Ralph Fiennes News Archives June-November 1999
November 28, 1999 The PR Machine is Warming Up
Here is a list of shows where you might see RF plugging his upcoming films, as well as a list of channels to catch his films: (all times are eastern standard U.S. Check out gist.com or tvguide.com for your local listings)
1. According to some fans he will appear on "The View" sometime this week, but I'm not sure. The web site doesn't have their upcoming programming schedule up, and after searching a couple tv listing sites I got nothing. However, here's the URL to watch for changes: http://www.abc.go.com/theview/index.html
2. Later Today, Friday, Dec 3rd 9:00am
3. The Making of The End of The Affair- Thurs. Dec 2nd 9:45 pm Cinemax
4. Roger Ebert Sunday Dec 5th, 7:30 am Fox
5. Making of the Avengers- Mon Dec 6: 6am, Fri Dec 10: 11am, Fri Dec 24: 6am, Wed Dec 29th 6am. on HBO
6. Oscar and Lucinda- Tue Nov 30, 9pm Cinemax 2
7. Wuthering Heights-Mon Nov 29: 3am TNT, Sat Dec 25: 5 and 10 pm on Romance Classics
8. Strange Days- Dec 31, 2:30am USA
9. The English Patient-playing all week this week on TNT starting 8pm Sun. ***********************************
P.S. There was a brief mention in a Times of London article that there is a love scene in "Onegin" where RF sucks some anonymous lover's toes, and it is said in the article that they were Francesca's. Who knows... Also, for those of you interested in Alex Kingston, she will be hosting The List on VH1 all this week.
November 18, 1999
Warwolf Strikes Again..an excellent article from the Telegraph
From the Telegraph:
Although there's a lot riding on Ralph Fiennes' new film, Eugene Onegin, Sheila Johnston finds him to be a far cry from the tortured soul he's so often portrayed as
IN his time Ralph Fiennes has been a man of many hats. The soft broad-brimmed trilbies of the Forties, the bowler, the military cap: these and more have perched at some point atop the aquiline visage, for he has majored in costume roles as epic, romantic, tragic types who call for the gravitas of a crowning accessory. Now, however, Fiennes is wearing a different hat: an executive producer's one.
The occasion is Onegin, based on Alexander Pushkin's verse novel about a world-weary libertine who spurns love when it is offered, then finds love spurning him. Fiennes also plays the title role, brooding and smouldering magnificently, and even carrying off an unflattering stovepipe number. He has a fair bit riding on the film, and has consequently been on the festival trail, taking Onegin to Russia, to North America, and to San Sebastián in Spain, where I met him.
Despite all this, an audience with him is shrouded in a veil of faint anxiety. His publicist sits on the phone to London, conducting brisk damage-limitation on the latest rumour about Fiennes's relationship with the actress Francesca Annis, a constant inspiration for gossip columnists. Meanwhile we have all been quizzed on Onegin (only enthusiasts need apply for an interview), though, since everyone was genuinely impressed, for once this did not require us to compromise our high professional ethics.
"I'm intrigued by a whole mix of things in Russia," says Fiennes, who went there to film parts of Onegin as well as taking the Almeida Theatre production of Chekhov's Ivanov to Moscow two years ago.
"There's an incredible warmth and a sense of celebration, a love of you because you love coming to them, a fascination with the West and a rejection of it. They will talk about big issues very quickly; they don't hang around to have polite, delicate conversations. They will say, 'Oh, Ralph, you understand the Russian soul.' "
Fiennes loves the big issues. Complex, intelligent, serious, secretive, prickly: these are the adjectives that inhabit his cuttings file. But could they be only half the story? "He has this reputation of being very gloomy, but he's not nearly as melancholy as people think," says Jonathan Kent, who directed his Ivanov and his Hamlet and counts him as a personal friend.
In person Fiennes is elegantly formal - a little tense, perhaps - but with a hint of mischievous humour. He speaks thoughtfully and courteously, even when thrown touchy questions like why, despite his affinity for the Russian soul, reports had sped back from the film's premiere in St Petersburg last May that Pushkin scholars were pouring scorn on its deviations from the text.
"In a way our ignorance was bliss. We didn't speak Russian and, although you can read on the page that Onegin is a great Russian classic, you don't fully appreciate that until you encounter a press conference of people who are almost saying, 'Who do you think you are?' I was told no Russian would dare make a film of it - it's so woven into their mentality as only a poem. And I can sort of see that."
Fiennes made Onegin a family affair, bringing in two of his six siblings: his brother, Magnus, to write the score and his sister, Martha, to direct. Since the latter had made many commercials and music videos but had no feature-film experience, she was a provocative choice.
"I'd been developing film projects as well as making chocolate commercials: I don't want people to think I'm obsessed with slick and snazzy looks," points out Martha, whose ad portfolio includes Strepsils and Archers Peach Schnapps. "But I'm completely aware of what a break it was for me. And I remember the producers saying, 'We've got to handle this really carefully - it looks like he's bringing his kid sister in.' "
"Oh yeah, oh yeah, absolutely," says her big brother. "That was an ongoing underground current: could she deliver? It was another reason for my title of executive producer. I was saying, 'Well yes, actually, she can.' I was able to stand by her when things got difficult, which they always do. It wasn't easy to raise the money but I had a sort of profile because of The English Patient."
Fiennes's presence in award-friendly, commercially profitable movies such as The English Patient and Schindler's List has earned him two Oscar nominations and made him moderately bankable.
But there have also been roles - his morally suspect academic in Quiz Show, his seedy hustler in Strange Days, his gangly, carrot-haired gambler in Oscar and Lucinda - which reminded the money men that his name alone can't carry a movie.
And, while each of those three films was an interesting succès d'estime if not a box-office hit, Fiennes was last seen on screen in The Avengers, with which he attracted the worst reviews of his career.
One critic rather rudely said he looked like Stan Laurel. Indeed the bowler was possibly a hat too far. Nobody wears them these days except for nerds like Bristow, the City drone in the Evening Standard cartoon strip, the Spillers flour-graders and the little mustachioed taxman on the Inland Revenue's ad campaign.
Fiennes has the grace not to display a flicker of irritation when the film is mentioned. "I thought it would be wonderful to play someone as confident and as uncomplicated as John Steed," he explains evenly.
"As Jeremiah Chechnik [the director] said, this was my chance to play someone who, when he walks into the room, likes who he is. At the time I was one of a number of people who wanted to replicate the original series, but with the benefit of hindsight our mistake was to be too faithful." The quality of Fiennes's performance in the movie is hard to assess amid the overall chaos, but he's clearly a good deal more comfortable gazing longingly at Mrs Peel than doing the debonair, umbrella-twirling stuff. His forte is tortured souls - men who don't much like who they are.
Asked "Why Onegin?", he answers, "Pushkin says in one of the stanzas, 'Who is he? Is he an angel? Is he a devil? Or is he just a charlatan?' He's almost unknowable. He's someone who's a bit lost and cut off, and he has removed himself from engaging with society and people. There's a line in the film that I really like, when he says, 'I'm not at home anywhere.' "
A deathly calm followed The Avengers (apart from a voiceover for the animated film Prince of Egypt), but Fiennes is about to become ubiquitous. Two more films are imminent: Sunshine, by Istvan Szabo, the director of Mephisto, in which he plays three men from different generations of a Hungarian Jewish family, and Neil Jordan's version of Graham Greene's The End of the Affair, in which Fiennes's novelist has a fling with a married woman during the Blitz.
Next spring he will wear the hollow crown as Richard II at the historic (though soon-to-be redeveloped) Gainsborough film studios in London, a role he takes in repertory with Coriolanus. The two plays are being paired, says Kent, who is directing them, because, albeit written at opposite ends of Shakespeare's life, both are "about men of power who are incapable of exercising those powers properly".
"Coriolanus," he adds, "is a man who has a single-minded sense of duty and responsibility, and finds an almost samurai release in war but finds the small change of peacetime politicking distasteful. It's a good role for Ralph because he has a fastidiousness and fineness of spirit, a very pure sense of what he's about."
Will Fiennes ever make a full-blown comedy? Kent reckons he'd be "wonderful in a David Hare play" (which doesn't wholly answer the question), and cites a fundraiser in New York at which Fiennes read excerpts from P. G. Wodehouse. His silly-ass act apparently slayed the Americans. "The audience had to be helped from the auditorium," recalls Kent.
But he adds that their universal collapse might have been from amazement as much as amusement.
Onegin opens on Friday. The End of the Affair opens next February. Richard II opens next April and Coriolanus next June at Gainsborough Studios, London (booking: 0171 359 4404).
Another article from the Times of London, submitted today by Warwolf...Thanks again:-)
Adam Mars-Jones enjoys Onegin, an ambitious family affair in which not much happens, but happens beautifully
Ralph and Martha's wintry warmer
With Onegin, her first feature, Martha Fiennes has taken on what is in effect the national poem of Russia, and managed not to disgrace either Pushkin or herself. It helps that in Ralph Fiennes she has a brother (it was he who was first taken with the book) with a lot of experience playing rather inward characters - Strange Days, The English Patient - whose passions retain an element of coldness. His trademark facial expression is a half or three-quarter smile, just on the cusp between wintry and winning.
Evgeny Onegin, an eligible St Petersburg bachelor, so sophisticated that even sophistication bores him, inherits a country estate from his uncle. He stays some time in the country, where he befriends Lensky (Toby Stephens), his fiancée Olga (Lena Headey) and Olga's sister Tatyana (Liv Tyler). He isn't exactly cut out for country life, though. His plan to lease his land to the serfs who work it is received locally with the sort of resentful incredulity people express when millionaires leave everything to their cats, but since he is idle as well as unconventional it isn't clear whether the shocking proposal is actually implemented.
A lot of work has gone into details of the period. Onegin's tousled Byronic hair is given its bounce by curling papers. The admired shape for men in the Russia of the 1820s was that of an aristocratic pigeon: he wears a cutaway corset to emphasise it.
Director and star are confident that the emotions of the story will communicate with a modern audience despite such unfamiliar story elements as feudalism, corsets for men and duels. They're probably right, but though she shapes scenes conscientiously, Martha Fiennes, whose background is in commercials and videos, doesn't convey a sense of forward movement. There's something frozen about her film, despite its immense decorative appeal.
