Ralph Fiennes (born Ralph Nathaniel Twistleton-Wykeham-Fiennes) is an English actor. A BAFTA Award winner and Academy Award nominee, Fiennes’ notable works include Schindler’s List (1993), Quiz Show (1994), The English Patient (1996), The Constant Gardener (2005), The Reader
(20080 and The Grand Budapest Hotel
(2014). Fiennes has also appeared in recurring roles in the Harry Potter film series (as Lord Voldemort) and the James Bond franchise (as Gareth Mallory aka M). He is also known for his work as a theatre artist, and is one among the foremost Shakespeare interpreters of his generation. Fiennes’ portrayal of Prince Hamlet has won him a Tony Award, and in 2011, he made his directorial debut in movies with yet another Shakespearean tragedy, Coriolanus. The actor is also an ambassador for UNICEF UK.
Ralph Fiennes was born in Ipswich, to writer Jennifer Lash and Mark Fiennes, who was a photographer and illustrator. He is the eldest of their six children. After finishing schooling, Fiennes joined the Chelsea College of Art to pursue painting, but soon realised that acting was his true calling. He then went on to join the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, subsequently performing at popular venues like Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre and Royal National Theatre early on in his career. It was during his stint at the prestigious Royal Shakespeare Company that the actor rose to prominence, which preceded his film debut in 1992.
Fiennes was married to actress Alex Kingston
for four years (between 1993 and 1997). After the dissolution of the marriage, he was in a relationship with actress Francesca Annis till 2006.
Fiennes is of English, Scottish and Irish ancestry, and the family is distantly related to the British royalty. Of his brothers, Joseph Fiennes
is an actor, Magnus Fiennes is a composer and Jacob Fiennes is a conservationist. Both his sisters, Martha and Sophie Fiennes
, are filmmakers.
After finding success in theatre and television, Fiennes made his film debut in 1992 with Wuthering Heights. Despite the poor critical reception, the movie became popular and Fiennes’ portrayal of Heathcliff caught the eye of Hollywood stalwart Steven Spielberg, who had no qualms about casting the actor in his next movie, Schindler’s List (1993). The historical drama, set in the times of Second World War, saw Fiennes playing Amon Goeth, a ruthless Nazi commandant. Schindler’s List went on to become an instant classic, earning numerous awards and over $300 million at the box office. For his portrayal of Goeth, Fiennes won numerous awards, including the BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role and an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor.
Fiennes portrayed yet another real-life personality - American intellectual Charles Van Doren - in the 1994 drama Quiz Show, which recounted the scandals that surrounded the 1950’s quiz show Twenty One. The movie was well-received, and currently holds a 96% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.Kathryn Bigelow
’s sci-fi thriller Strange Days was the actor’s sole release in 1995, which earned him a Saturn Award nomination for Best Actor.
In 1996, Fiennes played the leading role in the eponymous movie adaptation of Michael Ondaatje’s The English Patient, a romantic drama set against the backdrop of World War II. The film received 12 Academy Award nominations, and won 9. Fiennes was yet again in contention for Best Actor awards at BAFTA, Oscars and the Golden Globe Awards, but lost to Geoffrey Rush
. Throughout the late 1990’s, the actor continued to appear in several critically acclaimed dramas: the novel adaptations Oscar and Lucinda (1997), The End of the Affair (1999) and Onegin (1999); the animation movie The Prince of Egypt (1998) and the historical drama Sunshine (1999).
In 2002, Fiennes appeared in two high-profile psychological thrillers: alongside Anthony Hopkins
and Edward Norton
in Red Dragon and in the
movie Spider. His distinct and nuanced portrayal of two mentally disturbed characters was hailed in all circles, and won him yet another Saturn Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor. After a three-year hiatus, the actor returned to the limelight with The Constant Gardener (2005) and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005). The former, which was based on a John le Carre novel of the same name, saw Fiennes essaying the role of a bereaved husband who sets out to unravel the mystery surrounding his wife’s murder; while the latter had him playing the central antagonist of the movie series, Lord Voldemort. Fiennes earned a BAFTA Award nomination for Best Actor and an MTV Movie Award nomination for Best Villain for his roles in these movies. In 2008, Fiennes appeared in supporting roles in the black-comedy In Bruges
(2008) and the period drama The Duchess (2008), both of which earned him a British Independent Film Award nomination that year. Subsequently, the actor appeared in pivotal supporting roles in awards season favourites like The Reader (2008) and The Hurt Locker (2009), the latter of which won an Academy Award for Best Picture.
