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Ralph Fiennes has a string of classic films to his name, from Schindler’s List to The English Patient, via The Grand Budapest Hotel and In Bruges, but he’s just revealed that he nearly turned down one of his most iconic roles.

The actor terrorized a generation as Harry Potter’s nemesis Lord Voldemort in the film franchise based on J.K. Rowling‘s beloved books, but initially wasn’t excited by the part.

“The truth is I was actually ignorant about the films and the books,” Fiennes admitted during a new interview on the U.K.’s The Jonathan Ross Show. “I was approached by the production. Mike Newell was directing the film that they wanted me to be in… the first time Voldemort was going to appear physically. Out of ignorance I just sort of thought, this isn’t for me. Quite stupidly I resisted, I was hesitant.”

Fiennes then explained that he has his role as an uncle to thank for his eventual decision to accept the villainous part, saying: “I think the clincher was that my sister Martha – who has three children who were then probably about 12, 10 and 8 – she said, ‘What do you mean? You’ve got to do it!’ So then I rewound my thinking.”

Fiennes is currently promoting The White Crow, a biopic of ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev which he directs and co-stars in alongside rising star Oleg Ivenko as Nureyev. The film is released in the U.K. on March 22 and in the U.S. on April 26.

He’ll also be seen alongside Keira Knightley, Matt Smith, Matthew Goode, and Rhys Ifans in Official Secrets, a political thriller due later this year.

Can you imagine anyone but Ralph Fiennes playing Voldemort?

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Filed Under: Harry Potter, Ralph Fiennes
By Nick Levine