DETAILS: You were almost 30 when you made the jump from stage to screen. Did you pursue it, or was it happenstance?
Ralph Fiennes: Film was something that happened if you were lucky—it seemed so far away. When I first filmed things, they were always slightly awkward. I remember going up for this film and people came into the drama school and looked at faces. When you went in for theater auditions, people would look at you acting—could you do it?
DETAILS: How did things change for you after Schindler's List?
Ralph Fiennes: You suddenly get the attention, and it's very disorienting. I mean, it's thrilling to be in this business, and when your work is praised you feel a huge sense of affirmation. And you know, you buy into it, and naturally things go hot and cold.
DETAILS: You reportedly indulged in some rock-star behavior back then. Did sudden fame go to your head?
Ralph Fiennes: I don't think so. I think that what you call "rock-star behavior," lots of people have indulged in. It doesn't mean that you've let everything go to your head. You're under pressure, you play, and it gets noticed and written about. When I read about quote-unquote "rock-star behavior" now, I think I was in the beginner's category.
DETAILS: Did you ever hit a fallow period? That stretch when you did Maid in Manhattan?
Ralph Fiennes: I've never felt fallow in the sense that there's been no work. People would say, "When are you going to play something lighthearted? You always play dark, serious types or bad guys." Then Maid in Manhattan came along. I enjoyed making it and have huge respect for J.Lo, who was, I think, terribly good in it. But that sort of light comic thing is probably not my strength.
DETAILS: You have played a lot of villains. Do you get a kick out of that?
Ralph Fiennes: I don't feel I'm playing villains all the time. I feel I've also played some very benign people. Voldemort in Harry Potter is kind of the high-profile villain. Of course the guy in Schindler's List is a bad guy. No way around that one.
DETAILS: You once said you enjoyed it when a child on set who saw you dressed as Voldemort started crying.
Ralph Fiennes: I wasn't trying to scare him, but he saw me—I didn't look like the Voldemort on the screen, but the child cried. The little boy in me was happy to have scared someone. Not in a serious way—of course not.
DETAILS: Would you ever like to have kids?
Ralph Fiennes: Not at the moment, anyway. I haven't made any firm decisions. But I can't say right now that I have a huge parental urge.
DETAILS: Do you worry that being domesticated would put a damper on your creative drive?
Ralph Fiennes: I'm not very good at being domesticated. I've tried. The domestic life I find claustrophobic—the rituals and habits and patterns. I'm the eldest of six, and we're all close in age, and that probably informs my reluctance to go there again. . . . This is a rather personal area. I don't really want to be explaining the way I live.
DETAILS: This is very personal, but do you regret the 2007 Qantas incident, when you were caught leaving an airplane bathroom with a flight attendant?
Ralph Fiennes: I'm not going to comment on that. I've never commented on that.
DETAILS: Do you have a life outside your career? Or is it all about the work?
Ralph Fiennes: Yeah, I'm a workaholic. But it's amazing to work with Vanessa Redgrave, with Julianne Moore and Kristin Scott Thomas. The word work has a burdenlike element to it, and I don't feel like that.
DETAILS: You had even more work to do for your latest film, Coriolanus, which you directed and starred in. Did you have to step out of character to give notes to Vanessa or Gerard Butler?
Ralph Fiennes: Well, the short answer is yes. Actors often get out of character. You have to, to go to the bathroom!
DETAILS: You have a part in the next Bond movie. Are you excited to be a part of such a storied film franchise?
Ralph Fiennes: I've always loved Bond. I was a bit geeky about the books when I was a teenager. Actually, a lot of the reason why I'm doing this is [director] Sam Mendes, who I worked with ages ago in the theater. He came with this proposal, which is a role in the Bond . . . [Pauses] You'll understand why I can't say more in a year's time.
DETAILS: Somewhere down the road you might become Sir Ralph. How would you feel about that?
Ralph Fiennes: I don't know if actors should be Sirred up. I don't know. . . . I'm leaving you with an ambivalent silence.