This International Herald Tribune article is built around its author’s belief that award-winning British star of stage and screen Ralph Fiennes is incapable of playing an ordinary fella. Outrageous! Early on, as a struggling young actor, Fiennes actually started to make his first serious money playing “Third Bloke” in a series of successful 80s lager commercials. Here is a transcript from the filming of one of those sessions:

DIRECTOR: Okay, people, it’s nearly wrap-up time. Just this one to do now!

It’s the small hours after the stag party and Terry and Dave have finally found Steve chained to a lamp-post wearing nothing but a lathering of shaving cream. Steve looks on in misery and cries “Oh no!” as Terry downs his pint of Carling Black Label, then Dave mugs to the camera saying, “You won’t be needing any lubrication then?!” Finally we cut to Terry raising an eyebrow and the jingle plays. Everybody got that?

[Weary acknowledgements go up from cast and crew.]


STEVE: Oh no!

[TERRY [RALPH] downs pint.]

DAVE: You won’t be needing any lubrication then?!

RALPH: Not in Yalta, no. You remember Yalta? Sometimes Ivana and I were so happy there that I thought my tears of joy would flood the very sea!

[There is a shocked silence on set.]

DIRECTOR: CUT! Ralph, what the fuck was that about?

RALPH: Sorry, Tony, I don’t know what came over me.

And it’s “Rayf”, not “Rowlf”. I’m not a Muppet.

STEVE: [under breath] Could have fooled me.

DIRECTOR: Okay, Rayf, let’s take it from the top again. Please focus. Everybody ready? ACTION!

STEVE: Oh no!

[RALPH downs pint.]

DAVE: You won’t be needing any lubrication then?!

RALPH: Ha! Give me an age and I could tell you how these Jews have sucked the lifeblood of the Fatherland!


RALPH: Sorry, Tony. Had a bit of a turn there.

DIRECTOR: You’re telling me. [Walks over to Fiennes to have a quiet word in his ear.] Look, Rayf, darling. I know it’s been a long day, but we’re just a mosquito’s buttock away from having this all finished now. It would be just dandy if you could restrict your (undoubtedly wide-ranging and classically-trained) acting talents to the raising of a single eyebrow [points to script] as specified by our friends at Saatchi and Saatchi.

RALPH: Tony?

DIRECTOR: [warily] Yes?

RALPH: Do you think perhaps that Terry, my character, is limited to raising his eyebrow because the rest of his body has been burned to a smeared landscape of scar tissue in an horrific flying accident, so that one corner of his face is the only part of his tortured shell that he can move without suffering terrible agony?

DIRECTOR: [stealing an eye-rolling glance at the other two members of the cast] Rayf, if that works for you, sweetie, it works for me.

Could we have that boom back a bit, Gary? Okay… ACTION!

STEVE: Oh no!

[RALPH downs pint.]

DAVE: You won’t be needing any lubrication then?!

[RALPH raises his eyebrow, a look of agony etched across the rest of his features. The DIRECTOR groans. WILLEM DAFOE bursts onto the soundstage. He is dressed as A BEAR and carrying a can of HEINEKEN.]

WILLEM: You get to the morning and the poison leaks away, doesn’t it? Black nights, fucking black nights, when you want to howl like a dog. [He takes a swig from the can.] I thought I would kill you. You killed my friends, you ruined my hands. But the girl was always here, like some Guardian Angel.

RALPH: You can’t kill me. I died years ago.

[The DIRECTOR begins to sob quietly. JINGLE plays.]