Good Taste Magazine - Australia (1/99)

By Sue Williams and Michele Manelis -
Australian Good Taste magazine,
Photograph - Chris Floyd/Visages (not available)

After a meaty role in the hit movie Elizabeth, Joseph Fiennes hesitated when he was offered the
starring role in another period drama depicting exactly the same era. "I thought, 'Joooooe, don't
jump into tights again'," he says of the lead role in Shakespeare In Love, released in Australian
cinemas this month. "And then I decided to take it on its own merits. Shakers is masculine and
vibrant and fast and furious and sinister. In the end, you have to put reverence aside. I treated
them as totally different modern pieces of a golden age. I just happened to be in tights for both.

It was a drawcard, too, that Australian Oscar-winner Geoffrey Rush, from Elizabeth, would be
starring alongside him again. "Yeah, I am stalking him, because I love him so much," says Joseph,
roaring with laughter. "He doesn't know it, but I'm gonna turn up every night in tights going, "How
are you going, Geoff?' "

Joseph is now being touted as the Next Big Thing, after performances not only as Dudley in
Elizabeth, but also in Stealing Beauty and the comedy Martha, Meet Frank, Daniel And Laurence.

Not that the modest English-born Irish-raised Joseph takes that label too seriously.

"I don't believe in Next Big Deals, I don't believe in New Hot Things," he says. "That label has
been bandied around between so many people it has lost its potency. The great thing and the one
thing I do regard as a privilege is being allowed to work. That is a joy." While brother Ralph has a big public profile, after roles in The English Patient and Oscar And Lucinda, Joseph seems almost to have arrived centrestage from nowhere. Joseph, 28, is the youngest of six Fiennes children (with his twin brother Jacob, a gamekeeper). However, to him, it's been a long, hard slog. Trained in youth theatre, he spent five more years in classical theatre, including stints at the Royal Shakespeare Company, before gravitating to film.

He never really considered being anything other than an actor. "Often, an actor is playing the part, then there's a moment when the part plays you," he says. "And it's that moment which for me defines it. Those are the moments I kind of search for. It's a science that probably takes a lifetime to master."

Many would say Joseph is almost there, particularly with his performance as the bard in the
romantic comedy Shakespeare In Love, alongside a gallery of stars, including Gwyneth Paltrow
as Viola. For his role, he did plenty of research, but abandoned the quest when he discovered there were as many theories about Shakespeare's origins as plays he'd penned.

In the end, he simply threw himself into the character. "I like to think of it as more like a guy called Will and less like a man called Shakespeare," he says. "This guy's a writer, he's blessed with genius, he knows he's good. He's like a leech, sucking and drawing energy in his copy. He sort of needs that copy, he needs to please the editor in the sky, whatever, so he's continuing on the search for inspiration, and it comes in the guise of Viola."

As for Joseph's inspiration, he says that comes from somewhere within ­ certainly not from the
rave reviews he invariably seems to garner. "I don't read reviews," he says bluntly. "I can always
spot an actor who's read his reviews, because if they're good, he's swaying about the stage, and if they're bad, he's changed his performance. He comes in limping or something.

"Even with film, it's dangerous, because you change the way you act next time. It's a can of worms ­ part of the ego wants to hear it. It's sort of like parental appreciation. It's like the parent going, 'You're great, you're wonderful', and I think you have to kind of put the ego aside."

© 1998-2000 Joy of Joseph Fiennes