MI6 profiles Ralph Fiennes, who has joined the cast of the 23rd James Bond adventure, "Skyfall", in a top secret role...

Meet The Cast - Ralph Fiennes
10th December 2011

Ralph Nathaniel Twisleton-Wykeham-Fiennes was born on December 22nd 1962 in East Anglia, Ipswich, UK. He is the eldest of six children by novelist Jennifer Lash and farmer-cum-photographer Mark Fiennes. His father spent time learning his trade in New Zealand and Australia before returning to the UK in the 1950s. Mark married Jennifer (known as Jini) in 1962, and that year their first son Ralph was born. Young Ralph has a prestigious family heritage: he is a distant cousin of both explorer Ranulph Fiennes and the Prince of Wales.

His five younger siblings followed in Ralph's (usually pronounced "Rafe") footsteps and went on to equally public careers as musicians, documentary directors or producers. Younger brother Joseph is an acclaimed actor in his own right.

The family moved frequently as a much-needed source of income for the burgeoning family came in the form of Mark buying, decorating and selling houses. In 1973, aged 11, Fiennes and his family moved to Ireland where he was educated at St Kieran's College in the north-east County Kilkenny. The school had a long and prestigious history, being the first Catholic-founded, diocesan school in Ireland under British rule. In 1976 the Fiennes family returned to England - after work dried up for Mark in Ireland - where Ralph finished his secondary education at Bishop Wordsworth's grammar School - an all-boys, Church of England school in Salisbury. Jini was a constant encouragement to all her children, promoting reading, drawing and painting. High up on the reading list was, unsurprisingly, Shakespeare's plays.

 
Datastream
Name: Ralph Fiennes
Character: [CLASSIFIED]
Film: Skyfall
Awards: 1 BAFTA, 1 BSFC award, 2 British Independent Film Awards, 2 London Critics Circle,
Hair: Brown
Eyes: Blue/Grey

By his mid 20s, Fiennes' interest in the dramatic arts had blossomed. Ralph had previously been enrolled in the Chelsea College of Art and Design, thinking that he should become a painter. When he opted instead for acting, he was accepted into the acclaimed RADA (Royal Academy of Dramatic Art), where he would study under Hugh Crutwell. Whilst studying, Ralph won roles with the Regent's Park Open Air theatre. The location is often used for high-profile performances of Shakespeare's work and has attracted several generations worth of British acting talent to perform therein. He graduated in 1985 and performed with the Welsh Theatr Clwyd and New Shakespeare Company.


"I veer away from trying to understand why I act. I just know I need to do it."

As a RADA graduate, Fiennes was offered the chance to join Royal Shakespeare Company in 1988. With the Company, Fiennes had the chance to play the title character in the 1988 production of "Henry VI", as well as supporting roles, such as Edmund in "King Lear", performed by the Company in 1990. Co-starring in this latter production was Alex Kingston, another RADA graduate, and would-be Mrs. Fiennes. Kingston and Fiennes marred in 1993. Sadly, by 1997, Kingston and Fiennes had separated as in 1995 Fiennes met and fell in love with actress Francesca Annis. Annis and Fiennes continued their relationship until 2002.

Almost 20 years later, Fiennes would return to the Royal Shakespeare Company to play the title character once more, this time in Henrik Ibsen-penned tragedy "Brand".


 

In the early 1990s, Ralph won his first TV roles, notably "A Dangerous Man: Lawrence After Arabia". It was a special in the "Great Performances" series and co-starred Siddig El Fadil (better known to Western audiences as Alexander Siddig). Fiennes' first cinema roles came swiftly thereafter: he took the role of Heathcliff in a 1992 screen adaptation of Emily Brontë's only novel, "Wuthering Heights".

Fiennes received international recognition through his portrayal of young and ambitious Amon Goeth, an Austrian Nazi in charge of the Plaszów concentration camp, in the Spielberg-helmed "Schindler's List" (1993). At the 1994 Oscars ceremony Fiennes was nominated for the Best Actor in a Supporting Role award. Whilst Fiennes himself did not win, the production picked up a slew of other Oscars, including Best Cinematography, Best Director and Best Picture.

Closely following the success of "Schindler's List" was the beautifully haunting but slowly paced "English Patient". This saw Fiennes play opposite Kristin Scott Thomas, Colin Firth and Willem Dafoe. The 1996 picture picked up nine Academy Awards, with Fiennes narrowly missing out on the Best Actor award.

By 2002, Fiennes had joined the all-star cast of "Red Dragon", the third Hannibal film starring Anthony Hopkins, hoping to recreate the terror and success of "Silence of the Lambs" (1991). Herein Fiennes plays spooky serial killer known as The Tooth Fairy. The same year, Ralph appeared in the light-hearted and decidedly American, "Maid in Manhattan". Fiennes plays Christopher Marshall a senatorial candidate in the romantic comedy about social status.

Since appearing in these two highly-acclaimed modern classics, Fiennes has taken on some more low-key roles. For instance, in 1998 he played suave spy John Steed (a role made famous by Patrick Macnee) in "The Avengers" - a big screen adventure. Also starring as the megalomaniac, Sir August de Wynter, was none other than debut 007 actor, Sean Connery. The cast was rounded off with a few more familiar British faces, including Jim Broadbent, Fiona Shaw, Eddie Izzard, Keeley Hawes and even, Patrick Macnee, who lent his voice to the character of Invisible Jones. The flick, ridiculously over-the-top as it was, earned poor reviews from critics and fans of the original TV "Avengers".


"I can tell you that John Logan has written a fantastic screenplay and [director] Sam Mendes is a class act. They're doing something quite special I think. I think they're going to be great for Bond." - Fiennes on 'Skyfall'.

"The Constant Gardner" (2005), in which Fiennes starred as the widower, alongside current Mrs. Craig, Rachel Weisz, attended the Oscars the following year with nominations for Editing, Screenplay (penned by Jeffrey Caine - one of the many writers behind "GoldenEye") and Weisz for Best Supporting Actress. Weisz won her Oscar but the production team left empty handed.

Throughout his 20-plus year career in films, Fiennes has successfully mixed light-hearted comedy and family flicks with dark and haunting villainous roles. In recent years, the actor has lent his voice to the "Wallace And Gromit" movie, starred as the arch-villain Voldemort in the successful film adaptation of "Harry Potter" and directed and starred in 2011's "Coriolanus", a modern retelling of Shakespeare's tragedy. Despite his slew of critically acclaimed films and role, Fiennes has never personally won an Oscar - although he undoubtedly contributed to the success of many award-worthy productions.

Fiennes was first linked to the 007 adventure, "Skyfall" in February 2011 when tabloids claimed "his Hollywood representatives are in discussions with the producers and director Sam Mendes". In late March, 2011, Ralph Fiennes was confirmed for stage run of "The Tempest". At the same time, Variety leaked that his commitment to a Sam Mendes production would mean a strictly limited run of Shakespeare. By September, Daniel Craig was open about the possibility that Ralph would be involved in the production. Initially press speculated that it would be either Javier Bardem or Fiennes who would take on a lead villain's role in the forthcoming "Bond 23". At the November press conference, 007's newest adventure was unveiled as "Skyfall" and director Mendes confirmed both Fiennes and Bardem had roles he could not discuss in the 23rd James Bond film.