When Tatyana declares her love to Onegin in a letter, this needs to be her big scene. Although he doesn't allow himself to respond to her letter, his life will be changed nonetheless. He throws it into the fire, but snatches it back before it can catch.
We see Tyler crouching on the floor over the paper. The camera shows us extreme close-ups of individual words as she writes them, scratching them out and writing them again, this time letting them stand. On the soundtrack is an ominous suspended orchestral chord. Ink stains make Tatyana's hands black. A boy runs to deliver her letter to Onegin's servant, who is plucking a chicken. Tatyana looks at the black marks on her hands, but wipes them on her white dress all the same.
The scene is pieced together out of details, with any perceived deficit in overall impact made good by topping the images up with Magnus Fiennes's music. But still there is lacking the sense that Tatyana is wholly present to herself and her destiny. It's true that Pushkin's verse novel is full of visual detail - but its pivotal events (apart from a duel, to which Martha Fiennes does full justice) tend to be internal. A passion, a slow realisation, a renunciation. Those are the crucial moments, which this ambitious film struggles to express.November 17, 1999 Fiennes Family Premieres Onegin
Thanks again to Warwolf for sending us this article from the Telegraph.
Fine night for the Fiennes family
By Nigel Reynolds, Arts Correspondent
THERE was a coach party atmosphere last night as all six siblings of the Fiennes family turned out in Leicester Square for the British premiere of Onegin, the £12 million film that itself has become a family affair.
The film, based on the tragic love poem by Alexander Pushkin, marks the big screen directing debut of Martha Fiennes, 35. The title role is played by Ralph, the dynasty's most well-known member and oldest at 36, and the score was written by another brother, Magnus.
And the rest of the family came too: actor Joseph Fiennes, star of Elizabeth and Shakespeare in Love, Sophie, a documentary film-maker, and Jake, twin brother of Joseph. For Jake it was a rare appearance in the limelight as he has bucked the family showbusiness trend and works as a gamekeeper in Norfolk.
Also at the premiere at their head was their father Mark, a tenant farmer-turned photographer. Their mother Jini, a writer and painter, died in 1994.
Eugene Onegin, better known now as a Tchaikovsky opera, was one of Martha and Ralph's favourite books when they were students. However, they were unable to turn it into a film until Ralph's success in the film of The English Patient.
His Oscar nomination turned him into a major bankable star and he and his sister were able to raise the money in America to make the film. Liv Tyler, the American actress who plays the impressionable Tatyana to Ralph Fiennes's jaded cad in the 1820s costume drama, was not at the West End premiere.
Ralph's real-life love, Francesca Annis, who makes a brief appearance in the film, was unable to join the family gathering as she was in Plymouth taking part in rehearsals for Hedda Gabler.
November 16, 1999
Thanks to Warwolf for tipping us off to this article form theTelegraph.
Director Martha Fiennes is the latest member of the multi-talented clan to make her name. Her debut feature film, 'Onegin', stars her brother Ralph and is the culmination of their mutual obsession with Pushkin's novel.
By Cressida Connolly
AS soon as Martha Fiennes opened her front door I knew that I was looking at a woman who was going to be a very successful film director. I had already seen a photograph of her - showing a striking, big-boned woman, with a determination about her features that called to mind a figure in a Paula Rego painting - but what the picture did not reveal was her palpable glamour. It's partly that she looks so very much like her pin-up brother, Ralph, as if some of the lustre of his fame has rubbed off on her. But I've seen Ralph in real life, and he hasn't got it. Good looks and huge ability, yes; but glamour is something else; it is a combination of unforced sexiness and charm and glowing skin and guileless ambition. People who have it possess the rare gift of getting what they want without putting anyone's back up. Which is why Martha's star will rise and rise.
If you want to know what someone's like, it's no good asking their friends; you'll only get gush. The best people to talk to are the taxi drivers and waiters who've crossed their path; failing which, former work associates will do. Columnist Mary Killen worked on the editorial side at Condé Nast in the early Eighties, when Martha had a job in the photography department. 'Everybody liked her,' says Killen. 'She was always cheerful and smiley. But we knew she'd move on to bigger things; she was too intelligent to hump others' cameras around for the rest of her life.'
More recently, artist Iris Palmer - then working as a model to finance art school - appeared in a commercial for Pharmacia, directed by Martha. 'She's cool, not stuck-up or anything,' says Iris of Martha. 'She's really friendly and she's kind. I liked her. I bet her film's on a big, grand scale, isn't it?' Yes, it is; there are forests of larch and wintry skies full of mist and vast expanses of snow and enormous buildings. 'I thought so,' grins Iris. 'Martha likes things big.'
Onegin, her feature debut, opens at the end of this month. To describe it as a lavish costume drama would be insufficient, although the papery rustle of crimson taffeta does play its part. Taken from Pushkin's novel-in-verse, Evgeny Onegin, it is a love story which addresses larger themes: disaffection, the prevailing cynicism of the Russian ruling class, the possibility of redemption. The romance at its centre is simple: innocent country girl Tatiana falls in love with world-weary Evgeny, but he does not return her feelings; years later, Evgeny falls in love with the now married Tatiana, but she is no longer able to reciprocate. In Russia all Pushkin's work is held in ardent veneration, especially Onegin. Ralph Fiennes first read it in his student days, and was captivated. 'It is such a powerful narrative about love and loss, it took me over completely,' he recalls. 'Onegin is a dark, shadowy figure, in many ways the archetypal romantic hero.'
Ralph gave the book to Martha. In fact they both became so enthralled that they read every translation they could get their hands on, including the hard-to-find - and, some say, harder-still-to-read - version by Vladimir Nabokov. Most actors burn to play the lead roles from Shakespeare or Chekhov: for Ralph it was Evgeny Onegin. Martha had proved her directing talent in music videos and commercials; she had always known that, when the opportunity arose, she would make a feature film. It was an ideal collaboration.
Even now, after spending eight years with the story, Martha still sounds excited by it; although her emphatic way of talking and theatrical gesticulation make her seem pretty excited by just about everything. She's the kind of person who wrings her hands a lot. She is so voluble, so sincere that it's easy to get swept along by the flood of her talk and not notice when she isn't really telling you anything. 'I think Pushkin's writing is incredibly beautiful,' she says, clasping her breast with enthusiasm. 'It's casual but also kind of passionate. One of the things I loved is the way he gets right under the skin of the female characters, especially the heroine, Tatiana. I loved Tatiana. I responded to her because she's not just the faceless object of Onegin's desire - or rather his not-desire; she actually embodies Mother Russia.'
These are characteristically grand claims. Given the symbolic weight that falls upon the shoulders of Tatiana, the casting of the young American actress Liv Tyler was audacious. Strangely, it worked. Tyler is touchingly serious in the role, and her beauty acquires a new serenity: she is entirely believable. Which brings us to Onegin himself, and Ralph Fiennes. 'I'm very attracted to a rebel without a cause, which is pretty much what Evgeny Onegin is,' says Martha.
But there's a snag here, I suggest. Onegin's moral reticence compromises him to such an extent that he lacks the vitality to be truly appealing. He's just too wan. Martha gives me a steely look; she clearly does not welcome dissent. As if remembering a trick for warding off unwelcome questions, she repeats mine word for word: 'You could argue that Onegin's moral reticence compromises him to such an extent that he lacks the vitality to be truly appealing. But of course what makes him so attractive is to see his breakdown and then his growth. It really mattered to me that other people would find him as attractive a figure as I do. So I showed the film to various girlfriends and asked them, "Is he attractive, as a character?" They all said yes, which was fantastic.' Which means one of three things: Martha's friends find limp, emotionally impotent men irresistible; or they're lying; or they fancy her brother.
Ralph himself has said he finds the character 'deeply sympathetic', although he had been told that a modern audience might not concur. Always a physically restrained performer, his Onegin appears to have been internalised to a remarkable extent. If you judge a player's calibre by his ability to be still - and it's as good a criterion as any - this is acting of the highest order. The problem of his performance is not of depth or quality, but length. The film runs at 106 minutes, but there are definite longueurs. This, I think, is what can go wrong when families work together. Editing must be relatively easy when the director can be objective about an actor. When that actor is your brother and best friend it must be a lot harder to get out the scissors. Especially if the whole project was his idea in the first place. As Onegin says to Tatiana, 'Love, I am told, heightens our emotions but lowers our perceptions.'
It's fair to say that Martha is crazy about her family. There are six siblings; seven when you include a foster brother, Michael, an archaeologist. Ralph (born in 1963) is the eldest; then Martha (1964); then Magnus (1965), who composed the music for Onegin. Next comes Sophie (1967); followed by the twins, Jacob and Joseph (1970). 'Jake I don't see as much of as the others, but that's only because he doesn't live in London. All the others are near, so we meet all the time. We all goof around.' Ralph and Joseph need no account from their sister. Schindler's List and The English Patient have made her eldest brother an international star, while Shakespeare in Love has done the same for her youngest. But asking about the others opens a floodgate of eulogy and gesticulation: 'My sister is so many things. She worked for Peter Greenaway, then Michael Clark; she writes articles in art magazines; she recommends people; she notices things.
She's in charge of my mother's literary estate and she's a brilliant photographer. She made a five-minute film on Lars von Trier; she's always ahead of fashion. She's very funny, she tells stories and mimics people.' Magnus receives similar acclaim: 'I come across a lot of people in the music world who talk about how incredibly talented he is. He's produced for All Saints - which went platinum - and composes brilliantly. He's very cool, very funny. All the commercials I've done are music- or sound-designed. Not dialogue, that's not where I'm at at all. I've used him on the sound for every one.'
