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Friday, 19 November, 1999, 21:51 GMT
A Fiennes family affair
Martha and Ralph Fiennes at the premiere of Onegin
By BBC News Online's Sarah Aldous

Few Hollywood stars would be happy taking orders from their younger sister on set, but Ralph Fiennes rose to the challenge.

The Oscar-nominated actor was more than happy to star in Martha Fiennes' big screen adaptation of the Russian classic, Onegin.

Shooting star: Ralph plays jaded aristocrat Evgeny Onegin
Ralph admits: "People kept saying to me 'what's it like being bossed around by your sister?' First of all Martha is not remotely bossy.

"I think she showed incredible tolerance and patience, in fact I loved being directed by Martha," he adds, nodding sincerely to his sister.

Martha agrees, her natural charm and quick smile contrasting with her brother's tendency to take himself rather seriously.

"There is a lot of mutual respect and at the very heart of it there is the respect for the film... but of course at times Ralph is really irritating," she jokes.

"There was one time when he came on the set and looked at some props and flounced off in fury because he didn't think they were right.

But he came back quickly and it wasn't going to faze me."

Families don't come much more successful than the Fiennes clan.

Brother Joseph Fiennes is also a successful actor
At 36, Ralph is the eldest of six children including Shakepeare in Love heart-throb Joseph and composer Magnus, who wrote the music for Onegin.

Ralph, who won international acclaim for his roles in The English Patient and Schindler's List, first came up with the ambitious Onegin project.

Together with Martha, an award-winning director of commericals and pop videos, he turned the 150-year-old love story by Alexander Pushkin, into a stunning film.

Ralph plays the title role of a 19th century Russian aristocrat who spurns the love of a beautiful young woman only to realise later he has made a terrible mistake.

Onegin has already picked up a prestigious award at the Tokyo Film Festival and has been earmarked as a potential Oscar winner.

But it hasn't all been plain-sailing for the actor. His last big screen movie, The Avengers, attracted the worst reviews of his career.

"The Avengers wasn't very popular and I guess you have to accept you are going to do films which are not going to work," says Ralph.

Ralph as smouldering Count Laszlo Almasy in The English Patient
Despite its stellar cast, which included Uma Thurman and Sean Connery, the movie was panned by critics, but Ralph has no regrets.

"I loved The Avengers and I actually went into it delighting in recreating the series I'd enjoyed as a small boy on television.

"I thought it had a chance at being popular but it's a lottery and you just have to follow your instincts, you have to follow what interests you."

For the next phase of his career, Ralph will be returning to his theatrical roots to star in productions of Shakespeare's Coriolanus and Richard II at the old Gainsborough Film Studios in Shoreditch, east London.

Past this, the actor admits he has no grand plan.

"You just do what comes up, you don't sit there thinking will I want to be a theatrical knight, will I get an academy award, that's a waste of time it's a dead end, it's where madness lies. You just have to go with the ebb and the flow."

Onegin opens in the UK on 19 November.

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Ralph Fiennes
"I'm just a punter"
Ralph Fiennes
"I loved being directed by Martha"
Ralph Fiennes
His life in Hollywood
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