October 2002
Red Dragon : An Interview with Ralph Fiennes

Interviewed by Wilson Morales

Red Dragon : An Interview with Ralph Fiennes

With the exception of playing the role of Nazi sadist Amon Goeth in Schindler's List, Ralph Fiennes has played nice guy role with emotional flaws. He was the flawed professor in “Quiz Show”, and flawed lover in “The English Patient” “End of The Affair”. In a role that is menacing as Amon Goeth, Fiennes is back to old tricks as the bad guy in “Red Dragon”, the prequel to “Silence of the Lambs” and “Hannibal”. In an interview with blackfilm.com, Fiennes talked about making his character physically work on screen.

WM: Did you work out to get into character?

RF: I did yeah because he was described as a bodybuilder. Although I couldn’t get as big as a bodybuilder should maybe I tried to put on as much weight in the right places as I could. My weight lifting was impressive for me but not for some of the guys I see down at the gym. I worked with a guy called Paul McCawley who was responsible for getting Tom Hanks to lose weight for ‘Castaway.’ He was a great guy and he just kicked my ass every day for like two hours and I had to eat a lot to put on weight. It was very strange because I like to keep fit but I never lift very heavy weights.

WM: What is it about the character that appealed to you?

RF: It’s a great role in terms of way extreme behavior with the tattoos and the lip was very particular with the scarred face, but principally it appealed to me because you get to play many sides of the guy. He’s not just a cut-out psychopath. I could play his confusion and his uncertainty.

WM: Did you research on serial killers?

RF: I got to read some writings by serial killers and they got inside my head. They were quite disturbing. I read some memoirs from one guy who’s in prison. He’s writing about his deliberate manipulation and humiliation of people which he was very proud of. I read disturbing stuff about that very detached way of manipulating people to do things and he would enjoy people weeping and crying and begging for their lives before he killed them or strangled them. He would get aroused and ejaculate while he was killing him and enjoyed getting an erection while they were dying. So I got into that sort of stuff and it’s very upsetting. I discovered they get this huge feeling of power that it gives them. After a while I found I read enough because it was so distressing and didn’t need to immerse myself; I got it.

WM: What can you say about the denture you wore in the film?

RF: I had to really be clear about what having a cleff palette does and if you had it badly fixed you would have your hard palette brought together but would have no teeth. For most of the film I wore good-looking dentures but then he had developed this whole weird things of putting in his grandmother’s teeth which he wears to murder people and bites them. I found it’s very hard to wear somebody else’s dentures but the guy who made the prosthetic said it’s impossible to wear someone else’s dentures but if you want to you can pretty much fit anything in your mouth if you practice at it. I had to practice keeping them in so the muscles in my mouth would accept them. I actually kept a set of the good dentures and then I had to do some looping so I got two sets of false teeth!

WM: This film doesn’t make the tabloids look good, do you feel the same?

RF: Especially coming here a lot of my American friends feel the English tabloids are worse then any others and they are very gratuitous and they do enjoy using you for rumor and innuendo and bitchy comments about any kind of public personalities. They say things that are irritating and hurtful and really none of anybody’s business. I think there’s a lot of people out there who feel there’s a tabloid journalist who had it coming with the wheelchair treatment he got in the film.

WM: Did you feel comfortable with the tattoos on your back?

RF: It took seven to eight hours to apply them with four or five people drawing and mapping it out on my back, and my butt and my leg and drawing it in and lying naked on a massage table while these people are bent over me sort of scribbling on me. That was kind of weird. I did what I could to move the muscles in my back so the tattoo could sort of stretch out. I always wished I had more muscles that could crinkle up. It was weird because the director would shout, ‘Flex more, flex more, go on squeeze, squeeze, squeeze!’

WM: How crazy were the rumors regarding you and Jennifer Lopez?

RF: The one thing that was weird was this whole thing in ‘The New York Post’ that I was having an affair with Jennifer Lopez. They published a picture saying, ‘deny this.’ I had dinner with her and her producer and her manager who’s in the background of the shot as well. That didn’t upset me because it was just so not true and so badly set up. The next day she said, ‘they’re just stupid.’ Then I read the next day, ‘Ben Affleck seen at J.Lo’s house’ so I said, ‘I’m a little jealous Jennifer. I thought we had a thing going here and now it’s Ben!’