Ralph Fiennes, star and director of Coriolanus - profile

Ralph Fiennes, star and director of Coriolanus - profile

The man behind the modernised Shakespeare adap has Bardic pedigree

Name Ralph Fiennes

Born Ipswich, Suffolk, 22 December, 1962

Background Initially a star onstage with the Royal Shakespeare Company, Fiennes gained international film recognition for his Oscar-nominated performance as Nazi Commander Amon Göth in Schindler’s List (1993). Since then he’s played diabolical villains and romantic heroes, from Harry Potter’s Voldemort to The English Patient’s Almásy, but always characters with a certain enigmatic coldness to them. That’s definitely true of his latest performance, as Coriolanus in the modernised Shakespeare adaptation that’s also his directorial debut.

On the appeal of Coriolanus ‘It’s quite complex, as this protagonist is a soldier and a killer, but with a kind of extreme integrity that, alongside his arrogance and contempt, makes him kind of a puzzle. There’s no easy access into him, but I like playing characters with no easy access.’

On directing and acting simultaneously ‘Often my sense of directorial overview was quite strong; I knew what I wanted. But as an actor, I come with a sense of a starting point in a scene, where I want to discover things. It’s good to not know too much as an actor. So there’s two opposing headspaces, which was hard work.’

On casting Gerard Butler as his co-star ‘His first role was a walk-on in a theatre production of Coriolanus and he has an affectionate nostalgia for the play. I thought it was exciting, because it’s unexpected; you can see the question mark on people’s faces – Gerry Butler in Shakespeare? And yes, he brings a raw, macho quality to it, but what I love is that he is actually understated in lots of it, and I think it’s very powerful for that.’

Interesting fact Fiennes’ second directorial outing will be The Invisible Woman, about Charles Dickens’ wife.

Coriolanus is on selected release from Fri 20 Jan.

Coriolanus Trailer


  • 4 stars
  • 2011
  • UK
  • 2h 3min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Ralph Fiennes
  • Cast: Ralph Fiennes, Gerard Butler, Vanessa Redgrave, Brian Cox, Jessica Chastain, Paul Jesson
  • UK release: 20 January 2012

Coriolanus (Fiennes) is a valiant Roman soldier whose contempt for the masses causes him to fall victim to the city's scheming politicians. Fiennes, debuting as director, creates a modern day, war-torn Rome using Serbian locations, restless cinematography and an excellent cast, making this a powerful and resonant…

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