This sibling unity was, presumably, inculcated during childhood. Martha remembers it as an extremely happy one. Her father worked as a landscape photographer, and her mother - who died in 1993 - was an author, Jennifer Lash. The family seldom stayed long in one place. 'The reason we moved so much was I think my mother's doing. She was a complex person: charged, intelligent, incredibly funny. We lived in Dorset. It was a really nice house. I was eight. I remember Mummy and Daddy going to Ireland for a break, leaving us with a nanny - we always had nannies, au pairs, whatever. And when they came back Mummy said, "We're moving to Ireland." Just like that, because they'd fallen in love with it. So we all moved to the west coast of Ireland. Daddy designed our house, and built it. He took all these moody black and white photographs to make into postcards - they were way ahead of their time; people only bought garish colour postcards in those days.' Martha's hands have fluttered up to her heart, like a supplicant's. 'And you know I commend that value system. It was such a fresh, romantic approach. Really romantic, actually.'
It seems almost churlish to interrupt her reverie, but I am curious. I suggest there must have been some money in the background: nannies and building houses don't come free. Martha's hands recoil into her lap. 'I'm not aware of that at all,' she says coldly. 'I'm aware of a hand-to-mouth, chaotic existence.' Creative, as well as chaotic? Did the children, for instance, put on their own plays? She doesn't like these questions. 'I don't really see that it's relevant.' Because you all have careers in the arts, I say, the performing arts in particular. She eyes me suspiciously. What I'm trying to get at is the genesis of that aspiration, I say. It's nothing sinister.
'It's just that we all have a resistance to being pigeon-holed as the von Trapps of the arts. The work that we've done is there, to be judged on its own merits.'
True enough, and very fine work it is, too. But her abrupt change of tone is telling. Every family likes to preserve its own version, or myth, of itself; but in Martha's case it's as if that myth is almost sacred. Her version is the official version; it must not be queried. And while she feels entirely at home in the secure, highly successful enclave of her family, she seems wary of being included in the wider milieu - the middle-class intelligentsia - to which they belong. Accordingly, she blushes slightly when asked her children's names: Titan and Hero. 'Sometimes we wonder what the hell we were on when we thought of those,' she smiles.
I notice there are two nannies in her kitchen and ask why. 'Because I've got two children.' She looks at me as if I'm slightly deranged. She has Earl Grey and Lapsang Souchong in her cupboard, but dresses with PG Tips credibility: big biker-style clogs, lots of beads and Diesel jeans that most would have consigned to the fast-coloureds cycle days earlier. She has an Indian pouch bag around her waist containing her mobile phone.
She is hoping to set her next feature in India, but rues the star system which decrees that films without big-name white actors are hard to get made. Since completing Onegin she has made a documentary, the first to have been financed by Virgin Records. 'It's about modern native American Indians, their lives on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. It's funny and poignant rather than desperately serious. I did it with George, in fact; we took the children.' George is George Tiffin, her husband. Like her siblings, he appears to be multi-talented: a cameraman by trade, he also designed much of the furniture in their house, including the handsome kitchen table. His first novel has recently been accepted by Picador.
Martha doesn't know what will come next. She was lately offered the job of directing the opera of Eugene Onegin in Italy, but turned it down. She still has a lot of respect for the commercials industry and doesn't rule out further work within it. 'There are really, really talented people working in that field. I feel quite defensive about it because it's given me so many opportunities.' She would like to do an original screenplay: there's the Indian project and she's casting around for others. 'I'm not po-faced at all when it comes to film. I rarely find anything that doesn't interest me in some way, from Battleship Potemkin to James Bond. I love a good yarn. Just because I come from a visual background doesn't mean I don't love a good performance, a good story.'
You have to be a visionary to make it as a film director; but you need to be a benevolent dictator too. Onegin is certainly visually stunning, which puts a tick next to the visionary part. And somehow I doubt that gangly, almost-beautiful Martha, with her dimply smile and flinty streak, will find the second part of the job too hard either. 'Onegin' opens on November 19
November 14, 1999 Article from Yahoo
It's Raiph actually'I can do happy.' He says it as if he is making a plea. He has pale, blazing eyes in a drawn and lovely face. 'I can be happy. There are times when I have been very, very happy. I don't mean happy, like this' - and he gives a demented grin and waves his hands in the air, as if in a manic tantrum of joy. 'But more happy, just - aah, thrilled.' He sits back and his expression is momentarily one of repose and sweetness. 'Just happy like a child can be happy.'
But happy is not a word people generally use to describe Ralph Fiennes and his acting. They prefer lonely (he can do lonely to take your breath away), intense, elegant, theatrical, anguished, tormented. 'When I was Oscar,' he says, 'what about in Oscar and Lucinda? Oscar was happy.' But he was terrifyingly, clumsily, blindingly happy - happy so you always knew he would lose it all. Loss: ah yes, Ralph Fiennes can do loss.
In the final scene of his latest film, Onegin, Fiennes kneels at the feet of Tatyana - the woman he spurned years ago who has now married another man - and begs her to take him back, to love him, to save him from his despair. The mask of self-disgust and wintry disdain that he has worn through the film cracks; he is flooded by passion, terror, hope. The camera (held by Fiennes's sister Martha, making her impressive and risk-taking debut as a director) holds on his face: his ghostly eyes stare and his lips stretch and grief rolls over him, shadows falling on a landscape. You feel as if you are looking at a man in hell, every wrinkle and twitch and pulse. 'Please,' he whispers, like a dying breath.
It is an extraordinary sight: agony in the prison of the lens. What did he feel, I ask, when he saw his face stripped naked like that? 'It had been a nightmarish day,' he answers, not answering the question. 'And I thought I had blown it, I thought I had overdone it. Martha edited and edited it, and if it works, it is a lot to do with Martha. So much of what you see is to do with the editing - if you hold on a face, an expression that the audience had thought was contented, say, becomes less certain for them. They project. They see in your face what they choose to see.'
But how did it feel? 'You try with each take to surprise yourself. And you are acting off the other person: I was saying to Liv Tyler [who plays Tatyana], "You must listen, you can't say no; you can't."' Then he relents and nearly answers. 'I feel, well, uncomfortable with that scene, with my face then, because I don't know how it happened. I don't know what I did to become like that.' No longer protected by his role, then? 'No.'
The face of Ralph Fiennes is one of the movie world's most haunted and haunting. The camera loves him. Critics have said that he is like a silent movie star, 'most beautiful when he is holding steady'. In Onegin, there are times when Martha Fiennes almost transforms him into a still; the world moves in the background, but he is suspended in the centre of the screen.
He started off as an actor in the theatre (and theatre remains his 'base camp'), in love with language, but in the cinema it is his image that counts most: the softly fleshy, fastidious sadist, Amon Goeth, in Schindler's List; the heartbreakingly hopeful and idealistic Oscar, in Oscar and Lucinda; Count László Almásy in The English Patient, who falls in love like a man trying to clamber out of Dante's circles of hell (but the flames get him in the end; almost literally, he is burned alive for his love).
Steven Spielberg chose him for Schindler's List because he saw in him a 'certain sexual evil'. Anthony Minghella, who directed him in The English Patient, the film that made him into a star and an unsmiling sex symbol, says that 'whatever he's saying or doing, you suspect that there's a counterpoint to it, a second agenda'.
With Fiennes it is as if, rather than assuming a role, he is stripping layers off himself to discover it within. For a fiercely private man, he is an actor of much vulnerability - very close to the surface; very raw. He says of acting that you have to strive for the 'innocence' at the heart of you. He talks of it as an almost religious endeavour or a spiritual quest. 'Unknow what you know,' he says. 'Unlearn what you have learnt.' To my sentimental, prying eyes, he looks like a man in search of redemption.
We meet in an unevocative London hotel, with brocaded wallpaper and double-glazing, and decide to escape and take a walk in Regent's Park. It is late afternoon, and the sky is grey and lowering, the air damp. Quite soon, it begins to spit with rain. Leaves are soggy underfoot. He buttons his swish jacket and hoists a spacious black umbrella over us; he loves this English weather, he says. He would hate to live in Hollywood, with its electric blue skies. He loves to come home to this cool British gloom.
We talk first about Onegin, a part he had wanted to play ever since reading Pushkin's great Russian poem as a drama student. He shared the dream with his sister Martha, who had previously made music videos and commercials.
After years of planning and of them chasing money, she has finally made the visually sumptuous film, translating the verse of Pushkin into an emotional, painterly experience (deep white snow, shining ice on which figures skate as if in a painting, lush and dim velvet interiors, desolate and stunning landscapes, the lingering gaze of the camera upon the folds in a dress, the slow fall of a white feather in an empty doorway).
He was its executive-producer as well as the cold, disaffected Evgeny, who finds love too late. Their brother Magnus wrote the music, and there is even a brief, erotic pre-credit sequence with Fiennes's partner, Francesca Annis.
The collaboration with his sister was, he says, smooth, creative and professional - during the actual making of the film, they were almost overly respectful towards each other, careful not to relax into insults. Later, in the weeks of publicity and fearful anticipation, they were very close and supportive. They showed each other their wounded vanities, he says, their moments of panic. 'Martha is quite a tough woman,' he says admiringly. Is he tough? 'No. Not tough. I'm not tough at all.'
He talks of Martha with fondness and esteem (his instinct about her as a director, he says, was 'a good one'). Yet he found the experience stressful - the responsibility he had toward the film, not just himself within it; the eye he had to keep on finances; the compromises that a producer inevitably makes; his determination that, in spite of any pressure, they should not 'Hollywoodise it: slush it up and make it chocolate-boxy'.
'Every film,' he has said, 'is a Faustian project.' He says that he had 'almost ulcer-generating worries about it - what people would think of it. For really a long time, until the last two months or so, when the film was completed and it was obvious that whatever the criticisms, some people were praising it and liking it, and it wasn't a failure. It was OK. Out there in the world, I was in a state of anxiety. For ages I had a stomach cramp. I was knotted up with it. It felt like constipation, except it wasn't. I suppose it was...' He pauses, puts his hand on his stomach. He is a man of lengthy silences - he never seems to have the answers ready, but has to ponder them. He squints into the rain, which is falling harder now, clattering through the trees. 'Fear,' he says eventually. 'I suppose.'
Ralph Fiennes's home is now in Hammersmith, west London. During his childhood, he lived in Suffolk, Dorset, Ireland, in 15 different houses that were full of noise, love, anxiety. His father, Mark, is a farmer turned photographer.
