A generation knows Ralph Fiennes as the man who played Voldemort, the Harry Potter villain with a whispery voice, a bad manicure and barely a nose.
Will he ever again play he who shall not be named?
“I will only play Voldemort again if he becomes a woman,” the 51-year-old actor says from his London home. “If Voldemort has breasts, I’d play her. Make sure you write that.
“I’m always looking for a challenge,” he quips.
He found another sort of challenge in the new Wes Anderson film, “The Grand Budapest Hotel.” Opening Friday, it sports an all-star cast of Fiennes, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Jude Law, Harvey Keitel, Bill Murray and Tilda Swinton.
Fiennes plays Gustave H., a highly sexed, debonair hotel concierge who believes in “exceptional service” at the Grand Budapest Hotel in the Republic of Zubrowka, a fictional Eastern European nation ravaged by war. When he’s framed for murder, he goes on the run with his favorite lobby boy.
Fiennes says that a combination of “a fantastic part and working with Wes Anderson” was key to choosing the project. “I love Wes’ films and his intelligence. As I got to know him, I appreciated him even more and the way he puts a film together. He assembled so many fantastic actors in one film, all working aside each other in this little German town where we filmed.”
Fiennes didn’t have to look far to develop the character.
“I worked at a hotel for six months in my youth,” he says. “I was what they call a house porter, which meant I was the lowest of the low. I changed shower curtains and polished the brass. One day, one of the porters was sick and I was given a temporary promotion. This meant,I was given a brown uniform with gold braids on the shoulders and I got to carry Jack Palance’s cases to his car.
“Jack slowly counted out English coins and gave them to me in the palm of my hand. He was a good tipper.”
He based the debonair attitude of the character on a former agent. “I thought of my first agent, who is sadly no longer here. He was not as precious as Gustave, but he liked things done a certain way and he was passionate about it. There was an Old World courtesy about him. And he loved a dirty joke.”
After several decades in show business and film classics, including the “Harry Potter” franchise, “The English Patient” and “Schindler’s List,” Fiennes says that he still can’t wait to get on set.
“You’re lucky enough to have a part that’s great. You’re really lucky to have a director who is inspiring and challenges you,” he says.
He does have a rule. “I’ve definitely been saying to my agent, ‘No more baddies.’ I won’t even look at a script with a bad guy.”
Yes, kids around the globe think he’s sort of … evil.
“I will forever be associated with Voldemort,” he says. “But it’s like the ‘Star Wars’ generation. They will also associate Harrison Ford with Han Solo. It won’t have the same impact for the next generation.
“I do have children who come up to me when their mums tell them, and they look up with sheer dread.”
Big Picture News Inc.