As one of the preeminent British actors of his generation, Ralph Fiennes is no stranger to accolades and admiration. In a career defined by captivating lead roles, Fiennes has managed to toe the line between critical and commercial success like few others.
With the actor’s latest directorial effort, The White Crow, due for release this year, we decided to look back at some of Fiennes’ finest on-screen moments so far.
Schindler’s List – Amon Göth
To this day, Fiennes’ best-known role is his blood-curdling turn as the sadistic commander of a Nazi concentration camp that catapulted the actor into public consciousness.
Director Steven Spielberg reportedly selected Fiennes for this 1993 Oscar-winning epic for his uncanny ability to switch between expressions of kindness and pure evil, the hallmark of a real psychopath.
Indeed, allegedly when Fiennes met with Holocaust survivors while in costume for the role, they trembled with fear at the sheer likeness between the two.
The English Patient – Count László de Almásy
In another critically acclaimed turn, Fiennes brought his theatrical prowess to the central role in this 1996 Oscar-winning tour de force.
Nominated for the Best Actor award at that year’s Academy Awards, Fiennes’ portrayal of the nostalgic Count remains one of his marquees turns.
One of the key elements to the role was Fiennes’ chemistry with Kristin Scott Thomas, who starred as his lover Katharine Clifton in what is now a classic picture.
In his 1996 review, the legendary late critic Roger Ebert said that Fiennes “plays a man who conceals as much as he can — at first because that is his nature, later because his injuries force him to.” This comment from Ebert acknowledges the dual nature of Fiennes’ role, with his efforts split between portraying the badly burned English patient in the title and the enamored Count in the film’s flashbacks.
In Bruges – Harry Waters
After starring in two of the most successful dramas of the 90s, Fiennes began to show his diversity as an actor in the following decade. That culminated in his show-stealing turn as British gangster Harry Waters in the 2008 black comedy In Bruges.
Although something of a more light-hearted role than we may have expected to see from Fiennes, his performance as Waters incorporated the actor’s hallmark ability to flirt with both tender-hearted understanding and ruthless violence. Undoubtedly, Fiennes’ portrayal contributed in no small part to the film’s nominations for a slew of top awards at both the BAFTA’s and Oscars.
The Grand Budapest Hotel – M. Gustave
Sticking with the comedy genre, in 2014 Fiennes collaborated with Wes Anderson on this highly-acclaimed, stylistic romp. In his role as the hotel’s dedicated yet somewhat promiscuous concierge, Fiennes brought a flash of stylish wit to the story while managing to stay true to Anderson’s vision of an original character inspired by classical European archetypes.
The action takes place in one of the continent’s most beautiful cities, Budapest, which has since become a popular tourist destination and host of several international sporting events. For the role, Fiennes a host of award nominations, including both a BAFTA and Golden Globe for Best Actor.
A Bigger Splash – Harry Hawkes
The following year saw Fiennes return to drama with a searing turn as eccentric music promoter Harry Hawkes in Italian director Luca Guadagnino’s sultry 2015 effort, A Bigger Splash. As perhaps the standout member of a gifted cast, Fiennes is at once both overwhelmingly irritating and impossibly charming in this role.
Like a venomous snake, Hawkes seems to render toxic every relationship in the movie until, inevitably, things come to a tragic yet thrilling finale. In his critique of the performance, esteemed critic Peter Bradshaw said that Fiennes managed to squeeze every last drop from the role of Hawkes, “an old-style alpha male; a toxic narcissist and exhibitionist, bipolar without the down phase, unable to stop talking, hell-raising and getting his kit off for skinny dips in the pool.” One thing is for sure: Few others could have played the role with as much zest, range and downright authenticity as Fiennes.