NEW YORK, Sept. 26 (UPI) -- British actor Ralph Fiennes says he chose to take a pivotal role in the third installment of "The Silence of the Lambs" franchise because Ted Tally's script does a superior job of developing his serial killer character, Francis Dolarhyde.
"My memory of 'Silence of the Lambs' is that, although the killer is very scary, the screenplay never gave much time for us to know him," the 40-year-old "Red Dragon" star tells United Press International.
"When I read this screenplay, Francis gets a lot of time through the relationship with Emily Watson's character. You see a man struggling with how to deal with his emotions, how to relate intimately with somebody else. That was the appeal, to play more than just one facet."
"Red Dragon" is a prequel to the Oscar-winning Best Picture "The Silence of the Lambs" and the 2000 film "Hannibal," as well as a re-make of the 1986 film, "Manhunter." It stars Fiennes as a deranged serial killer and Ed Norton as the FBI profiler trying to catch him. Anthony Hopkins returns once again as evil, but brilliant, Dr. Hannibal Lecter, an imprisoned psychopath who helps the authorities get inside the mind of a killer.
So, was the star of "Schindler's List" and "The English Patient" surprised the filmmakers made time for character development in this big Hollywood feature film?
"I was surprised and that's why I did it, I think," Fiennes admits. "I picked it up thinking he would be a standard cardboard cutout psychopath. And I was really pleasantly surprised that it's such a great role. But it is in the [Thomas Harris] book. The most interesting part of the book, to me, when I read it was the biography. Harris goes into great detail about Dolarhyde's childhood. So, when I'm playing the part, even though it's not portrayed literally, (that detail) is suggested in the movie. And how great is that to have as the actor, all that back-story?"
Fiennes is quick to point out that even though the audience is privy to loads of juicy details about his character, there is no clear explanation for the heinous crimes he commits -- namely murder entire families he has never met when the moon is full.
"You hear the voice of this abusive and unpleasant maternal grandmother figure in the film. I don't think it really explains why he does what he does. When you research it, it's all about feeling omnipotent. There's a hint of that when Edward Norton says: 'He's playing God. It makes him feel like he's God.' Well, that's classic for a lot of these people. People who have very low self-esteem, they will kill people. It empowers them It's an ancient, primitive thing, the idea that taking someone else's blood empowers you. Hence, Dolarhyde," he explains.
The actor further notes that his character shows hidden depths when he meets Reba, a blind woman "with great spirit and great courage to overcome her blindness."
"You see someone who is clearly very disturbed and suddenly thrown off center by someone who is very direct, very open," he explains. "She's an unusual person. She's not just any girl next door... She's got these great qualities as a person and just thinks she's dealing with this shy boy, as Lecter calls him and in a way he is a shy boy. But the appeal to me was to play those scenes with her with a sense of confusion about how to react to her, to be so intrigued by this person who's being so normal with him."
Playing the role of Reba is "Angela's Ashes" star Emily Watson, an actress Fiennes says was a delight with which to work.
"She's a great actress," he states. "She's a sweetheart. She's uncomplicated, undemanding, and very rigorous on herself. Emily just gets on with it. She's truly professional and a great spirit. It's easy to work with her because she just wants to do the work and wants what's best for the scene."
Asked if he has watched a screening of the finished product, the actor exclaims, "I think it's a great movie!"
"I was a little bit concerned about how some of the scenes, which I found quite disturbing, the audience found funny," he says. "They found my humiliation of Philip Seymour Hoffman's character funny. That was always a very disturbing scene to play and they were laughing at some of his fear, which I found alarming."
Hoffman plays a tabloid reporter who gets more than a story when he tangles with Dolarhyde.
"Red Dragon" opens Oct. 4.