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Irish Times - April 21, 1997

A Fiennes Thing

by Robert O'Byrne

"This is the first and only time," actor Joe Fiennes says of his brief change of career here, modelling clothes for Marks & Spencer. "Versus embracing Shakespeare every night, it's really not too demanding," he tells Robert O'Byrne.

If the face in these photographs looks vaguely familiar, the name will certainly strike a chord. This is Joe, youngest member of the Fiennes family, who like his older brother Ralph is an actor. For Marks & Spencer he has also - temporarily, he insists - taken up modelling, something which seems to be rife among the acting profession right now.

"This is the first and only time," 26 year-old Fiennes says of his brief change in career, so don't expect to see him appearing in further fashion spreads. While he had no problems being photographed on this occasion ("versus embracing Shakespeare every night, it's really not too demanding"), a generous combination of theatre and film work leaves little inclination to model clothes. "This is very much Michael Roberts's vision," he comments of the pictures.

Roberts, undoubtedly the most talented style writer/illustrator/photographer of his generation in Britain, has just been appointed creative fashion director of the New Yorker magazine.

"I was amazed at how Michael's eye was all over the place," Fiennes remarks of the shoot. "He's a perfectionist in the right way, attuned to spotting detail."

One reason for taking on this job was that he suddenly had some spare time, having recently left the Royal Shakespeare Company at the end of a two-year contract. Invited to play Romeo for the RSC, he was severely tempted to stay on but decided to trust his instincts and look out for other jobs.

Long-term unemployment seems to be an unlikely prospect. Next month, he starts work on a Channel 4 film called Martha Meet Daniel, Frank and Lawrence - which sounds like an updated and expanded version of Jules et Jim - and last week he joined siblings Ralph and Sophie in Dublin to read extracts from their late mother Jennifer Lash's last novel, Blood Ties.

It was his first visit back to this country since the family had lived in west Cork for four years during the 1970s. "I was at a very impressionable age and the whole wild adventure of Ireland is etched on my memory. If I'd longer, I would love to have driven back to Cork and relived the past." His only other contact with Ireland in recent years was acting in Bertolucci's film Stealing Beauty alongside Donal McCann and Sinéad Cusack. "I'd happily make tea for Bertolucci.

"That was my first film and I was offered the part even before I'd seen the script. Of course I said yes."

Obviously he's not averse to taking on new projects. Hence the never-to-be repeated venture into modelling.

© 1998-2000 Joy of Joseph Fiennes