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Ralph Fiennes Talks About Directing Coriolanus (Video Interview)

by Caryn James
November 23, 2011 10:59 AM
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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.


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  • Hajnalka | November 25, 2011 10:32 AMReply

    This is one of the better one-on-one press junket interviews I've seen. Despite the tight scheduling/time limit, both interviewer and atmosphere appear calm, unhurried, civilized, and facilitative. She has done her homework and - although her questions to Fiennes are similar to those posed by countless other journos covering this film - the way and modulated manner in which she asks them makes all the difference. She is respectful, cordial, allows breath and space, and appears to really listen to his response; allowing Fiennes time to disarm, unlock and expand. Although he now appears less wary and anxious of the press and these often odious obligatory campaign/studio marketing responsibilities, he remains an extremely empathic, paradoxical individual who absorbs the energy in a room like a sponge and responds accordingly. The interaction can either drain him or fuel him. He usually appears far more relaxed speaking to women as opposed to men, with more open body language and less defensive hands fluttering nervously about the face.

    Re. the choice of retired 4-star General Stanley McChrystal as visual inspiration: the man has a lean, chiseled, almost religiously ascetic, hawk-like visage and bearing. A human Doberman with 'the look of eagles' -- wonderful choice. One man's monster may be another's hero. 'Coriolanus' remains my favourite Shakespearean work (closely followed by 'Twelfth Night' and 'A Winter's Tale'), and I very much look forward to this film. Thanks for this interview.

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