Ralph Fiennes can play introspective, but he’s just as masterful when he’s the opposite. You can see the outgoing, sometimes maniacal side of Fiennes in film like “In Bruges” and “The Grand Budapest Hotel.” And you can see it in “A Bigger Splash,” the latest from “I Am Love” filmmaker Luca Guadagnino.
Fiennes plays Harry, a legendary music producer who’s never entered his chill middle-age period. This enrages an old flame, Tilda Swinton’s rock star Marianne Lane, who’s trying to enjoy a quiet vacation — after a vocal cord surgery that has rendered her mostly mute — on the Italian island of Pantelleria with her boyfriend (Matthias Schoenaerts). Then Harry shows up, and with his newly discovered young daughter (Dakota Johnson).
Harry’s more thoughtful than he lets on: “He’s not always going crazy,” Fiennes says. “There are moments when he’s watching people. He’s quite observant. He’s quite sensitive, actually. He sees everyone. For all his noise and verbosity, he sees people. He picks up on people quite quickly.”
He’s also great at his job: “I’ve always felt he’s a very good producer, despite all the party animal antics you see. He’s really good at putting music together and guiding musical artists,” he explains. Fiennes didn’t have to go far for research: His brother Magnus is a seasoned pro in the music business. “My brother is a great producer. Socially, he’s very engaging and fun, but actually he’s very focused in his work. He’s very meticulous.”
Harry’s deep bond with Marianne: “The way I imagined his history with Marianne was that a lot of her best recordings and work were formed by Harry. That underpinned their relationship. I think she was at her best as a gifted performer and singer when he helped shape her.
"But he couldn’t stop his hedonistic lifestyle and went off the rails. She couldn’t handle it,” Fiennes says. “Whatever happened, she’s had enough. She has walked away … and found a new life for herself with Paul. And Harry doesn’t like that. Even though he’s been responsible for a large part of wrecking their relationship. Human beings, we go in these circular patterns. It all feels horribly familiar.”