Ralph Nathaniel Twisleton-Wykeham-Fiennes was born on December 22, 1962, in Ipswich, Suffolk, England. Fiennes was the first of seven children, all of whom were creatively encouraged by their novelist mother and photographer father. Fiennes studied at the Chelsea College of Art and Design. Once he discovered acting, he transferred to and graduated from London’s Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.
He joined the Royal National Theatre in 1987 and the Royal Shakespeare Company a year later. In 1991, Ralph Fiennes made his television debut in the British series A Dangerous Man: Lawrence after Arabia.
His first film role followed in 1992 with Wuthering Heights, in which he starred opposite Juliette Binoche. Fiennes’s big break came next: the role of Nazi commandant Amon Goeth in Schindler’s List (1993).
His performance in the film garnered him an Academy Award nomination (best supporting actor) and a British Academy Award. His performance as Count Almásy in The English Patient (1996) garnered him a second Academy Award nomination, for Best Actor, as well as BAFTA and Golden Globe nominations.
On the 3rd of March 2001, he received the William Shakespeare Award from the Shakespeare Theatre in Washington, D.C. Past recipients include Mel Gibson, Patrick Stewart, Lynn Redgrave, Kenneth Branagh and Kevin Kline.
Based on a novel, ‘Oscar and Lucinda’ (1997) was set in mid-1800s England and Fiennes played an outcast priest opposite Cate Blanchett. ‘The Avengers’ (1998) was the film version of the popular television series, in which Fiennes played John Steed opposite Uma Thurman’s Emma Peel, with Sean Connery as Sir August de Wynter.
Unfortunately the movie did not have the expected box office impact. He and his The End of the Affair (1999) co-star Julianne Moore have acted in separate Hannibal Lecter films: he in Red Dragon (2002) and she in Hannibal (2001).
Fiennes was reluctant to take the role of Lord Voldemort in (2005). In a television interview on AMC’s Shootout (2003) (November 20, 2005), he claimed to have been unimpressed with the previous three Harry Potter films.
Fiennes was apparently nonplussed at the idea of appearing in the fourth film of a series and stated that he had “never bought into [the] world” of Harry Potter.
Fiennes’ 2006 performance in the play Faith Healer gained him a nomination for a 2007 Tony Award. In 2008, Fiennes worked with frequent collaborator, director Jonathan Kent, playing the title role in Oedipus the King by Sophocles, at the National Theatre in London.
In 2008, he played the Duke of Devonshire in the film The Duchess, and played the protagonist in The Reader. Fiennes made his feature film directorial debut with a contemporary version of Shakespeare’s political thriller Coriolanus (2011), in which he also starred with Gerard Butler and Vanessa Redgrave.
He will star next in Mike Newell’s screen adaptation of Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations (2012), with Helena Bonham Carter and Jeremy Irvine, and in the highly anticipated Skyfall (2012), the next film in the Bond series, from director Sam Mendes.
Aside from his acting, he is passionate about helping others and became involved with UNICEF in 1999 and was appointed a UK Ambassador in 2001.