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Desert Island Discs

Ralph Fiennes


Ralph Fiennes, 58, currently performing TS Eliot’s Four Quartets at the Harold Pinter Theatre, grew up in a bohemian household with six siblings, including his foster brother Michael, he told Sue Lawley on Desert Island Discs in 1999. His father was a photographer and there were always “concerns about schooling and money”. The family moved around a lot, living in cramped makeshift houses.

One year his mother decided to home-school them. “It was all very arts-biased” – maths somehow became “second string”. She got in a retired army intelligence officer to teach Latin. Her hippie teaching style seemed to work: Ralph and his brother Joseph became well-known actors and their sister, Martha, a director. But their mother was often exhausted. “I have memories of great freedom and being inspired”, but also of “great stress and anxiety”.

Fiennes’s breakthrough film was Schindler’s List, released in 1993, in which he played a fat Nazi concentration-camp commander. To put on weight he had “lots of pasta, ice cream and Guinness”. It didn’t work: “I got some generous love handles, but otherwise not much.” He then bought some “dubious” weight-gain powders from the chemist, which he mixed with milk to make “liquid cement”. That did the trick.

🎵 Blow the Wind Southerly, Kathleen Ferrier

🎵 Ziggy Stardust, David Bowie

🎵 Requiem, Mozart

🎵 Piano Sonata No 32, Beethoven

🎵 When My Sugar Walks Down the Street, Turk Murphy’s Jazz Band

🎵 Mir ist so wunderbar (from Fidelio), Beethoven

🎵 Feeling Good, Nina Simone

🎵 Mache dich, mein Herze, rein (from St Matthew Passion) Bach

📕 A la Recherche du Temps Perdu, Marcel Proust

🎁 A pen, ink and paper

Listen to the episode here.

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