English actor Joseph Fiennes has entertained audiences worldwide with his notable performances as William Shakespeare in “Shakespeare in Love” and Commisar Danilov in “Enemy at the Gates,” but his newest project has the moviegoing faith community very excited — and that makes Fiennes excited, too.
Fiennes, 45, expressed his admiration for "Risen," the Biblically-based film which details the search for Jesus Christ's body that is eagerly anticipated by the the Christian community and is set to hit theaters Friday. In the film, Fiennes portrays the complex Clavius, a "non-believing" Roman military tribune who is assigned on a "manhunt" of sorts to solve the mystery of what happened to Jesus Christ's body in the days following the crucifixion and resurrection, according to the film's website. Tasked with the mission to disprove the "rumors" concerning the risen Messiah, Clavius finds himself caught between belief and unbelief as he encounters familiar characters such as Pontius Pilate, Jesus' disciples and Mary Magdalene — all while the Roman army attempts to prevent a Jewish uprising from occurring in Roman-occupied Jerusalem.
"I do believe the film gets it right in terms of Scripture. Those who feel that what is right in Scripture is right in the film will feel that there's a good balance there," Fiennes told reporter Alissa Wilkinson during an interview posted Monday with Christianity Today. "The mindset, the conditioning, the belief system, the fallibility, the brilliance, and the faults in human nature [shown in Clavius] will always be modern. It’s got to be. That's how I think stories survive."
Fiennes also discussed with Wilkinson what he experienced and thought through as he attempted to bring to life the inner struggles of a secular Roman sifting through the conflicting religions and ideologies presented to his character throughout the course of the film.
"It's a big thing to believe in Roman gods and be confronted with what Clavius witnessed, and then to become a full convert. I believe what you witness as an audience member is the seeds of conversion (if you want to use that word)," Fiennes told Wilkinson. "But certainly he's at a crossroads; he can't go back and he can't move forward. He's been irrevocably changed. and we can only guess which way he would go. ... Roman brilliance is up against the spiritual mind of Christ and the disciples. However strong and powerful you are, that connection, that spirituality, that utter faith and belief is impenetrable."
During the course of the interview, Wilkinson brought up the fact that Fiennes is no stranger to playing faith-based characters in films. In 2003, Fiennes portrayed Protestant reformer Martin Luther in the film "Luther," and following "Risen," Fiennes will be seen playing Olympic runner-turned-Chinese-missionary Eric Liddell in the film "The Last Race," whose story was popularized in the 1981 film "Chariots of Fire."
"Liddell lived and died by his resolute Christian beliefs and values. His values cost him his life, and it's what I love — how far can you raise the bar when you give up your life for your beliefs?" Fiennes told Wilkinson. "These are very magnanimous, attractive figures. To have a chance to follow in their shoes, as it were, just for a film? I love that. I don't know why."