With outrageously long-lashed brown eyes and darkly sensuous looks, Joseph Fiennes has joined his older brother Ralph as the English embodiment of sex for scores of women the world over. After years of working in his brother's shadow, Joseph emerged in 1998 as one of the movie industry's hottest properties, thanks to roles in two back-to-back hits, Elizabeth and Shakespeare in Love.
Born May 27, 1970, in Salisbury, England, Fiennes and his twin brother, Jacob, were the youngest of six children, Ralph being the eldest. The son of a photographer father and a novelist mother who went under the nom de plume of Jennifer Lash, Joseph and his siblings had a fairly nomadic upbringing, moving 14 times over the course of the actor's childhood. His parents had strong artistic leanings, something they encouraged among their children, and so Fiennes grew up in a very creative atmosphere. After leaving art school, he began working with the Young Vic Theatre Company and then trained at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. He made his first professional stage appearance in A Month in the Country, in which he performed opposite Helen Mirren.
After two seasons with the Royal Shakespeare Company, Fiennes was cast in a cameo role in the 1991 television drama A Dangerous Man: Lawrence After Arabia, in which Ralph played the titular hero. Joseph's next role of any importance was in the British TV series The Vacillations of Poppy Carew, which cast him opposite Tara Fitzgerald. Following this, Fiennes made his feature debut in Bernardo Bertolucci's 1996 film Stealing Beauty, in which he had a fairly small part but was able to act in the company of individuals such as Jeremy Irons, Sinéad Cusack, and Liv Tyler.
It was 1998 that proved to be Fiennes's breakthrough year. With consecutive roles as Cate Blanchett's lover in Elizabeth and as William Shakespeare in Shakespeare in Love, he commanded the audience's attention with performances that were marked by a mix of intensity, charm, and brooding charisma. The fact that he didn't look ridiculous in tights also helped, and by the end of the year, with both films having garnered a score of awards (including seven Oscars for Shakespeare alone), it looked as though Fiennes had finally emerged from behind his brother's shadow, proving that talent, as well as a favorable gene pool, were common currency among his family members.
Though Fiennes worked in several films throughout the early 2000s (Dust, Luther, Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas), he wouldn't find success similar to that of Shakespeare in Love until he took on the role of Bassiano in director Michael Radford's The Merchant of Venice (one of Shakespeare's most celebrated comedies) in 2004. Following a lead role in Running with Scissors (2006), an adaptation of Augusten Boroughs' biography of the same name, Fiennes played tough guy Lenny in The Escapist (2008), a cerebral thriller following a group of criminals seeking to free themselves from the confines of prison. The actor also enjoyed success on the television screen, including the ABC science-fiction series FlashFoward (2009-2010), and Camelot (2011), a 10-part miniseries from Starz. ~ Rebecca Flint Marx, Rovi