Speaking just before the opening in Britain of his new film about Charles Dickens, the acclaimed actor Ralph Fiennes, who became the new ‘M’ in Skyfall and will reprise the role in Bond 24, has told an interviewer he is ‘curious and excited’ about what the next James Bond movie might offer up.
Fiennes was interviewed at length for the FT Weekend Magazine, the weekend magazine of the UK’s Financial Times newspaper (February 1-2). The detailed interview, conducted by the newspaper’s Arts Editor Peter Aspden, was given to help publicise the new movie The Invisible Woman, which is directed by and stars the award-winning actor, and explores the little-known love life of Victorian novelist Charles Dickens.
The film, which has a screenplay by Abi Morgan and is based on the book by literary expert and historian Claire Tomalin, explores the relationship between the middle-aged writer Dickens (Fiennes) and his secret lover, 18-year old Ellen ‘Nelly’ Ternan (played by Felicity Jones). The controversial affair between Dickens and Ternan caused a scandal in Victorian society, broke up his marriage, and nearly ruined the famous 19th century author.
As well as reflecting on Dickens, Ralph Fiennes also spoke more generally about his extensive and wide-ranging acting career, both on stage and in film. This has ranged from the sadistic Nazi Amon Goeth in Schindler’s List (1993), through to his role as the aristocratic Count Laszlo de Almasy in the Oscar-winning The English Patient (1996) and, more recently, his return to villainous roles in Red Dragon (2002), In Bruges (2008), and as Lord Voldemort in the smash-hit series of Harry Potter movies (2005-11).
His role in Schindler’s List is often seen as his ‘breakthrough’ role, in the sense that it really made Hollywood sit up and take a great deal of interest in his talents. Fiennes told the FT: ‘Amon Goeth was a huge breakthrough for me. It was brilliantly written by Steven Zaillian, and the way I played him was totally to do with the way I was directed by Steven (Spielberg)’. Pressed further by the FT‘s Arts editor to talk about the challenge of playing evil figures, Fiennes responded: ‘Of course Voldemort was terrific fun to act. But it was mythic evil. Goeth is a historical figure, there have been biographies of him’. Fiennes pointed out that what Goeth stood for is all those men and women who agreed with Hitler’s proposals on the Final Solution.
In 2011 Fiennes also directed his first film, Coriolanus, in which he took the lead role and also updated the famous play by Shakespeare to give it a gritty political setting in a fictitious state, located somewhere in the contemporary Balkans. The screenplay was written by Skyfall scribe John Logan. And, of course, Fiennes recently played Gareth Mallory in Skyfall, a rather hardline Government Intelligence figure who, towards the end of the 23rd 007 adventure, inherited the role of MI6 boss ‘M’ from the late Olivia Mansfield (Dame Judi Dench).
Pressed at the end of the FT interview for some information about his role in Bond 24, Fiennes was (unsurprisingly) diplomatic: ‘I believe it’s being written as we speak. I am curious and excited to know what is going to be offered up’.
Fiennes and Bond 24
This latest update by Fiennes follows some other brief comments he has made in interviews when tackled on the subject of Bond 24. In October, 2013, when asked the inevitable question by a journalist about whether he would be in the next Bond movie, he said: ‘I think everyone knows that, I don’t think that’s particularly a secret’, and added: ‘I’m looking foward to it very much’.
Similarly, in December, 2013, in an interview given to an American newspaper to help promote The Invisible Woman, he said that, so far, he has been told little about Bond 24: ‘I’ve not been told anything, I have no information, no dates, no sense of the journey of my character at all’. One has to feel a bit sorry for Ralph, because he will inevitably face these types of questions on James Bond on numerous occasions in the future, given all the avid interest in anything 007.
Fiennes and Fleming
Not many people realise that Fiennes has been something of a Bond fan himself over the years, and this has emerged in various interviews in the past. In 2011, for example, speaking to IFC (the Independent Film Channel, based in New York), he said: ‘I love the Bond books particularly. I like the books even more than the films. I like the darkness of the books. But I’ve also enjoyed all the films’. He revealed that he vividly remembered seeing On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969), starring George Lazenby as Bond.
Again, in 2012, speaking to the Scottish Daily Record newspaper, Fiennes expressed his admiration for the Ian Fleming Bond novels, and said he used to be a ‘complete nerd about the books and the detail in them. They are fantastic. There was Fleming’s obsession with different kinds of champagne and caviar. He kind of fetishises these things’.
Fiennes, who is a long-standing friend of the director Sam Mendes, is also clearly not without a sense of humour when it comes to Bond. While he was waiting to commence shooting on Skyfall, Fiennes was spotted spending some time training in a gym. And members of the gym reported that when his mobile phone rang, it’s musical signature tune was the James Bond theme!
As well as appearing as the new ‘M’ in Bond 24, it is understood that Fiennes also has an option in his contract for Bond 25. His new film The Invisible Woman opens in the UK on February 7, 2014.