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The life and times of Ralph Fiennes, one of cinema's most underrated actors


From the very introduction of Harry Potter’s wizarding world to the silver screen of cinema in 2001, it has long been considered an iconic British property, responsible for creating and featuring some of the finest acting talents of contemporary cinema. Of course, for the likes of Rupert Grint, Emma Watson and Daniel Radcliffe, the Harry Potter series was pivotal for their careers, catapulting them to international acclaim, but the series also acted as the perfect launching pad for so many others. Although the likes of Maggie Smith, Alan Rickman, Helena Bonham Carter and Gary Oldman had already made a name for themselves, their respective roles in the fantasy series would immortalise their names in pop culture. 

One such individual is Ralph Fiennes, an actor who played the ethereal antagonist Voldermort in the influential fantasy series, a ghost-like figure who stalked the story with the ominous threat of the grim reaper. The perfect villain to face up against the innocent, good-natured Harry Potter, Fiennes was extraordinary in the role, embodying the evil, hatred and bitterness of the feared antagonist. 

Though, such an impressive performance isn’t unusual for Ralph Fiennes, an Oscar-nominated Shakespearian thespian who starred in the likes of films such as The Constant Gardener, Schindler’s List and The English Patient long before his role as the dark lord Voldermort. An actor of great versatility, Fiennes has proven time and time again that he is capable of comedy, action as well as roles of great dramatic weight. 

Take his role in the comedy-drama hybrid In Bruges by British director Martin McDonagh, for example, in which he plays a manic, highly-strung and hilarious crime boss who lives a humorously normal life outside of his criminal wrongdoings. Appearing with Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell, Fiennes dominates the screen as the cynical, blasé boss trying to clean up the mess after a botched job. Whilst Gleeson and Farrell do well with the dense material from McDonagh, it is Fiennes’ performance, and indeed the quality of his character, that help to elevate the story into the realms of a modern classic. 

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Much like the dominating menace of so many of his characters, Ralph Fiennes carries an almost royal eminence on each set he works on, carrying a grandeur both physical and psychological that help him to swagger into the limelight of practically every film he has starred in. Of his most recent efforts, Fiennes is also widely known for his role as the hotel manager M. Gustave in The Grand Budapest Hotel from director Wes Anderson, in which he plays a flamboyant and camp figure of authority. 

Embroiled in a crime caper whilst also trying to keep up the pretense of normality in his impressive Hungarian hotel, Gustave is Peter Sellers’ Inspector Clouseau and Basil Fawlty of Fawlty Towers rolled into one. A character both of great comedy and of great tragedy, Gustave is quite possibly the best role Wes Anderson has ever created in his 25 years of filmmaking. 

Most recently starring in The King’s Man from director Matthew Vaughn, it is clear that Ralph Fiennes is still very much in the gaze of the public eye, even if his capabilities as a quality actor performing at the very height of the industry is yet to be fully appreciated.

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