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(Photo: John Phillips/Getty Images for BFI)

In the psychosexual thriller, A Bigger Splash, out today (May 4), Ralph Fiennes plays a manic figure quite unlike any role he’s ever done before. At least one critic has been so impressed as to call his performance “magnificent.”

Fiennes portrays Harry Hawkes, an amped-up record producer, who arrives on an Italian island where his ex-flame rock star Marrianne Lane, played by Tilda Swinton, is recuperating from throat surgery. Trouble lurks as Lane, her boyfriend, and Hawkes and his daughter interact in a seductive environment in an idyllic spot under the Mediterranean sun.

Hawkes is a non-stop motormouth who pushes everyone’s buttons. “He’s an extrovert, no holds barred, slightly demonic figure, someone who breaks the social norms, who’s in your face. I thought he had some great stuff to say, which I responded to,” says Fiennes.

Harry Hawkes, as Fiennes plays him, may be a bombastic character, but his antics aren’t necessarily random. Getting at hidden truths is high up on his agenda.

Fiennes says: “Harry’s someone who’s like, ‘Come on, you’ve got that skeleton in your cupboard, let’s have a look at it and talk about it.’ And that’s provocation, isn’t it? And I like that about him. I sort of like it in theory, I don’t know if I’d like it done to me.”

Harry Hawkes, with all his manic intensity, may be a maddening character to watch—but the reward is seeing Ralph Fiennes excel as an actor. Watch our interview with Ralph Fiennes below.

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By Tom Brook