31 Oct – When English actor Ralph Fiennes made his debut as a director with "Coriolanus" seven years ago, he both helmed and starred in the movie. His sophomore directorial effort "The Invisible Woman" also had the 55-year-old starring as the lead.
Fast forward to 2018 and this time he is directing a newcomer as the star of his latest directorial effort, "The White Crow".
The biopic of ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev recently made its Asian Premiere at the 31st Tokyo International Film Festival (TIFF), where it is going up against 15 other movies in the competition section, which gives out Tokyo Grand Prix, Special Jury Prize, Best Director, Best Actress, Best Actor, Best Artistic Contribution and Best Screenplay Award to the winners.
"I didn't ever think of playing Nureyev," he said during the press conference held recently at Toho Cinemas Roppongi, Tokyo.
Producer Gabrielle Tana, who was also present with him at the press conference, said that initially he was just going to direct.
"[But] for the commercial value of the film, he came around to understanding that it would make a big difference if he was actually in it as well," she added.
Hence the reason why Fiennes ended up pulling off dual role as director and actor yet again, this time playing a part onscreen as Pushkin.
Fiennes explained that he cast real-life dancer Oleg Ivenko to star as Nureyev because he wanted a real dancer to play the part.
He insisted on looking for a dancer who can act instead of casting an established actor who will have to learn ballet, which will not be easy and will also mean requiring a body double to do some of the dance scenes.
"After a big search in Russia, Oleg Ivenko was one of the four or five actors on the short list and we tested him and I felt that he had the proximity to Nureyev physically, he has a distinctive gift of understanding screen acting; very, very intelligent," said Fiennes.
"It sounds simple but it's true, the camera loves him. Once you put a camera on him, you want to watch and that's the quality of a movie star, I think, you just want to watch what goes through their face."
With such high praise for the newcomer, it is understandable that Ivenko is now working hard on studying acting and improving his English, as revealed by Tana, so that he can become more involved in the acting industry.
While he's been busy with his directing work, Fiennes hasn't neglected his acting career either as he will be seen playing Professor Moriarty in this year's "Holmes and Watson". He is also portraying British lawyer Ben Emmerson in 2019's political thriller "Official Secrets" and lending his voice to the tiger Barry in 2020's "The Voyage of Doctor Dolittle".