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‘The King’s Man’ star Ralph Fiennes loves a good swordfight

Ralph Fiennes looks like an elegant university professor. He has that proper British voice and wears a serious blue suit and light blue shirt to an interview on an early weekday morning. There is something commanding about him. Pristine.

Then he smiles and it all goes to bloody hell. The man who played Voldemort in Harry Potter, a Nazi in “Schindler’s List” and an MI6 agent in “Skyfall” is talking about his character in the new holiday film “The King’s Man,” which requires him, among other things, to dangle is body off a mountain ledge. Terrifying? He laughs. “At least, I’m not an action virgin,” he says.

Only an experienced man of movie adventure could handle “The King’s Man,” a period action spy film directed by Matthew Vaughn and the third film in the “Kingsman” series. Based on the comic book “The Secret Service,” by Mark Miller and Dave Gibbons, the film is actually a prequel to 2014’s “Kingsman: The Secret Service” and 2017’s “Kingsman: The Golden Circle.” Fiennes, who also executive produces, stars as Orlando Oxford, a grieving father who must stop history’s worst tyrants and criminals who are plotting a war to wipe out millions.

The film also stars Gemma Arterton, Matthew Goode and Djimon Hounsou. Next up for Fiennes is a TV mini series version of “Brideshead Revisited” with Andrew Garfield and Cate Blanchett.

Review-Journal: Ralph, you just turned 59 on Dec. 22. Are you supposed to be sword fighting and dangling your body off cliffs at this age?

Ralph Fiennes: Yes, it was the perfect time to do an adventure spy, Bond-spy character. Why? The story was intoxicating to me. Yet, it wasn’t just the action that drew me in. I do think it’s the drama of this story, plus the historical figures, combined with Matthew Vaughn’s mixing of serious with comedy and satire that also caught my eye. There is also a message. I play a man who is a ferocious pacifist. He suffers the loss of his wife early in the film. Meanwhile, he has been to war and awarded all the metals for bravery. Yet, he’s anti-war now. He can’t bear the idea that his son goes to war and could lose his life in the conflict. My character has other ways of combatting the evil in this world.

Eventually, this pacifist picks up a weapon.

It’s interesting to play someone who declares, “I am this person. That’s it. I’m never going to change.” But then life happens and you are forced to change your ways. In his case, he picks up a weapon.

Are you drawn to sword fighting, because you do a lot of it here?

Absolutely. I’ve always loved stage sword fighting and I love watching old Errol Flynn and Basil Rathbone movies. Give me “Robin Hood” on a rainy day to watch. I do believe that actors working in the ’30s and ’40s really knew what to do with a sword, and I wanted to show today’s audiences how exhilarating those fights could be onscreen.

Do you have an inner action hero?

Yes! Not many films have offered me the challenge. In this film, I’m required to defend myself. And there’s a little boy in me that said, “Let’s go!”

At one point, you claw your way up an ice wall. It’s a memorable scene. How was it constructed?

We built the face of a cliff near our location shoot and had special wax on it that looked just like ice. The scene has me parachuting out of a plane, but I get caught in a tree and then I bash my body into this “icy” mountain wall and must climb my way to the top. I actually had to do a bit of the climbing with knives in my hand, digging into this wax. I had to climb, but there was a rope to hold me if I slipped. I really tried to pull myself up, which wasn’t easy. I had to use quite a lot of strength. I was basically in a plank position wedged into these rocks. I managed to do a take for all of about 40 seconds, but I did it! I was impressed with my core strength, which lasted under one minute.

There’s even a leg licking scene between you and Rhys Ifans.

My character is a bit humiliated. He takes off his pants and his leg is licked by Grigori Rasputin (Ifans). That stuff is fun. You’re playing. The tone of it was great to pull off and we had to do a lot of takes to get it right. We riffed and played off each other. He also tried to drown me, which was also great fun. It’s lovely to work with someone who allows you to throw the ball back and forth.

You’ve frightened so many as Voldemort. What movie scares you?

John Carpenter’s “Halloween” just scares me to death. Remember when Jamie Lee Curtis is behind the blinds and the killer starts smashing away at the slats to get to her? It’s such an edgy movie, especially when the killer is shot and shot and shot. And then everyone looks for his body — and it’s gone. Frightening, isn’t it?”

By the way, would you ever play Voldemort again?

I would love to play Voldermort again.

Did you keep anything from that iconic role?

I might just have my wand. I definitely did not keep the costume, which was hard to wear. It was too long and I kept tripping over it.

What did you wear underneath Voldemort’s cloak?

Tights, but they would slip down my thighs, which made it hard to walk with any menace or dignity! Eventually, I wore tights with garters to keep them up!

I read that you wanted to play Bond when you were younger?

As a teenager, I was obsessed with the character, so I might have fancied my chances. It just never panned out, although at one point many years ago a few phone calls were made.

What is your idea of an ideal Sunday in London?

I’m pretty simple. A rainy day. A good book. My ideal is to end the day by going out for great food with close friends or my family.

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