The Play What I Wrote.

In 2001/2 he starred in David Cronenbergs film SPIDER, Brett Ratners RED DRAGON, and Neil Jordans THE GOOD THIEF. Fiennes also starred opposite Jennifer Lopez in MAID IN MANHATTAN.

In December 2002 he opened at the Royal National Theatre in a new play by Christopher Hampton, “The Talking Cure in which he played Carl Jung, directed by Howard Davies. In 2003 he starred in Ibsens “Brand” for director Adrian Noble at the RSC and the Haymarket.

In 2004 he filmed THE CHUMSCRUBBER in Los Angeles and THE CONSTANT GARDENER for director Fernando Mereilles, based on the John Le Carr novel. Also in 2004 he played a cameo role in Martha Fiennes CHROMOPHOBIA with Kristin Scott Thomas and starred with Vanessa Redgrave and Natasha Richardson in Merchant/Ivorys THE WHITE COUNTESS. In early 2005 he took on the role of the supremely evil Lord Voldemort in HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE for director Mike Newell and the role of a disaffected prison guard in the film LAND OF THE BLIND with Donald Sutherland. 2005 also saw the release of DreamWorks feature-length Wallace and Gromit animation in which Fiennes gives voice to the dastardly local squire, Victor Quartermaine.

In the spring of 2005 he played Mark Anthony in Deborah Warners sell-out production of “Julius Caesar” and returned to the theatre in early 2006 at the Gate Theatre, Dublin and then on Broadway in a hugely acclaimed performance in the title role of Brian Friels “Faith Healer.

In the autumn of 2005 he starred with Susan Sarandon in Bernard and Doris about the relationship between the heiress Doris Duke and her butler Bernard, directed by Bob Balaban.

He reprised his role as Lord Voldemort in HARRY POTTER AND THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX and made an indelible contribution as a vicious underworld boss in Martin McDonaghs IN BRUGES which opened the Sundance Film Festival in January.

In March he opened in the new Yasmina Reza play, “The God of Carnage, in Londons West End. He will next be seen in Stephen Daldrys THE READER with Kate Winslet.