His mother, Jennifer Lash (Jini), was a woman of turbulent passions and creative talents, and a mother who lavished on her six children and her foster son all the great love and care she herself never had during her own neglected and damaging childhood. In the interstices of her crowded family days, she painted, and she wrote novels, some of which were published (the last, the fine and dark Blood Ties, after her death), and others not.
She intermittently taught her children at home - emphasising, says Ralph Fiennes, the 'art subjects'. Ralph, the oldest (and always, say the rest, the most broody and dark) is one of Britain's leading actors. Joseph is also a successful actor, best known for Shakespeare in Love. Martha is a director. Sophie is a theatrical designer. The foster son, Michael Emery - whom Jennifer Lash took in when she read an advertisement for a home for 11-year-old Michael, 'where he is allowed to read a book' - is an archaeologist. Only Jacob has not become part of the Fiennes artistic dynasty: he is a gamekeeper.
The Fiennes' childhood can sound idyllic - masses of brothers and sister, of friends, books, noise, creative exuberance and freedom, animals all over the place, life in full flood. But happy families can be problematic, a place of painful frictions. Ralph says now, splashing through puddles, that 'it was happy in that we were greatly loved. We never doubted the love. But a little of our family goes a long way. When we get together we have to find the chemistry, find the balance. Really, we are all quite separate, all quite self-involved. We come out of our shells and see what the other is doing, and then...' He acts shrinking back.
As a boy, he says, he never really fitted into a group. He has talked about hanging back, watching, waiting for friends to find him. His concession to popular culture was to cut his hair short and badly, wear tight jeans, like The Stranglers and pogo at the local discos.
'But I was never a rebel. I found that a bit predictable. I didn't want to go there. I just wanted to do the things I wanted to do - I didn't want to do things for their shock value. If I have ever rebelled, it is against my own preconceptions - that is what Art School taught me [he briefly went to Chelsea College of Art after A Levels, before deciding that he really wanted to be an actor]. I'm more interested in Francis Bacon than in the Sensationalists. There are people who rebel and it's like a noise: it's the noise of our vanity. A fuck-you, let-me-shock-you noise. Wow, here's a big open vagina on paper. It is possible to play King Lear,' he says, 'and be shocking and innovative and revealing. There's genuine rebellion; then there's the howl of rage and pain, and for a moment everyone sits back in alarm.'
'Maybe I sublimate that howl of pain,' he says a bit later. 'Maybe I put it in my acting. I can be me more easily when I am Onegin than when I am Ralph Fiennes.' And then: 'I can howl with pain.'
From the Royal College of Dramatic Art, he became a regular at the National Theatre, winning good reviews and soon moving on to the Royal Shakespeare Company, where Adrian Noble says that he gave one of the greatest auditions he had ever witnessed. He played parts including Berowne in Love's Labour's Lost; Edmund in King Lear. He has said that doing Shakespeare has taught him that the actor 'must stop getting in his own way'.
In 1992, he made a TV movie, A Dangerous Man: Lawrence After Arabia, and it was this not entirely successful film that caught Spielberg's eye and cast him into the history we know: Amon Goeth in Schindler's List, Charles van Doren in Quiz Show, Oscar in Oscar and Lucinda, Jonathan Steed in The Avengers, Count László Almásy in The English Patient. He has also been acclaimed for his theatrical roles, including Hamlet and Ivanov. Next year, he is to play Coriolanus and Richard 11 for Jonathan Kent ('Scary,' he says with a shiver. 'Exciting').
It seems a smooth path to stardom, but of course, this is Ralph Fiennes, and it isn't. Life doesn't come easily to him. When he was in his mid-twenties, his mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. When he was 31, she died. The family painted her coffin a glorious blue and laid a tablecloth sewn with a map of her beloved Ireland. They took her to her burial place in a friend's van. 'I miss her still,' he says. 'I think of her often. She was...' He stops. In the terseness lies great emotions. He was nominated for Best Actor in The English Patient and would have dedicated his Oscar to her: it was done 'all for her', he said; and 'she was more of a friend than a mother'.
Shortly after her death, he left his wife, the actress Alex Kingston (Dr Corday in ER) for Francesca Annis, who played Gertrude to his Hamlet. They are together still, despite the media's wagging tongues about her age (older). Does he ever want children, I ask. 'No,' he replies, before the sentence is out - like a door slamming shut on the question, bang. He opens the door a crack: 'Not yet, at least. Not now.' He is reticent (to the point of panic) about his private life, but certainly great upheavals accompany this familiar story of starting over again. He has said he is getting better at being happy. A bit better.
'My mother always used to say: "Never worry about what people think of you, and never be scared of failure." I don't worry so much now. Of course, it is hard. But I am getting better at it. Everyone has to fail, and know their limits. I felt that I failed as Romeo, here in Regent's Park. It was a fine production. It was just me - I was wrong. But I can't afford to go out there and know I am failing. I have to make things an adventure still, always an exploration. We have to learn to go back to the centre, into the depths. Back to the truth of oneself that has always been there. We've got to learn to strip away and strip away, in art and in life. And you just don't know what is going to happen. You can plan things, rehearse lines, practise expressions - but you don't know. You have to have the courage to let the moment take you.' An expression of revulsion crosses his face. 'Listen to me', he says. 'I don't know what I'm saying. Blah blah blah.'
He made three films back to back (the last, Neil Jordan's The End of the Affair, is out early next year), and since April has taken time off to recuperate. 'You enter a tunnel when you are making a film. It structures - and utterly dominates - your life. It becomes your whole world. Everything else disappears. So now I have been staying home, writing letters, seeing films, seeing friends. Days when you don't know what you're going to do with your time. It's just being normal. So-called normal.' He grins. 'Whatever that means.'
Can he be normal any more? I ask, when everyone recognises his narrow face. 'In a home sense, I can, of course. Here, now, walking in this park, I feel normal. And I don't go to Hollywood - I hate that world and I don't want to belong to it. I tell you, I long to be left alone. I don't like being looked at.'
We take shelter from the now-driving rain in a café. Tea and fruitcake, and a waitress with shining eyes who asks for his autograph just as he is saying he can lead an invisible life. 'The noise of people talking about you, looking at you,' he says. 'You have to remember you have family, close friends, life after.' He doesn't like to show himself to strangers. When he was interviewed in Vanity Fair, his interviewer said: 'Would it be too much to ask for a bit of charm?' She found him supercilious and impenetrable. He says that he was irritated by her glib equations between himself and the parts he played, as if life was ever that simple: 'Remembering what it is like to be sad doesn't mean that you are sad.'
He continues, 'I am someone who doesn't like to open up. Sometimes you don't want to be known. You want to keep yourself safe. I hate to say things and then wish that I hadn't. I'd rather open up there - on screen - than here. And anyway, I'm not good at small talk. I can talk intimately with my sisters, maybe with one or two friends. Otherwise...' He leans forward with his shy smile. 'I am buttoned up. I value that. I don't want to lightly give away gifts of confidence. I love it when I meet reticent people. I respect their diffidence. I worry if people want everything out on the table all at once.'
What is he so scared of, though? What would happen if he was more open about his private life? He shrugs and grins. 'Nothing, of course. I suppose it is stupid, but...' But he seems to regard the journalist as a species of thief, come to take away a small part of him. He almost seems to regard acting like this as well - he once said that in a film, 'a bit of your self gets taken up and used'. And yet in acting he also finds himself, is liberated into being the self he cannot be elsewhere. If in life he is private, anxious, intense, in acting he is liberated, vulnerable, open-hearted, and has that quality he defines as 'innocent'. He can be himself in front of the camera or the audience as he cannot easily be away from them. He can hide in a part and yet reveal himself there; take risks and be safe. Peace comes in the restless roles that he plays.
We leave the café (in fact, he flees from it, suddenly appalled by the heat and the light and the sound of his own answers and the scratch of my busy pen, taking it down): out into the park again, where it is dark now, and the rain blows into our faces. 'End of the Affair weather; fantastic,' he says, stepping out into the storm.
• Onegin opens on November 19, and shows as part of the London Film Festival tomorrow
November 12, 1999 Visit the Almeida...
The Almeida site now has a special page dedicated to RF's upcoming plays. Here's the link...
November 12, 1999 Great Pics and Small Article TEOTA
You can see some great pictures and read a small article about "The End of the Affair" in this weeks Entertainment Weekly (the one w/Johnny Dep on the cover w/Christina Ricci).
Noteable quotes from the article by Rebecca Ascher-Walsh :
"I couldn't think of a better Graham Greene protagonist,"the director says of Fiennes,..."He embodies that disenchanted character." Fiennes on the other hand, wasn't immediately sold. " I suppose he was worried about the fact that after English Patient, it would feel like a repetition, and I was worried about that too,"says Jordan. But Fiennes took a shine to the director. "Neither of us is always socially at ease," says the star, who adds that Bendrix is "a tortured character, and I love that."...At Fiennes' request, Jordan incorporated a scene from the book where the simmering Bendrix finally explodes, railing against the priest. The director also added a moment where Fiennes' character puts shoes (hellooooo, how many of us have said the only good part of Avengers is the boot scene!!!m.k.) on Moore's feet. "there was something missing, and it was a scene of tenderness," says Jordan. "I thought that rather than write a scene where a man taking a woman's clothes offf, he's putting them on." ...Says Fiennes: "I'm naturally anxious, and when you've done your last take and you can never do it again, you think,'Ah, should I have done it that way?' So you're obsessive. And Neil would take on the obsession and share it." A codependent relationship ot be sure, but "the best kind,: says Fiennes. "From now on, I'm only going to do tortured obsessive period pieces in London in the rain."
November 9, 1999 The End of the Affair Site up and Running
To see the End of the Affair trailer, click here:
Click here to see more pictures now.
New Search Engine Feature Added to the Site
There's a new way to find all the latest info on Ralph. Simply click on the image above, and you'll be able to search across multiple search engines to find everything you'd ever want to know:-)
October 26, 1999 Ralph to Make Appearances for Onegin
Thanks to Onegin reps for this informative update on upcoming RF public appearances:
a) He will be attending a screening of ONEGIN at the Tokyo Film Festival on Sunday Oct 31
b) He will be attending the London Film Festival screening of ONEGIN at the Odeon West End Cinema, Leicester Square, London W1 on Monday November 15th at 8.30 pm
c)He will be doing a public Q&A and signing copies of the Onegin book at Borders Book Store, Oxford Street, London W1 on Tuesday November 16th at 6.00pm
I encourage and and all who attend to share any and all experiences, photos, etc with other RF deprived souls, especially the U.S. ones who fear they may never see this film:-()
October 19, 1999 Ralph Nominated For Euro Film Award
This article is from Excite UK:
Ralph Fiennes has been nominated as European actor of the year for a film which has yet to be seen in Britain.
