Ralph Fiennes’ career has taken him from the swoon-inducing romantic hero of The English Patient to noseless Voldemort in the Harry Potter series. Now, in his fierce, accomplished first film as director, he has extended his range again with a topical, centuries-old political drama: Shakespeare’s Coriolanus, in which he plays the thorny title character, a war-hero turned candidate for office.
Very few actors are as articulate and animated as Fiennes, who in our video chat analyzes his approach to the film and occasionally veers into Shakespeare while discussing it. Updated from ancient Rome to the present, complete with 24-hour TV news, the film preserves Shakespeare’s language in a screenplay by John Logan (Hugo) that elegantly sculpts the story: returning home from war, Coriolanus is goaded by his mother – in an awards-buzzing performance by Vanessa Redgrave – to run for office, even though he resents having to campaign and doesn’t bother to conceal his arrogant disregard for common people.
The film opens Dec. 2 for an awards-qualifying week, then returns to theaters in January. Here’s our interview, broken for easier viewing into three short parts (Don’t panic – each runs about 5 mins. or less)
In Part 1, Fiennes talks about why Coriolaus is not better known and whether this prickly hero has anything to do with Voldemort or Vladimir Putin.
In Part 2, he talks about directing Redgrave, and what she brought to the part.
And in Part 3 he explains why he thinks that if Shakespeare were alive today he’d be writing for film.
Video shot by TAYLOR LEVY and DANIEL SHOGREN. Edited by MATTHEW LEVY.