Ralph Fiennes in "The End of the Affair" is brooding and intense -- as was his character in "The English Patient," "Wuthering Heights" and even "Schindler's List." But while the actor sports the penetrating stare he's famous for, the real Fiennes stood reserved and quiet at the film's premiere Dec. 2.
"Some people say I am. But sometimes they say, 'No, he's not like that, really,' " Fiennes said of his likeness to his characters. "I try not to take any part home with me ... but I think other things in the part surface."
Fiennes shares a pedigree with fellow Oscar-nominated actors Stephen Rea and Julianne Moore in the film, directed by Neil Jordan, who won a screenplay Oscar for "The Crying Game." In this drama, Fiennes plays a writer who begins a passionate affair in World War II England with a civil servant's wife (Moore), only to see it end suddenly two years later. His obsession with her continues, however, and when her husband (Rea) suspects an affair, Fiennes' character hunts her down, determined to find out who -- or what -- took her away from him. The quest sends him on a journey of reflection and mystery with surprising -- and otherworldly -- results.
The attraction between the lovers occurs instantly and is strong enough to weather war, distance, even death. Fiennes called the connection "whatever that thing is between two people. I don't think there's any side that's ever explained why people fall in love and need each other. ... I think it's a mystery."
Moore, who also appears in "Magnolia" and "A Map of the World" this season, agreed. "I don't think anyone knows what draws them together. We've all had that experience, and we never really define it."
Moore shares some nudity-laced love scenes with Fiennes in the film but says the film's script, director and actors made her comfortable with it.
"Love scenes are always challenging, because you're trying to make them truthful and authentic and obviously that's not the true relationship you have with the person," she said.
Rea, who marks "End of the Affair" his eighth collaboration with director Jordan, admitted his hesitancy when he was offered the role of the duped husband.
"Nobody really wants to be a cuckold," he said. "[But] then I realized that [he's] actually very, very interesting. Rather selfless ... he ends up doing what he has to do to keep his wife in some way."
Jordan had the daunting task of adapting Graham Greene's classic novel for the big screen. The big challenge, he said, was doing justice to an already "superb" novel. And, as a writer himself, the director said he could relate to the film's tragic novelist.
"I'm so tortured [myself]," Jordan said. "It's a very romantic place to be, because people think 'Oh, you're tortured, let me fall in love with you.' ... [but] there's something about the isolated intelligence of somebody banging away at a typewriter."
"The End of the Affair" opened in limited release Dec. 3.