Fiennes, Ray Winstone and Rupert Everett are among six actors in contention for the title in the European Film Awards shortlists.
In The Taste Of Sunshine, Fiennes plays three men of successive generations in the same Jewish family in Austro-Hungary earlier this century. Fiennes was Oscar-nominated for his role as a brutal Nazi concentration camp guard in Schindler's List.
The European Film Awards will be held at the Schiller Theatre in Berlin, Germany on December 4.
Everett is nominated for his performance in an adaptation of Oscar Wilde's An Ideal Husband and Winstone for The War Zone directed by Tim Roth.
The other best actor nominees are Denmark's Anders Berthelsen, Germany's Gotz George and Frenchman Philippe Torreton. Ayub Khan-Din, writer of East Is East, is among three nominees for the European screenwriter award. The awards will be screened by FilmFour on Sunday December 5.
New Online Store for Ralph Fiennes Fans!!
I am in the process of rehabing the old Fan Store. It is hosted by another company now, and there are many different products available now. Also, we have access to multiple vendors, so hopefully we'll get the lowest prices. The Fan Favorites part of the site is still part of Amazon.com, but everything else is from the new company. I'm still working out the product line, so any input you guys have is great. All proceeds from the store (15 cents per click) go to maintaining the site and to charity. In fact the last two quarters of Amazon.com this year will be donated to Breast Cancer Research. I'll give a full report on the amount by Jan. 1, 2000. So, buy all your friends RF gifts this Christmas, and 5-15% of the purchase price will be kicked back to us for donations to Breast Cancer! Yeah! Email me if you have any questions.
Here is the link to the new store:
September 29, 1999 Dates for Shakespeare Performances Available
Official press release from the Almeida Theatre
ALMEIDA at GAINSBOROUGH STUDIOS:
JONATHAN KENT TO DIRECT RALPH FIENNES IN SHAKESPEARE'S
RICHARD I I and CORIOLANUS
In the Almeida's most ambitious and adventurous project to date the company will take over the ruined shell of the Gainsborough Film Studios in Shoreditch to present Shakespeare's great explorations of power, Richard II and Coriolanus. Ralph Fiennes, who will play the two title roles, will lead the company of actors to be directed by Jonathan Kent, joint Artistic Director of the Almeida.
Richard II will open on 12 April with previews from 30 March. Coriolanus will open on 14 June with previews from 1 June. The plays will then play in repertoire until 22 July. On Saturdays it will be possible to see both plays in a single day.
Designs are by Paul Brown, lighting is by Mark Henderson, with music by Jonathan Dove and sound by John A Leonard.
The Shoreditch Shakespeares will reunite actor Ralph Fiennes and director Jonathan Kent who were responsible for the Almeida's hugely successful Hackney Hamlet in 1995 and the Almeida's production of Chekhov's Ivanov which opened in Islington in 1997 and visited Moscow later that year.
The Gainsborough Studios, built exactly 100 years ago, were established in 1919 in a former generating station on the Regent's Canal. Bought by Michael Balcon in 1924, the Studios provided a London home for Alfred Hitchcock who made many of his early films there including The Lodger and The Lady Vanishes. The Gainsborough Studios were closed fifty years ago. In the derelict space, before the building is re-developed, the Almeida will install an improvised auditorium and the stage sets for two of Shakespeare's greatest plays.
Shoreditch was home to the first public playhouse in London, built in 1576 by James Burbage, where in 1587 at the age of 23 William Shakespeare began his acting and writing career less than half a mile away from the present Gainsborough Studios.
Ralph Fiennes' work for the Almeida includes the title roles in Jonathan Kent's productions of Hamlet, which opened at the Hackney Empire in 1995 before transferring to Broadway (where he won a Tony Award and a New York Drama Desk Award for Best Actor), and, Chekhov's Ivanov, which opened at the Almeida in 1997 and visited Moscow later that year. His work for the Royal National Theatre includes Six Characters in Search of an Author, Father and Sons and Ting Tang Mine. For the Royal Shakespeare Company his work includes The Man Who Came to Dinner, Troilus and Cressida and Love's Labour's Lost. His television work includes Prime Suspect, A Dangerous Man: Lawrence After Arabia and The Cormorant. His film work includes The Baby of Macon, Schindler's List (for which he won many awards) Quiz Show, Strange Days, Oscar and Lucinda, The English Patient and The Avengers. Most recently he completed filming Onegin (based on the great Pushkin poem Eugene Onegin) on which he was also Executive Producer, Istvan Szabo's Sunshine, and Neil Jordan's The End of the Affair, all to be released 1999/2000.
Jonathan Kent is Joint Artistic Director of the Almeida where he has directed many productions including All for Love, The Rules of the Game, Medea - which transferred to the West End and to Broadway, Chatsky, The School for Wives, The Life of Galileo, Gangster No 1, Tartuffe, Ivanov - the first British version of Chekhov to be presented in Moscow, The Government Inspector and Naked which transferred to The Playhouse. For the Royal National Theatre he has directed Le Cid and Mother Courage and Her Children. He directed the Almeida's production of Hamlet, which opened at the Hackney Empire before transferring to Broadway. Jonathan Kent's productions of Racine's Phèdre - in an new version by Ted Hughes, and Britannicus - in a new version by Robert David MacDonald, opened the Almeida at the Albery season in September 1998 before a short run at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in New York. His production of Plenty completed its Albery run earlier this year.
Paul Brown's theatre work for the Almeida includes set and costume designs for The Showman and Naked. For the Royal Court his work includes A Lie in the Mind and Road. He has worked extensively with opera companies around the world, where his work includes Pelleas and Melisande and Lulu for Glyndebourne, The Midsummer Marriage, King Arthur and Mitridate re di Ponto for the Royal Opera House, Moses und Aron and Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk for the Metropolitan Opera New York and Fidelio for English National Opera, Parsifal for Opera de Paris and Don Carlos for Opera Australia. He designed the costumes for the film Angels and Insects for which he received an Oscar Nomination, and was production and costume designer on the films The Blood Oranges and Up at the Villa. Paul Brown is currently designing a new production of Falstaff which will open the newly built Royal OperaHouse, Covent Garden later this year as well as Vanessa for Monte Carlo Opera.
ALMEIDA at GAINSBOROUGH STUDIOS
Box Office 0171 359 4404
Gainsborough Studios, Poole Street, off New North Road, London, N1
Monday - Friday evening performances at 7.30pm
Saturday matinees at 1.30pm
Saturday evenings at 7.45pm
Press Nights at 7.00pm
Link to the Almeida Theatre Site-http://www.almeida.co.uk/site.htm
September 24, 1999 Ralph Presents "Onegin" at Spain's San Sebastian Film Festival
There is a brief mention of Ralph on the Spanish web site, El Pais Digital. Here is a photo from the article.
September 18, 1999 Onegin Press Conference at Toronto Film Festival
ONEGIN - Press Conference
TORONTO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL - 25TH ANNIVERSARY
There is a lot of talk lately about the lack of star quality in Hollywood today. Not that there isn't plenty of beautiful people, and not that there isn't plenty of talent. It just seems as though nobody has that certain something that made screen idols like Marilyn Monroe and James Dean the sensations they were. However, today's press conference for Onegin, the gala film closing this year's Toronto International Film Festival, went a long way in making this argument null and void. Star quality was in abundance as executive producer and star Ralph Fiennes (Evgeny Onegin), star Liv Tyler (Tatyana Larin), director Martha Fiennes (yes, she's his sister), and producer Simon Bosanquet wowed the press with a great show of support for their film.
Ralph first read Onegin when he was a student in drama school. He spoke about what attracted him to the role and why he always seems to play the tragic loser-in-love. Ralph Fiennes: I loved the character of Onegin when I read it. I liked the journey that he went on from a cynical jaded man who wasn't really connected to his emotions until it was too late. And, I love the counterpoint with Tatyana…It sort of sat in my head, as it where, as something someday to realize in a dramatical form. One academic described Onegin as a love story in which nothing happens twice. I like that. I don't see [the characters] as losers. I've chosen parts where people go through a life passage or a rough time and they either survive it or they don't. They have more dimensions and they're more human. Human fallibility interests me.
Liv on getting the part and finding chemistry with Ralph.
Liv Tyler: This was something that I desperately wanted and I knew I had to play this part. I as a nineteen year old living in New York, lying on my bed reading the poem I was so moved by what it was about. This love and this affection. I completely understand what it was about. Waiting to hear was painful and then I got this great phone call. I screamed and dropped the phone. Such a beautiful challenge and at such a young age.
Martha: Liv had a quality from the very beginning. We were very excited. The decision to cast her was absolutely unanimous. She brought this quality that is Tatyana. Liv: You grow really close with the people that you work on a film with. There's so much in the material that you just look at it and read it; see it's so passionate. And Ralph's an amazing, gorgeous guy. There's just something that happens…
Ralph: It helps to like the person you work with. It's as necessary as feeling comfortable in the clothes that you're wearing, or the lines that you're saying.
Liv: It's not necessary, but it helps. The film's winter scenes were filmed in St. Petersburg, giving the cast a chance to get a feel for the history behind the story:
Ralph: The Russians tend to be very nervous about how the West is going to portray their classics. They're afraid it will get the Hollywood treatment. My experience is that [Russians] are incredibly generous, incredibly open and incredibly affectionate and at the same time also incredibly nationalistic and incredibly protective of their culture. One of the things that bonded the incredible praise of the film is that it looks like a Russian film. This could not be made in Russia because [Pushkin] is so sacred. The most extraordinary thing is this story has never ever been filmed and it's the most read classic in Russia. After the Bible there's Pushkin. Liv: They shot in St. Petersburg and I wasn't in any of those scenes but I went because I wanted to know what Russia was like. But, ultimately I feel you have to push everything aside and just feel and think…be in the moment. It's not about history but about the person.
