The youngest of seven children, Joseph Fiennes has found a way to stand out. From Elizabeth to Shakespeare in Love and now to The Great Raid. Joseph plays a POW in a Japanese camp during World War II. The film is based on the actual events that took place at Camp Cabanatuan in The Philppines.
We sat down with Joseph to talk about what it took to have to lose the weight for this role and also what it's like to grow up in such a talented family.
Was it tough to prepare physically for this role?
Joseph Fiennes: Yeah, it was tough, but you just can’t complain because we were under the direction of Dale Dye, and through his guidance we went through various exercises which brought you to understand the men who were brought through such inhumane circumstances. So what you learn is what these men and women did to secure the freedoms which we endure today. It was tough, but you would go home realizing these men lived like this for years in Camp Cabanatuan; there would have been 12,000 after the Bataan Death March, so when the Rangers came in there were only 511 and you have to scratch your head and what it must have been like for the remaining soldiers psychologically to see their fellow brothers die, tortured and shipped off.
How much prior knowledge did you have of this event, being from Britain?
Joseph Fiennes: The war in Europe was really the basis for the rise of Nazi’s and the rise of fascism; I knew of, but nothing to the extent of what was happening in the Pacific. So for me, I had never heard of this story and I knew little of the events. It was the concentration of what was happening in Europe; it was a great education.
Because the subject matter of the film is so serious, how do you break the tension on the set with the other actors?
Joseph Fiennes: It’s being able to deal with being off camera and the down time. With us, the POW’s, we had a strict diet for about four months or more, and exercise routine. It’s tough, cause you walk by the M&M’s and the Twinkies and they’re screaming ‘Eat me, eat me!’ and you have to walk over to your table without them. It’s the humor that gets you through. We had our weigh-in’s every week to see who lost the most weight, and we’d have competitions and games, nothing too strenuous, (laughter) so nothing like soccer or football. You couldn’t physically do anything, you’re at your lowest, you have very low blood sugar, almost dangerous.
Do you and Ralph (his brother) ever go over any of your work together and play off each other?
Joseph Fiennes: I never see him, we’re off doing our things and when we do get together, it’s not about work. It’s about nappies, and parties, and things like that, so shop talk is out. It’s ‘what will Uncle Joe or Uncle Ralph do for us, what tricks do they have?’ We don’t get to collaborate. Certainly, when I was in school and growing up, Ralph was a big help to me.
Do you ever talk about the possibility of working together?
Joseph Fiennes: Well, we actually have, my first film, I was still in school and he asked me if I wanted to be an extra in his film and play his brother. I didn’t have any lines, but as the camera goes by him, you see me in the background. So, pressure’s off! But we nearly worked together in my sister’s film, Cromophobia. I was all set to do it and something came up and I had something else. So we’ve been trying to work together.
How many children are in your family?
Joseph Fiennes: Seven of us, including me and I’m the youngest; but I’ve got a twin, so it’d be unfair to share the title of youngest. Only Ralph and I are actors; my sister, Martha is a director, as well as my other sister Sophie, who’s also a director, my brother Magnus, who’s scored the last two films I’ve been in, he’s a composer and has a studio in London. My twin, Jacob, is a gameskeeper, and my other brother is an archeologist.