ET Online (December 8, 1999)
The End of the Affair interview
RALPH FIENNES sat down with us to talk about his steamy new role with JULIANNE MOORE in the dramatic new film 'The End of the Affair.'
Entertainment Tonight: The women that you seem to be attracted to, at
least in two films including 'The English Patient,' are married. Is this
a theme we can look for in the future?
Ralph Fiennes: It is clearly a similarity. There are superficial
similarities between the two movies, but I think when you look at them
closely, they're two very different kinds of films. But they do have a
word or two in common.
ET: Your character, despite being adulterous, feels comfortable in that
role. He doesn't seem to feel remorse.
Ralph: No, I don't think he's remorseful about being adulterous. I think
he wants this woman... and she wants him. He doesn't see the sense of
her staying married. I think he's consumed by his need for this woman.
Something like marriage is not something you have time for. There's this
huge wave of feeling of crashing through these things. All these
institutions like marriage, and what society thinks in terms of social
behavior, become unimportant when you want to give your whole being,
your whole life, to somebody -- and possess them, too, in a way.
Ralph: He wants to possess. It's not the kind of love that allows
freedom. It's a needy, wanting love. I think he has an intelligence and
a perceptiveness about himself, which I think makes him interesting. It's
on the page, and I hope it's in the film, that the combination of the
voice-over and dialogue will keep you from losing patience with this
man's continual jealousy. There's a sort of wit and honesty about the
way he talks about himself.
ET: He's not the obvious jealous man.
Ralph: He's a writer. So he's analyzing, observing. He's in the process
of writing this down. When I first saw the film, I thought this was
really a homage to the act of writing -- the putting of experiences onto
the page. NEIL [JORDAN, the director] is a writer, and I have a strong
feeling that whatever the messiness and the uncertainties of the love
affairs and of life going on, it's about the putting of words on the
page. That's where Bendrix is really happy, really in control.
ET: Because otherwise he's out of control.
Ralph: Hmmm... I think the act of writing is very important. I love
those big close-ups of those typewriter keys being hit and the words
hitting the page of paper.
ET: Do you think everyone can identify with this notion of jealousy and
Ralph: Yes, I think people can identify with any intelligent story about
human passions and emotions.
ET: Have you ever been jealous? Do you have that in you?
Ralph: Oh, I think I have it in me.
ET: Do you think it's something we suppress to conform to society?
Ralph: Yes, we do. We're told that jealousy is a bad thing. We all have
it in us. I know I do.
ET: How was working with JULIANNE MOORE?
Ralph: That was fantastic. I was a bit in awe of her when I first met
her. I think she's one of the great actresses. I thought I would be
intimidated by her, but she's incredibly easy going. She has a great
sense of humor and I think that humor was one of the things that enabled
us to work together and do those very intimate scenes together.
ET: You were stripped, not only in terms of clothing, but also of raw
emotions. It was a very quick journey, too. You guys jump right into it.
Ralph: Yes, but I think what helps is very good writing. When you know
you have good words to say and a dialogue to have, it just brings
emotions up. It just happens and I think Neil's adaptation was
excellent. Great writing. Great cast.
ET: Do you think that we place less importance in society about saying
"I love you," or the word "love?" I think Julianne's character takes
that word very seriously, even more so than your character anticipated.
Ralph: Yes, I think it's probably the most overused word in the
language. People mean different things at different times when they
sayit. Some people are nervous to say it, because it means everything.
Other people chuck it around like a cookie.
ET: How does this film examine one's commitment to love -- tangible or
Ralph: I think Bendrix loves Sarah deeply, but I think it's totally
fused with physically possessing her. It's very clear in the book, and
in the film. He can't bear to think of her being with anyone else.
ET: Were the intimate scenes uncomfortable at times?
Ralph: Yes, it's something you want to get over and done with, but you
want it to look good and to be believable, and things that you want for
any other scenes. Everyone talks about the sex scenes. It surprised me
really, because there have been so many sex scenes in so many films, but
it's always a talking film for the press. It amuses me really.
ET: What's coming up for you next?
Ralph: I'm going to do two plays in London. "Richard The II" and
"Coriolanus," by Shakespeare.
ET: Do you want to flip-flop between film and theater, never giving up
one for the other?
Ralph: Yes, I could never give up theater. That's why I wanted to be an
actor, really. I haven't lost that need. I also think that if you don't
do theater enough, you get rusty at it. I know when I did three and a
half years with the Royal Shakespeare Company it was tough and tiring,
but in an acting sense, you get very fit. It's a whole different set of
muscles, if you like, doing a play. I'd hate for those muscles to
ET: Will you be going back to film? Do you have a film lined up?
Ralph: No, but I'd like to. These plays have been set up through
JONATHAN KENT, the director I worked with in "Hamlet" and in a Chekov
play we did two years ago in London. We talked about this for a long
time, and we're committed to doing it now. I'm scared, but I'm excited.
It's rather crazy to take on two leads as a double bill. These two plays
were written at very different times in Shakespeare's life, but they
have similarities, so I think it could be a very interesting project.
ET: Is there an actor that you admire or would like to emulate?
Ralph: I think there are certain performances, but not one actor all the
time. Off the top of my head, in screen terms it would be people like
ROBERT DUVALL. I love JUDI DENCH and VANESSA REDGRAVE. They're all
English, and I've seen them be extraordinary on stage. Also other actors
who aren't famous, but are brilliant actors. I remember their
performances. The memory of their performances and what I learned
working with them is a continuing inspiration and a reminder of that
clean and pure approach that I like.