Martha: The literary tradition we've borrowed from is very different. [British literature] has not the same depth of emotion that Russian literature has, not the same land mass, contrasts, weather. It's just very different. There's a lot to explore there.
Ralph: There's a great irony with Onegin. Pushkin died at thirty-six in a dual over his wife. I think in a lot of ways Pushkin was creating his own perfect woman with Tatyana. Martha and Ralph assured everyone that working together was not a great collaborative experience (their brother Magnus Fiennes is the composer for the film). Ralph also promised that he hasn't avoided working with his brother Joseph, but that the opportunity simply hasn't come along. Could it be that a film starring Ralph and Joseph directed by Martha and composed by Magnus is in the works? Talk about star quality.
-Kimberley K. Brown
Link to the Toronto Film Festival Web Site http://www.bell.ca/filmfest/99/home.asp?levelOneID=6&levelTwoID=4&levelThreeID=53&dailyNewsID=9
September 15, 1999 Sunshine Receives Luke Warm Review
Reuters reports that the epic story portrayed in "Sunshine" is too narrative and doesn't let story unfold with character portrayal. Here's a quote from the article about RF's performance particularly,
"In his significant time onscreen Fiennes limns a distinctive look and gait for each generation: a ramrod-straight demeanor for Ignatz (complete with Freudish beard and pince-nez), a clipped mustache and athlete's swagger for Adam and the bespectacled intensity of the vengeful Ivan. Yet for all his physical fearlessness (two sequences include full frontal nudity, and some of the sex is rough), there are more sparks than fire, leaving an essential void and chill where the passion should be. " (Reuters, Boston Globe)
It seems as if the size of the script (originally 600 pages) was cut down, and that may be the reason for the narrative substitutions for action in the film. Apparently in each of the three "acts" where RF is a different character of the Sonnenschein family, he is embroiled in a romantic affair of one sort or another, but according to the review we are tob be left cold again (dolt!!!).
All we can do is hope for a wide release and let our judgement follow our unbiased (hahahah) first viewing. Alliance Atlantis is the distribution company for UK, Canada, International.
To read the full contents of the article, click on this link,
September 14, 1999 Sunshine Premiered in Toronto
word yet from critics about the film,
but an article in the Toronto star yesterday mentioned that the U.S. pr firm handling the publicity of the film was giving first dibs for interviews to U.S. journalists/news outlets. Canadian press people were obviously put out, since the film is premiering at the Toronto Film Festival, and Alliance Atlantis, the film's distributor is a Canadian distribution company. The film is already rumored to be Oscar material. Here are two pics from Canoe, http://www.canoe.ca.
September 4, 1999
Onegin to Close Toronto Film Festival
Apparently Onegin will be the closing film at the Toronto Film Festival this year, Sept. 9 through 18. Joseph Fiennes will also be attending for a screening of his upcoming film, as well as Sophie for her short film, and Martha to support Onegin. "Sunshine" will also be premiering there as well. The specific Dates are listed below:
Viacom Galas (most films in this category are North American premieres)
"Sunshine" Monday 09-13-99
"Onegin" Saturday 09-18-99
To order tickets call: (416) 968-FILM
To checkout the official website visit this link: http://www.bell.ca/filmfest/99/index.asp
Ralph Plays Voice of Jesus
Ralph will be the voice of Jesus in a claymation movie called
"The Miracle Maker". The story is told from the perspective of a sick
little girl who is cured by Jesus. "The Miracle Maker" will air on
ABC on Easter, April 23, 2000.
Source: Los Angeles Times, 9-02-99
Release Date for The End of the Affair
The official release date for The End of the Affair will be December 3, 1999.
08/07/99 Ralph Taking Year Off to Do Theatre
Thanks to Felice on the Forum for posting the contents of this article from the UK EXPRESS:
UK's Express (August 2, 1999)
Ralph Fiennes, star of The English Patient, is abandoning his film career for a year to act in small theatres across the UK. The Oscar-nominated actor will spend the next year appearing in touring productions of Shakespeare's Richard II and Coriolanus.
Friends of the star say he has agreed to do the tour and is determined to take theatre to people who have little contact with it. Shows may even be staged in places as remote as the Scottish Islands. Fiennes' decision follows Sir Ian McKellan's move to Leeds to escape the narrow theatrical confines of London.
The plays will be put on in London first, but not in a theatre, said an insider. "They will be staged in a completely new type of venue, something like an abandoned warehouse or an abandoned housing estate, something unorthodox to get away from the usual places."
Although Ralph, 36, was courted by Hollywood after the success of The English Patient and Schindler's List, he is said to be extremely cautious about the lure of Tinseltown after his much-hyped follow-up move, The Avengers, flopped. The film, also starring Uma Thurman, was described by one critic as "an insult to cinema" although Fiennes personally acquitted himself well. But a friend said "That Ralph has committed himself completely to the stage is largely in reaction to that farrago. It has certainly made him fight shy of Hollywood."
Fiennes agent said: "Ralph is keen to spend more time in theatre as that has always been one of his major passions." In the meantime, the actor, who spent last month on a safari holiday with his partner Francesca Annis, has three new films in the offing. He stars in Onegin, directed by his sister Martha - adapted from Pushkin's classic novel Eugene Onegin. He plays four roles in an epic arthouse movie A Taste of Sunshine, and has finished work on Neil Jordan's adaptation of the Graham Greene novel The End of the Affair.
Fiennes' brother Joe is also sticking to more low-key movies, despite big Hollywood offers following Shakespeare in Love. He is filming a Western in Macedonia.
07/27/99 Ralph and Joe and Sophie on Charlie Rose, etc.
Thanks to all the fans who notified us about the interview with Ralph on Good Morning America this morning, as well as the interview with Ralph, Joe, and Sophie on Charlie Rose. There should be transcripts from Good Morning America available on the GMA website, and you can order tapes there as well. You can order Charlie Rose transcripts and tapes at his site. Here are the links. I will probably have a clip and some quotes from both eventually, but in the mean time, here are links to the sites to get more info...
Good Morning America
7/8/99 Sunshine will be in Toronto Film Festival
"...The festival runs September 9-18. ...Festival
organizers announced a slew of other films that would be making their world
and North American
Hungarian veteran Istvan Szabo's "Sunshine," a tale of three generations of a Jewish-Hungarian family featuring
Ralph Fiennes in three roles, will be shown for the first time in North America
A beaming Szabo, best known for his 1983 Oscar-winning picture "Mephisto," described the sweeping tale --
some sections of which were filmed in his childhood apartment in Budapest -- as deeply personal and thanked
his collaborator, Hungarian-born producer Robert Lantos. "
Source: "Toronto Film Festival to have a distinctly Spanish accent " Reuters News Service, by AMRAN ABOCAR.
06/21/99 Ralph and Family Raising Money for Kosovo/Unicef
Thank Warwolf, our dedicated news source for this article from the BBC!
Stars come out for Kosovo
Act Now Kosovo aimed to raise £100,000 for Unicef
Actors Ralph and Joseph Fiennes have led celebrities backing the United Nations Children's Fund's work with
Kosovo's refugees at a charity event in London.
The brothers led 300 guests at the Banqueting House for the Act Now Kosovo dinner on Wednesday, which aimed to raise £100,000 for Unicef.
The dinner was followed by a special concert featuring performances by Midge Ure, Nigel Kennedy and Des'ree.
The evening's host, Roger Moore - a Unicef amassador -also appeared on stage to talk about his visit to the
He said of his experiences in Macedonia: "One lasting impression I have was when a young refugee,
which I thought was a boy, turned out to be a girl.
"Her father had shaved her head because he was petrified she would be raped."
Items auctioned during the evening included a watercolour footprint of ballerina Darcey Bussell and a weekend for six aboard a luxury yacht in the Agean. Singer Kylie Minogue did her bit - bidding £11,000 for a bottle of champagne.
Ralph and Joseph Fiennes teamed up with their brother Magnus and his Macedonian wife Maya to form the committee which organised the event.
Shakepeare in Love star Joseph said: "Ralph and I just want to do our little bit to make people more aware of
this situation and we hope others will support this marvellous cause.
"Act Now Kosovo has been set up to raise vital funds for the children and to increase public awareness of their
dreadful plight. It is always the innocent children who suffer from the complications of war."
Concert pianist Maya Fiennes is originally from Macedonia, which is now struggling to cope with a huge unflux of Kosovar refugees.
"What has happened in Kosovo is a terrible disaster," said Maya.
"I simply want to do something in my own small way to help."
The event also saw Magnus and Maya team up with Roger Moore's son Geoffrey to perform in a band called
Odessa with Nigel Kennedy.
Unicef is hoping to raise £41m for financing health care and education, as well as raising awareness of the
dangers of land mines and providing people with help on their return journeys to their villages.
If you would like to donate money to UNICEF's Kosovo relief effort, click here to visit their site...
Link to orgininal BBC Article..
06/06/99 Major Aricle about TEOTA in NY Times, thanks Warwolf :-)
the Drama Between the Novelist's Lines
by Sarah Lyall
When he re-read Graham Greene's "End of the Affair" some six years ago, the screenwriter and director Neil Jordan was struck, as he had been years earlier, by its wrenching evocation of the dark forces that drive human behavior.
Movie rights to the story, about a tragically thwarted love affair in London during World War II, had long been owned by Columbia Pictures, which had made a film of "The End of the Affair" in 1955, two years after the book was published. But the movie, which starred Deborah Kerr and the American musical-and-Western star Van Johnson, was widely considered a dud, and it quickly faded into merciful obscurity.
That was fine with Jordan, the idiosyncratic, exacting Irish filmmaker known for works like "Mona Lisa" and "The Crying Game." He believed that the book, one of Greene's finest depictions of the agonizing tugs and pulls between love and duty, was ripe for a re-translation onto the screen. And so he wrote his own screenplay, adding high drama where Greene tended to go off on fascinating -- but perhaps not as cinematic -- inner tangents.
