British actor Ralph Fiennes talks about the challenges of making his directorial debut, Coriolanus, which had its world premiere in Berlin.
You played Coriolanus on the London stage in 2000. Is that where the film began life?
It grew out of the theatre production. I came away from performing in the play and remember thinking that I wasn’t quite done with it somehow. There was something about the story itself, its narrative drive and sheer drama, which I thought would make a really compelling film, and I wanted to bring out the political elements of the play.
The film is set in the modern day. Do you think it will resonate with modern audiences?
I would love for it to resonate with audiences and I believe it can. It’s actually very modern and visceral and politically relevant. There are so many examples today of people taking to the streets, its happening in Egypt, Tunisia, we have perpetual war all over the world. There is also at the heart a mother and son tragedy.
Your DoP is Barry Ackroyd, who worked on The Hurt Locker. Was this the look you were going for with the battle scenes?
I knew I wanted the handheld, spontaneous, kinetic look to the film. What I love about Barry is he has the most extraordinary realism in his work, you really feel like you are in the battle. The whole film was 100% collaborative.
Why did you decide to shoot in Belgrade?
Some of our financing fell through and after that we targeted Eastern Europe. I wanted somewhere which had the weight of a capital city, which is what Belgrade has. We found some fantastic locations, including the Parliament building itself.
Has the experience made you want to direct again?
Because this was my first film, I was anxious about things like getting behind with filming, and so I was probably more cautious than I would have liked to be. Which has made me want to do it again. When actors turn their hand to directing, there can often be a lift of the eyebrow, but as a lead actor you are out there at the front, and if it’s in you to direct, then it can be a natural extension, like it has been with Clint Eastwood.
Are you happy to be screening the film in Berlin?
I don’t know what it is, but Berlin feels right for this film. It seems to suit the tone of the film. Whether it’s because it is Shakespeare, and Germany has a great tradition of playwrights like Bertolt Brecht and Goethe. I’m looking forward to it with some trepidation, but I am feeling adrenalized.