When I spoke to Ralph Fiennes in London by phone, the first thing we talked about was the remarkable 1984 Royal National Theatre staging of Coriolanus in 1984 starring Ian McKellan. We had both seen it and one of the high points of talking to Fiennes was the way he recalled McKellan’s performance as only another actor could. Fiennes own turn as the Roman soldier turned out of the country he saved because of his arrogance is equally memorable, though updated to modern times. I couldn’t get over how perfectly suited to modern times so many of the play’s themes are, including public fickleness when it comes to her worship, and the political games that seem to be timeless. Fiennes was thoughtful, scholarly, and passionate about the way Shakespeare speaks to modern audiences, as well as the peculiar pleasures of playing a character who doesn’t give a damn what people think of him.
CORIOLANUS with star Ralph Fiennes. CORIOLANUS deals with blood, war, and the difference between leading an army and leading a nation. Specifically, the title character, a Roman warrior with little patience for politics or politicians When he returns covered in martial glory from the wars, he is coerced by his ambitious mother to take political office. However, his arrogance, however, coupled with a fickle public, gets him thrown into exile. Coriolanus is one of Shakespeare’s most complicated, difficult characters, which also makes him one of the most compelling. The film co-stars Gerard Butler, Vanessa Redgrave, Brian Cox, Jessica Chastain, and James Nesbitt. Fiennes makes his directorial debut working from a script by John Logan, which makes brilliantly judicious edits bringing the story into sharper focus while also setting it in modern times.