The truth is, said Jordan, that while Greene's novels seem patently cinematic, because of the clarity of the prose and the concreteness with which each scene is painted, they depend so heavily on internalized drama that it's necessary to take liberties.
"I think it's a great opportunity to explore a love affair from two different points of view, and a great book about jealousy," said Jordan. "But there was a beautiful human drama in the book that Greene didn't quite bring to the surface, because he was so concerned with metaphysics, religion and philosophy. You can feel him manipulating the characters toward emotions and issues he wants to explore."
The film has recently finished its six-week shoot in various spots around England, including London, where streets were turned back into those of wartime and its aftermath.
The movie, which is tentatively scheduled for release at the end of the year, stars Ralph Fiennes as Maurice Bendrix, the jealous novelist who falls passionately in love with a married woman and whose tortured narration describes the sad unraveling of the affair. Julianne Moore plays Bendrix's lover, Sarah Miles, a woman who makes a devil's bargain with God himself. And Stephen Rea, the melancholy staple of Jordan films, plays Henry, Sarah's husband, whose asexual dullness conceals a deep reservoir of emotion.
Many admirers feel that Greene, the author of 24 novels that are as much about love and death as they are about how Englishmen behave at home and abroad, was a brilliant storyteller who has never been well served by the movies. Most film adaptations of his work, like "The Heart of the Matter" and "The Quiet American," have been decidedly mediocre; the exception, "The Third Man," was based not on a novel but on Greene's original screenplay.
The 1955 version of "The End of the Affair" sounds like one of the worst of the bunch. According to Jordan, who seems to be one of the few people who have seen it in recent years, the movie plodded along, squelching the high sensuality of Greene's work and emphasizing its concerns with morality, making it an overwrought tale about guilt and Catholicism.
At a time of Hollywood prudishness, the film was written to contain virtually no sex but a lot of tortured dialogue. "You had a lot of scenes of people standing outside churches saying, 'It's me you love,"' Jordan said.
Stephen Woolley, the film's producer and a longtime Jordan collaborator, said that the new script reflected a sea change in what Hollywood would and wouldn't accept. "They couldn't be as fair to the novel then," he said. "We can be much more explicit now. Greene was a controversial writer at the time, and now we regard him as a classic novelist, so we can make a much truer version of his book."
Greene himself never liked the 1955 adaptation. When he visited the set at Shepperton studios during filming and observed an intimate scene between Sarah and Bendrix, he cringed to watch his words being brought to life before him.
Writing in The Observer of London, Quentin Falk described Greene's reaction: "Greene once told me, with still slightly shocked recall: 'They were trying to do one of those shots where you get the same scene from each person's point of view. When the camera eventually moved to be on her in the same close embrace, he put chewing gum in his mouth!"'
Jordan's script takes a gamble, at least by the standards of Greene purists, by changing the plot around so that the denouement -- the death of a protagonist -- occurs at the end of the film rather than in the middle, forcing a new twist in the action. But, Jordan argues, the change was necessary because of the difficulty of making a movie in which one of the main characters dies so early in the story.
As it happens, the script is lean and crisp and very true to Greene's own dialogue. "It's very hard to consolidate a novel like this into a script, and he's done a phenomenal job of adapting it," said Ms. Moore, wearing a 40s-style scarlet dress and hat as she sat on the set between scenes (the costumes for "The End of the Affair" were designed by Sandy Powell, who won an Academy Award for "Shakespeare in Love.")
Ms. Moore said that now that she has become a mother -- she has a 16-month-old son -- she can understand the sacrifice that Sarah makes in the film, all for love. "Her character speaks very clearly," Ms. Moore said. "She's made a couple of promises, and she's a person of her word. When you love someone that much and you make a promise based on their well-being, then you keep that promise."
The plot of "The End of the Affair" turns on the tortured, jealous, regretful nature of Bendrix, a character based on Greene himself in what was perhaps the most autobiographical of his novels. Like Bendrix, Greene fell hopelessly, jealously in love with a married woman whose Catholicism was a driving force in her life.
It was an ill-fated relationship: the woman, Catherine Walston, would not leave her husband, who knew of and tolerated the affair, and while Greene converted to Catholicism to prove his love for her, he quickly began to betray her at every turn. Jordan and Fiennes pored through Greene's old letters, journals and other documents to understand more about the author, and about the fiction he created around his life (the novel was dedicated to Mrs. Walston).
As tortured as he was, Greene never lost his writerly distance from his own life, and he gave Bendrix the same gift of detachment. "Greene once said there was a splinter of ice in the heart of every novelist," Jordan said. "He had an extraordinary ability to feel an emotion, and then examine his feelings about it."
Fiennes said that while he had always been intrigued by Greene's moral ambiguity, he had been particularly drawn to the film because of its exploration of the choices and burdens of religious faith. His mother, he said, was a disillusioned Catholic; he himself rejected Catholicism at the age of 13. "In my mother's family, the debate about faith and belief was very central," he said.
The film is also an effort to examine the same events from different points of view, and sometimes shows the same scene twice, through Bendrix's eyes and then Sarah's. One of the things he found particularly interesting, Jordan said, is how little the characters in the book truly understand their own emotions. "I wanted to explore the way that sex and the idea of love seem like such ultimate issues in people's lives," he said. "But in the novel, even people who say, 'I'll love you forever' can't escape the promises and pledges that they've made."
New York Times on the web: http://www.nytimes.com/yr/mo/day/artleisure/end-of-affair-film.html
Photo: David Appleby/Columbia Pictures
6/06/99 Warwolf, another tip on BBC article (excerpted from article on Pushkin)
British film slated
But if he is the people's poet, he is also claimed by the literary elite - which guards his legacy with a ferocious tenacity.
It reserves a pitying contempt for foreign interpretations of the great master's work - including the recent British film production of Eugene Onegin, shown at Cannes last month and now appearing in Moscow.
Reviews here have mocked its historical anachronisms: the singing for instance of a Soviet propaganda song - proof, they say, that Russian culture simply does not translate.
Yet within Russia, Pushkin remains hard to pin down. He is everything to every man.
When Stalin's hacks marked the 100th anniversary of his death in 1937, they portrayed him as a people's poet who fought the tyranny of tsarism.
Yet you don't have to look very hard to find Pushkin the Supporter of Autocracy or Pushkin the Dissident.
No wonder that Russia's contemporary rulers - still struggling to find a new state ideology - are so keen to hijack him as one of their own. As the race hots up for next year's presidential elections, Pushkin is becoming part of the battleground. The Kremlin has locked horns with Yury Luzhkov, the mayor of Moscow and a leading contender, over the purchase of a note handwritten by the poet himself. Pushkin, renowned for his sense of humour, would have enjoyed the spectacle.
A Great Honor for the Interactive Page
Maria Tsodokova, a Russian journalist, photographer, and actress has agreed to publish her critique of the film on this site. Our warm thanks for this unique perspective on a film that perhaps not all of us will have the privilege of seeing. Her insights are greatly appreciated, as well as her photographic contributions. Please do not copy the article or photos without express permissions of the author/photographer. Thanks, Bos..
Ralph Fiennes as Onegin
- The opinion of a native Russian.
by Maria Tsodokova
If you would ask a Russian, no matter old or young, male or female low or high class what is the most famous Russian poet and writer, you may expect them to answer Pushkin with no doubt. Pushkin, a Russian Shakespeare, the father of Russian language, the most exquisite master of words, a person who not only captured the essence of romance, dramatism and mystery of the Russian soul, but also left us a precious description of what Russia was in his time. His most famous novel "Evgeny Onegin" is known not only for being a wonderful masterpiece of literature and a manifestation of Pushkin's poetic genious, but as well an encyclopedia of Russian life, culture, behavior, layers of society and of course the atmosphere of his epoque. For any Russian this book is something sacred, something that each child can easily quote from.
I must surly and honestly pay homage to Martha Fiennes as the director, for treating this masterpiece with as much care and understanding as a foreigner possibly could. What truly surprised me, in the movie "Onegin" starring Ralph Fiennes as the lead character and Liv Tyler as Tatyana, directed by Martha Fiennes, is an absolute faithfulness towards the spirit of the novel. The rhythm, the colours, the sets,the costumes, the mood--everything matched the way I imagined it to be.
This is the first ever ecranisation of the novel, and the two made by Russian directors didn't follow the novel directly and were made based on Tchaikovsky's Opera. I have to admit they were primitive and not interesting at all in comparison to this movie which left me breathless both times I saw it. Yes, believe it or not, but I, knowing this novel in verse by heart since school, went to see it for the second time, that's how deeply it moved me.
Ralph Fiennes does a truly magnificient job in this movie, partly because he remains faithful to his character, and in truth IS Onegin, thrown by a cruel hand of a casting director among the characters who seemingly belong to other story (Try to imagine Heathcliff among characters of Jane Austen's "Emma" and in it's atmosphere nd you'll see what I mean). Liv Tyler more or less resembles her heroine, showing an impressive acting ability, which I honestly did not expect. To me she just looks way too American, but perhaps it's just the case of a non-objective Russian opinion, and forgeigners wouldn't see it that way. But as we go on to other characters I'm afraid my praising comes to an end. I would perhaps accept Larina to be this refined lady she is in the movie, instead of a fat village woman, with a round face, and behavior of a hen taking care of her chickens. I could even live with Onegin's servant resembling more of a british gentlemen then of an old man who had no point in living over than serving his master. But Tatyana's husband being young and handsome is tottaly unacceptable, along with Vladimir Lensky being a primitive vilager, and almost of Onegin's age.
The biggest misunderstanding that I would like to make clear, is that Lensky was a 18 years old, romantic and high-spirited nobleman, well read and educated, totally enchanted by German philosophers and poets, and willing to sacrifice himself for the sake of love. He had long flowing curly hair, was a gentle soul, and a poet. Onegin feels for him as for a younger brother or even a son, not just as the only companion he could have found in that rather boring place( and the movie certainly gives you the wrong impression).
The point of the duel, (that is, by the way a perfectly executed scene, with absolutely adorable acting by Fiennes and astoundignly beautiful camera work, - one of the best moments in the movie) was that Lensky was way too fond of knights and conquests he read about in his books, and he lived in imaginary world and saw himself a hero defending the honor of a lady he loved. In the movie we only see that he acts out of stupid jealousy and that's all.
