'The Mother' villain Joseph Fiennes 'happier dancing with J-Lo' than fighting

Joseph Fiennes said Jennifer Lopez helped with their dance scene. Photo courtesy of Netflix
1 of 5 | Joseph Fiennes said Jennifer Lopez helped with their dance scene. Photo courtesy of Netflix

LOS ANGELES, May 11 (UPI) -- Joseph Fiennes plays the villain in The Mother, on Netflix on Friday, pursuing a retired assassin (Jennifer Lopez) in the title role and her daughter, Zoe (Lucy Paez). Fiennes, 52, said a flashback to the characters' earlier adventures was preferable to their antagonistic scenes.

"I think I was happier dancing with J-Lo than I was actually having a fist fight," Fiennes told UPI in a recent Zoom interview. "I remember Jennifer saying, 'Don't worry, Joe. If you don't move, I'll take care of you.' She did. She made me look like I could dance."


Fiennes plays arms dealer Adrian Lovell, a superior of The Mother's during her military service as a sniper. When The Mother tries to make a deal with the FBI, Adrian stabs the pregnant woman in the stomach. Zoe survives.


"On reading that, I had concerns about that kind of violence and still do," Fiennes said of the stabbing. "But, it sets up, I guess, in no uncertain terms, what a despicable, nasty character he is and if he's chasing you, you know it's not good."

Adrian kidnaps teenager Zoe to lure The Mother out of hiding. While most of the film involves the pursuit, it's no spoiler to confirm it culminates in a fight between hero and villain.

"You're waiting for that," Fiennes said. "She's had enough and she's just going to make sure that this person is not going to take the one thing that's so important to her."

Fiennes said he and Lopez rehearsed the fight with stunt coordinators for three weeks before filming. The fight occurs in a snowy forest, adding cold to the already challenging choreography.

"I have to shout out to the stunt people because they're the miraculous persons that make us all look so amazing," Fiennes said.

Flashbacks show how Adrian took The Mother under his wing in Afghanistan and got her involved with supplier Hector Alvarez (Gael Garcia Bernal). Fiennes said the flashbacks show highlights of much longer sequences he and Lopez filmed.


Fiennes said the final cut conveys the scope of The Mother's relationship with Adrian, and helped Fiennes and Lopez as actors feel their history together.

"That's all important, even if it's just for a backstory in an actor's mind that there was a semblance of some relationship," Fiennes said.

The Mother initially escapes with her baby by setting off an explosion in the safe house in which she's hiding. Adrian survives and returns wearing an eyepatch and burn scars, which also required lengthy applications.

"Initially, it was around about an hour and one-half," Fiennes said. "The wonderful, illustrious makeup artists who had to get up at 4 in the morning to apply it got that timing down so it wouldn't be more than a half an hour."

Fiennes graduated drama school in 1993 and had his first television role in 1995. A major year for his film career was 1988, with a role in Oscar-winner Elizabeth and the title role in the Oscar-winner Shakespeare in Love.

"It felt like I was on horses and big fancy shirts all the time," Fiennes said, reflecting on 1998.

That year also saw the release of Fiennes' romantic-comedy, The Very Thought of You. In the decades since, Fiennes' film career has included Enemy at the Gates, The Merchant of Venice and the biblical drama, Risen.


Fiennes continued to act on stage, and in television series Flashforward, Camelot and The Handmaid's Tale. Handmaid's cast Fiennes as another villainous abuser of women, Fred Waterford.

"I was pretty sure the end of Season 1, beginning of Season 2 would be his demise, but no, he seemed to kind of survive way longer than he should have," Fiennes said of Waterford.

Fiennes said he only looks back on Shakespeare in Love when reporters or fans ask him to, but that's fairly regularly.

"Only when people come up and say how much they enjoyed it and it's surprisingly quite often," Fiennes said. "It's nice to know that it stays in peoples' hearts and minds."

Jennifer Lopez, Ben Affleck attend 'The Mother' premiere

Cast member Jennifer Lopez and her husband, actor Ben Affleck, attend the premiere of "The Mother" at the Regency Village Theatre in the Westwood section of Los Angeles on May 10, 2023. Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo

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