Ralph Fiennes talks personal experience and comedy in “The Grand Budapest Hotel”

Rumors are flying about for this year’s potential Oscar nominees. Alongside other Harry Potter alumni, Ralph Fiennes (Lord Voldemort) is another name to add to the list of possible Oscar candidates. His role as the concierge, M. Gustave, in The Grand Budapest Hotel has placed him in the running for a possible nod for Best Actor. He has spoken more about the film in a recent interview.

Fiennes wasn’t always a famous actor; he has had real-life experience in the hotel trade during his time working as a porter in Brown’s Hotel, London:

I was basically a dogsbody for the housekeeping department – my job was to hoover the corridors, clean the brass, change the shower curtains.

He later left this job in order to pursue acting but was able to draw on his experiences for his role in The Grand Budapest Hotel:

As stylized as it was, I needed to know that there was a real life behind this character. So I decided he had also been a porter, that his father had been an impoverished shoemaker and [Gustave] had caught his first glimpse of this other world when he was sent around to deliver a pair of shoes for a wealthy client.

He also talks about the culture and manners associated with the film’s setting, a fictional European town in the 1930s:

For me, Gustave is representing that bygone world, where things like a table beautifully laid with precision and order mattered because they’re about a civilization and the best of human aspiration.

The film was written and directed by Wes Anderson and is a farcical, caper comedy, inspired by films from the 1930s and ’40s. Fiennes talks about how Anderson creates this style of comedy through physical actions:

You’re very aware that your physical alignment is part of a picture he’s making. He has a good idea for what physical shapes and gestures are funny, and he can demonstrate. Other times, I would just feel what was needed and do it.

While Gustave is very comedic character, he is capable of tender moments, particularly with his apprentice Zero, played by Tony Revolori. On Gustave’s reaction to Zero’s tragic past, Fiennes says,

He has the wonderful grace and humility to say, ‘I am so sorry. I didn’t know,’ and that has always moved me. You don’t see that very often in films, people saying I’m really sorry, forgive me. I love the way Wes has written the arc of that. It’s the scene where you see Gustave’s humanity most clearly.

Fiennes is not normally a name associated with comedic acting – it’s certainly a far cry from Lord Voldemort! – but his role as the eccentric concierge has garnered much attention and praise since the film was released earlier this year. We’ll have to wait until January 15, 2015, though, when this year’s Oscar nominations are announced, to see if his name appears among the candidates.

Have you seen The Grand Budapest Hotel? Would you like to see Ralph Fiennes nominated for an Oscar?

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