Fiennes played the Greek god Hades in the epic adventure Clash of the Titans
(2010), and despite the poor critical reception, the film went on to gross close to $500 million in the box office. In the same year, he reprised his role as Lord Voldemort in the penultimate Harry Potter movie, The Deathly Hallows - Part I. He appeared for one final time as the evil lord in the 2011 sequel Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows - Part II
, which in combination with its predecessor grossed over $2 billion worldwide. In 2011, Fiennes turned director with the film adaptation of Shakespeare’s Coriolanus. His experience as a Shakespearean actor and interpreter stood him in good stead in his maiden directorial venture (where he also played the protagonist), and the movie was applauded by the critics. Coriolanus currently holds a 93% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
The actor then co-starred in another popular franchise with the 2012 James Bond movieSkyfall
, where he played Gareth Mallory aka M, an iconic supporting role in the film series which in the past had been essayed by Judi Dench
. The movie was a phenomenal success, opening to near-universal critical acclaim and crossing the $1 billion mark at the box office. Subsequently, Fiennes explored the world of Charles Dickens
through his next two movies - Great Expectations (2012) and The Invisible Woman
(2013). While he played a supporting character in Great Expectations, Fiennes returned to the director’s chair withThe Invisible Woman
, where he played the author himself. The film received generally favourable reviews, reaffirming Fiennes’ talents as a filmmaker.
In 2014, Fiennes starred in the Wes Anderson
comedy The Grand Budapest Hotel
, which featured an ensemble cast that included Bill Murray
, Edward Norton
, Tilda Swinton
, Jude Law
, Owen Wilson
, Adrien BrodyWillem Dafoe
and Jeff Goldblum
. The film opened to universal critical acclaim, and was a commercial success. The Grand Budapest Hotel was an awards season juggernaut, earning over 200 nominations and winning over 120 awards, including four Academy Awards. For his performance as Monsieur Gustave H., Fiennes received Best Actor nominations at all major award ceremonies.
In 2015, the actor starred alongside Tilda Swinton
and Dakota Johnson
in the drama A Bigger Splash, for which he received nominations at the San Francisco Film Critics Circle Awards and Evening Standard British Film Awards. In the same year, he reprised his role as Gareth Mallory/M in the James Bond movie Spectre
. Fiennes joined yet another impressive ensemble with the Coen Brothers movie Hail Caesar
(2016), where he played a European film director named Laurence Laurentz. Kubo and the Two Strings, which was released in the same year, featured Fiennes is a voice role alongsideMatthew McConaughey
, Charlize Theron
and George Takei
. The film, which holds a 97% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, received two nominations at the 89th Academy Awards, for Best Animated Feature and Best Visual Effects. Fiennes then voiced Alfred Pennyworth in the animated action comedy The Lego Batman
Movie. The action comedy Holmes and Watson is the latest from the actor, where he will be seen alongsideWill FerrellJohn C. Reilly
. Television Career
Prior to his film debut, Fiennes had already made his mark in television with a starring role in the British television film A Dangerous Man: Lawrence After Arabia and a guest role in the police procedural drama Prime Suspect. In 2008, he returned to television after a long hiatus, starring alongside Susan Sarandon
in Bernard and Doris, a comedy drama based on the real-life story of the complex relationship between American socialite Doris Duke and her butler Bernard Lafferty. For his performance, Fiennes received Golden Globe, Primetime Emmy and Screen Actors Guild (SAG) nominations that year. He then guest-starred in the sitcom Rev. as the Bishop of London. Fiennes also had recurring roles as Prime Minister Alec Beasley in the political thriller series popularly referred to as the The Worricker Trilogy, which consisted of Page Eight (2011), Turks and Caicos (2014) and Salting the Battlefield (2014).