Unfortunately, when we meet Tatyana's husband, the mistakes made with Lensky's character fade in comparison to what was done here. In the original novel, Tatyana marries an old general, a disabled man, wounded during the war, just because she is told to. All she feels for him is pity, nothing more. And the most drammatic thing about the whole story, is that when a man of her dreams, her true love, finds himself in love with her, realizes how precious she is to him, how much he adores her and how wrong he was refusing her feelings, Tatyana sacrifices her chance for happiness with him, choosing instead to be with an old man she doesn't love and whose last years of life she's destined to brighten by reading him french novels and being at his side at the balls.In the movie version, one would wonder whether there was even a sacrifice, since she refused one man for another, as young, handsome and a lot more rich and powerful. But on that note, I think I'm done with criticism, and would like to turn back to praising the films finer moments.
A scene in the library, that doesn't exist in the original novel, is a truly perfect addition to the story. It keeps the style and the idea of the original plot and yet gives us a hint of what kind of man Onegin was and why after all Tatyana fell in love with him. I must admit, that Martha Fiennes did a great job as the director, because this novel in verse is VERY hard to make a into a movie version.
The story is told from the perspective of one who watches on the outside, like an author who as we say "knows everything". For instance, in the book, before the letter scene and a talk in the garden, Tatyana and Onegin hardly exchange a single word (they of course do, but it is not described to the readers), so we hardly get the idea of how exactly and why she falls in love with him. In the movie, the romantic plotline is developed perfectly, creating suspense and an emotionaly stirring atmosphere. Mr. Fiennes's power in creating the emotions of a character with a single look, gesture , sigh or word deserves the most credit.
If I'm may voice my humble opinion, then I would say that Fiennes is the best
Onegin I've ever seen on stage or in the movies (including opera versions).
He captured the main idea of the character, his inner world, the conflict and
his struggling to find himself, perfectly. No cliches, no stupid stereotypes,
no primitive solutions can be found in his acting and in the movie in general
"Onegin" is a huge step toward understanding the true Russian culture and people.This is the first movie made by non-russians that doesn't make me laugh. In fact, the first movie ever, based on Russian classics and filmed by foreigners, that made me cry... All that is left to say here, is that I can forgive all the mistakes, all this misunderstanding of other characters, all historical faults (like using songs from post-world-war movies for the soundtrack), for the brilliant acting of Ralph Fiennes, Martha Fiennes's most beautiful and truly amazing camera work, and for the fact that for the first time in the history of non-Russian cinematography Russia is shown as it truly was.
*To learn more about Maria, and her work, visit her web site at http://www.geocities.com/Area51/Zone/6394/stage/
06/03/99 Warwolf Strikes another Gold Nugget of News :-) Another Times Onegin article....
As St Petersburg parties in honour of the poet, Imogen Edwards-Jones finds out what the locals make of Ralph Fiennes's movie Onegin
Stars Liv Tyler and Ralph Fiennes in St Petersburg this week for the premiere: the critics sniggered at the anachronisms
Photograph: ALEXANDER DEMIANCHUK/REUTERS
Russia launches the big Pushkin
Russians tend not to do things by halves. A romantic and fatalistic people, they are not prone to petty gestures or banal emotions. Throughout their suffering they have managed not only to maintain their dignity, but also fiercely to preserve their immense culture. So it should be no surprise that when it comes to the 200th birthday celebrations of arguably their greatest national treasure and intellectual export, the literary colossus Alexander Sergeievich Pushkin, they have put together something more exciting than cocktails in the park.
A week before his actual birthday on June 6, St Petersburg - the city where he was born and found his fame - is awash with the bard. Not since the Princess of Wales has one face been used to launch so many coins, chocolates and tea towels. But this is a lot more than just a marketing exercise. Set against the eerie background of the mystic midsummer "White Nights", when the sun barely bothers to set, his work is being performed everywhere from the smallest to the largest of venues. Both the Bolshoi Drama Theatre and the Alexandrinsky Theatre have new productions of Boris Godunov (the Alexandrinsky was the venue for the first ever performance of the play in 1870), and tonight at the Great Catherine Palace, Carlo Ponti will conduct the Russian State Academic Chamber Orchestra in a grand gala concert. Even the Galitzine Library is holding a poetry competition for St Petersburg schoolchildren with prizes presented and organised by the Duchess of Abercorn, a descendant of Pushkin.
The lengthy birthday celebrations, which will spill over into July and the White Nights cultural festival itself, were launched with the theatre and film director Alexander Galibin's staging of Tchaikovsky's The Queen of Spades at the Kirov Opera. A stunningly stylised performance of Magritte-like tableaux, it was conducted by Valery Gergiev, who arrived fresh from his success at the £1 million benefit at Buckingham Palace. A glamorous evening attended by the intellectual elite of St Petersburg, it proved to be the prefect precursor to the highlight of the Pushkin celebrations: the world premiere of Ralph Fiennes's movie version, with his younger sister, Martha Fiennes, of Pushkin's most famous work, Eugene Onegin, originally a novel written in verse.
The film adaptation, simply titled Onegin, was reportedly given mixed reviews when shown to a group of journalists the day before. They had supposedly giggled at dull and pernickety inaccuracies, such as Tatyana's name day shown as falling in summer instead of in January, and the anachronistic use of the Stalinist drinking song, Cossacks From the Kuban. However, when Onegin was shown to St Petersburg's notoriously critical literati, the reaction was markedly different.
The mood both at the opening in the Aurora Cinema, attended by Ralph, Martha and Joseph Fiennes and the film's other star, Liv Tyler, and at the aftershow party at the Anichkov Palace on Nevsky Prospekt, was entirely positive. All were full of admiration for Martha's direction and expressed profound respect for Ralph's performance as Onegin - the cynical, jaded aristocrat who shoots his friend in a duel and is eventually destroyed by unrequited love. Far from being critical about the various changes made in a text so well known to Russians that even taxi-drivers quote his couplets, there were many who said they would have liked them to have been even more free with the verse.
Standing in the red carpeted foyer of the cinema, surrounded by billowing white sheeting, Stanislav Makarov, a poet and artist, said: "It's a very good version of the poem, because it is English. I liked the way they changed things around a bit. Every shot was beautiful. It was a clean and open view. I wasn't expecting to like it. After all the rubbish I'd heard, I thought that it was going to be like a Hollywood film. But Hollywood would never have made such a beautiful film. They'd have made them have sex at the end."
One Russian with Hollywood experience, the Oscar-winning director of Burnt by the Sun, Nikita Mikhalkov, was also full of praise. On his way to the champagne reception where they served sturgeon and peaches, he said: "It's a different Pushkin. But it is obviously produced by people who have deep respect and love of his work. There was a very good feeling to the film. I respected it very much." He laughed at the suggestion that the film might be too commercial and not faithful enough to the original work, adding somewhat cryptically: "If people eat McDonald's all the time, they'll get food poisoning from caviar."
In the glorious gilt confines of the Anichkov Palace, as the string ensemble played and the artists, poets, designers and musicians of St Petersburg partied like Onegin would have done nearly 200 years before, Martha Fiennes looked at lot more relaxed than she had been the day before. Unlike her big brother, who is used to beguiling Russian audiences with his performance of their sacred cows - as he did just over two years ago, when he took Chekhov's Ivanov to Moscow with the Almeida Theatre - Martha had been slightly more apprehensive. After all, the project, produced almost entirely by a family (younger brother Magnus composed the music, Martha directed and Ralph was also executive producer) so talented they should consider selling their genes, had been a labour of love almost eight years in gestation.
"There is an innocence about the film," she explained. "As an outsider I can't afford to be inhibited by the cultural baggage of the work. I really genuinely have great confidence in it as a film, but it has to be viewed as a film: the story and the ideas are discernible through the medium, the layers and the subtext. As Ralph said, it's a process of adaptation, not of replication." She smiled and added stoically: "I have to look at the bigger picture. Of course people will have problems and criticisms, but this film must be appreciated by people who've never heard of Pushkin."
While the birthday celebrations continue with concerts and exhibitions all over the city, those who know an awful lot about Pushkin continue to praise Onegin, which will play at the Aurora for the next two months and then be released worldwide later in the year. "It's a perfect example of the neoclassical style that is fashionable here at the moment," pronounced Georgi Gurianov, one of the city's most celebrated artists. "It shows the true spirit of 19th-century Russia," opined interior designer Andrei Dimitriev.
"It's the new Dr Zhivago of our time," pronounced Simeon, a Mariinsky theatre actor on his way to the party. "We have been waiting a long time for the English Onegin," said Sergei Nekrasov, director of the Pushkin Museum, as he took the stage to raise the curtain on the film.
To judge by the reaction of the city's artistic community to the Fiennes project,
the English Onegin has most certainly arrived, and he's taken the place by storm.
Source: The Times of London (UK), contributed by warwolf
06/03/99 Article by Ralph Fiennes in this month's New Yorker Magazine
Everybody thank the Sad Eyed Lady, our fan goddess contributor of the day, for finding this article :-) Details to follow soon, as soon as I can get to the store :-) Have a great day.
06/02/99 Ralph to Possibly Play Everest Climber
This from the Mirror, June 2, 1999
FIENNES LINED UP AS TRAGIC EVEREST HERO ACTOR
Ralph Fiennes is set to play legendary climber George Mallory in a movie about the tragic assault on Mount Everest that claimed his life. Hero Mallory's body was found 2,030ft below the summit three weeks ago - perfectly preserved and frozen in time for 75 years.
Now his story is to be told in a big-screen drama made by Britain's United Productions. Film chiefs snapped up the rights to The Mystery of Mallory and Irvine, a book by Tom Holzel and Audrey Salkeld, soon after the body was found. Fiennes, 36 - star of classics like The English Patient and Schindler's List - is in real life the second cousin of top explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes.
The heartthrob star was said last night to be intrigued by the project. It promises to shed light on whether Mallory and companion Andrew Irvine actually completed the 9,028ft climb. If they did it was 29 years before Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay's official triumph. One United insider said: "Ralph hasn't signed on the dotted line yet - but he's perfect for this role".
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