Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Ralph Fiennes on Sunshine

Toronto Star interviewed Ralph Fiennes about Sunshine in 1999.

''I look to have a very strong gut response to a script, the writing, the dialogue, the director, the character I've been asked to play,'' Fiennes explains. ''I thought the script (co-written by Szabo) was an amazing journey through the lives of three generations of this family, and I wanted to do it immediately.
''There were days when I played all three parts,'' he says. ''Each scene was so carefully explained to me. If I came in at 7 a.m, had makeup and was on set at 10 to do a scene that would last all morning, once it was finished, it was gone. They tried to schedule it chronologically, but it was really impossible to do completely.
''You learn to compartmentalize in your head slightly. You focus on the character that you're doing at that moment, just shut out thoughts about the other character.''

The characters he plays all convert from their Jewish religion for political reasons - pointedly unlike the family's leading female characters.
Each of the men, he notes, is ''unsure of who they are. They are struggling with their sense of identity in different ways. That, crudely speaking, is what makes them similar.''
And he adds, briefly parting his curtain of privacy, ''I find it's quite nice to escape into a part sometimes because there is a beginning, a middle and an end. Your lines are fixed.
''Life is much more confusing. Being yourself in everyday life, the script is being written as you go along. Certainly in this film with Istvan, I felt very nurtured by him.''

Then comes the question, asked of many actors, that lures Fiennes out in full spate: What does he learn about himself from the roles he plays?''I don't think acting is a therapy,'' he snaps. ''It's just play. It's only an extension of a simple childish instinct that goes on (with) dressing up in clothes. Play cowboys and Indians.
''I see a part. I see a story, I pretend to be this person. I'm not thinking: Does it make me feel more myself? In fact, I think it's not good for actors to analyze what they do too much.
''I think the best actors, certainly actors I admire, are very practical in their approach. Some like Judi Dench. (She) just gets on, does it, goes home, gets back to her children. There isn't a kind of churning over of this with (an) internal who am I, how is this part affecting me?''

Another question also rouses him. Why did he allow Szabo to film him frontally nude in a shower scene?
''The way he shot me was very discrete and sensitively done,'' Fiennes replies. ''Not for a second did I feel exposed in a way that made me feel uncomfortable. The nudity is really well-photographed.''
Referring to that scene in an New York Observer review, critic Rex Reed deemed Fiennes not to be a ''hot babe magnet.''

He's not a fencer either. A double was used in the fencing scenes ''because I couldn't learn to fence in that Olympic standard in that short time.''

But he was certainly enamoured with his leading ladies, from stage veteran Rosemary Harris (also Genie-nominated), to Canadians Molly Parker and Deborah Kara Unger, who play his lovers. ''I'm very lucky I had all great ladies. They were all great to work with. We felt like a great company.''

He credits director Szabo for creating that friendly atmosphere during the filming that lasted 4 1/2 months in Budapest. (Szabo) is ''very thorough in the way he approaches directing or acting. It was a very enriching experience. ''

Szabo returns the compliment, calling Fiennes ''a very, very talented great English actor.''

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