Ralph Fiennes on tackling Dickens, and the challenges of acting and directing
Ralph Fiennes has been a busy man recently, with The Invisible Woman due out this month, and The Grand Budapest Hotel out later this month. In preparation for the release of The Invisible Woman, Ralph has been giving many interviews. He recently spoke to ShockYa.com about juggling both acting and directing. On his decision to direct in the movie and star as Dickens, Ralph said that
“when this script (came my way) to direct and also possibly to play Dickens if I was interested I was cautious and a bit reluctant. I could see Dickens was a great role and I loved that. But I was uncertain of whether I wanted to go there again – into the ring with myself, as it were.”
Ralph said that he didn’t know much about Dickens initially, but having done some research he realized that Dickens was a complicated man:
“He was on the one hand this incredibly vital, socially gregarious, very furiously active man. And he was a controlling father, and very self-oriented. I think his work ethic was frightening and brilliant, and no one could keep up with it. I think he was driven by his sense of injustice as a child – his father was heavily in debt and he’d been made to go work in this blacking factory on the banks of the Thames (River), and I think he felt the humiliation of this, from 9 or 10 at the time, all through his life. I think he had this sort of fury about it. I think he was someone who was quick to feel slighted, and at the same time could be a very, very loyal friend. One of the great things in researching this was reading Dickens’ letters – you get a great insight into his fastidiousness, his attention to detail. I got the sense of a man with an uncontainable, unstoppable energy for life, but if you crossed him there was a real toughness.”
Ralph further talks in depth about Dickens, his relationship with his wife Catherine, his role as celebrity, as well as how he was inspired by Dicken’s story in his own role as actor and director;
“there’s a certain point where you can’t analyze too much. There’s a sort of heady adrenaline that takes over. It kind of bled over into (my performance as) Dickens. You have to make decisions and just go – the worst thing on a film set is that you stop to just ponder. […] In the end it’s often just instinct – I’m looking for some kind of emotional truth, some moment that I really believe is happening to that person.”
Ralph also states that “I think there was a slightly sociopathological streak in Dickens.”
In another interview, this time with FT Magazine, Ralph considers the wealth of roles that he has played over the years, from Lord Voldemort to Bishop of London in sitcom, Rev. Ralph also explores the topic of his new movie closer too. On the relationship that is portrayed in The Invisible Woman, Ralph says that
“It was a very slow, gradual build-up. I don’t think they rushed towards each other against the sunset. Nelly was young and tentative, Dickens was a married man. It was a very gradual coming-together.”
Ralph also comments on his directorial style, saying that
“when you are trying to portray what is happening inside someone’s mind, the face is your main landscape. I remember working with [the Hungarian director] Istvan Szabo, who told me, ‘For me, the cinema is about the close-up.’ Seeing the thoughts and feelings that are born on the face for the first time. When I worked with him, he was always looking for subtleties of expression. He wanted the moment when the text felt fresh. There is a fragility as an actor learns the scene that sometimes has disappeared by the sixth or seventh take. Some little hesitation, something in the eyes, something that’s unguarded, or an accident. Those are the precious moments.”
Ralph talks more about Dickens, showing just how much he knows about the author and his history. He reveals how through working on this movie, Dickens enchanted him,
“I think there is a lot of shadow in Dickens. A sense of corrupt people, morally challenged people of extraordinary eccentricity and idiosyncrasies. That gothic, dark side was very interesting to me.”
And finally, Ralph also reveals how much he enjoyed playing Lord Voldemort, “Of course Voldemort was terrific fun to act. But it was a mythic evil.”
Ralph clearly knows a lot about his subject matter, and evidently adores both acting and directing.
The Invisible Woman is in theaters from February 7.
What did you make of these interviews? Are you planning on going to see The Invisible Woman?