TIFF: Ralph Fiennes takes on Dickens with ‘The Invisible Woman’

Ralph Fiennes directs and stars in "The Invisible Woman," about Charles Dickens' relationship with his mistress. Credit: Getty Images
Ralph Fiennes directs and stars in “The Invisible Woman,” about Charles Dickens’ relationship with his mistress (played by Felicity Jones).
Credit: Getty Images

Ralph Fiennes returns to TIFF with his second directorial effort, “The Invisible Woman,” about a young actress and the object of Charles Dickens’ affections. Fiennes also co-stars as Dickens alongside Felicity Jones as the titular woman. And Fiennes admits he’s becoming something of an expert in the author.

You play Charles Dickens in this, but it’s not really about Dickens.
It’s based on a book called “The Invisible Woman,” a biography about Ellen Turner, the young actress that Dickens fell in love with. I was ignorant of this book but I was sent an early draft of the screenplay based on it by Abbie Morgan, who wrote “Shame.” I read the book, which is a fantastic exploration of actresses in Victorian society. Dickens was a key figure, but it’s really the story of Ellen Turner and her family.

It’s a look at Ellen Turner and what it is to have had in your past this intimacy with a great, famous man — but a man, and a man in a particular position in society. The rules of the relationship and engagement with the opposite sex all came back to marriage, so anything outside of that was unacceptable. So how you negotiate that — affairs of the heart and desire — so that’s what it’s about.

You were in Toronto last year for your acting work in “Great Expectations,” which you followed with “The Invisible Woman.” That’s a lot of Dickens.
That’s true, I was working on “Great Expectations” when I was also working on “The Invisible Woman.” I had this sort of two-year immersion in Dickens. Up until that point I was pretty ignorant about Dickens, but now I’m a fan. I just think the humor in his observations is brilliant.

What sticks out about Dickens from your research?
I think Dickens was fascinated by social ambition. It features in quite a few of his books, this need to get on, to have money, to be a gentleman. England is still saddled with underlying, stupid class things, but back then I think those divisions were very, very embedded in a way that’s hard for us to comprehend, that to achieve social advancement was an extremely real and important thing.

There wasn’t that sort of counter-thinking, whereas now everyone’s bending over backwards not to be seen to be wanting to get on. They do all kinds of odd reverse actions if they’re ambitious to pretend they’re not, if they’re successful to pretend they’re not. But I think in that time it was about, “I am a man of substance or a woman of substance,” and there was no shame in that. Dickens himself worked his way up through his writing, but I get the sense that Dickens was very aware of where he’d come from.



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Drive charged in fatal hit and run, police…

The NYPD has arrested a man they say is responsible for a fatal hit and run in Manhattan last weekend. Doohee Cho, 33, was hit…

Local

Mayor de Blasio raises minimum wage for some…

Mayor Bill de Blasio signed an executive order Tuesday morning that will raise the minimum wage for workers employed by private companies that receive more…

National

3 myths about the working poor

Linda Tirado works to debunk some common stereotypes about the working poor in her new book, "Hand to Mouth."

Money

Lawsuit funding advances: friend or foe?

Reporter was commissioned to write this in-depth article Many plaintiffs awaiting resolution of their lawsuit or legal claim often find themselves in a tricky financial…

Going Out

Which NYC restaurant lost its three-star Michelin rating?

A record 73 restaurants in New York City collected coveted Michelin stars on Tuesday as a mix of trendy spots and fine-dining stalwarts underscored the…

Entertainment

Interview: Metro chats with filmmaker Meir Kalmanson, man…

A New York filmmaker hands out smiles to its residents.

Television

TV watch list, Tuesday, Sept. 30: 'Selfie,' 'Utopia'…

'Selfie' This modern day take on the "My Fair Lady" story stars John Cho in the Henry Higgins role. Perhaps instead of "the rain in…

Music

Can't-miss weekend events continue to attract the masses

Reporter was commissioned to write this in-depth article Earlier this summer, the Firefly Music Festival drew crowds of tens of thousands of people to Dover, Delaware.…

MLB

Mets 2014 report card

The Mets wrapped up their eight straight season without a playoff appearance last weekend. Needless to say, they fell a bit short of general manager…

NFL

NFL Power Rankings: Cowboys, Packers, Ravens, Chargers climb

NFL Power Rankings: Cowboys, Packers, Ravens, Chargers climb

NFL

Ryan Quigley making a big impact for Jets…

Ryan Quigley, now in his second year as the Jets punter, had an exceptional afternoon with six punts for an average of 51.7 yards per punt.

NFL

3 positives to take from Jets loss to…

The Jets suffered another loss Sunday — 24-17 to the Lions — but the reason why it hurts so much for Jets fans is that…

Style

Products that support breast cancer awareness and research

Asics GT-1000, $100 Asics’ third pink collection in collaboration with Christina Applegate’s Right Action for Women includes this pink-accented version of its best-selling GT-1000 3…

Wellbeing

Dr. Marisa Weiss: Where we stand on breast…

As an oncologist and a survivor herself, Dr. Marisa Weiss knows the urgency felt by those diagnosed with breast cancer. Genetic testing has accelerated the…

Wellbeing

Bees' stingers hold new hope for cancer cure

A promising new lead in the search for a cancer cure has turned up in a place that most people naturally avoid. A team from…

Home

Emily Henderson on small space design

Design expert Emily Henderson shows us how to upgrade our cramped quarters.