Actor-director Ralph Fiennes poses during the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival, September 7, 2013 in Toronto, Canada.
The twice-Oscar-nominated actor, best known for his gripping performances in "Schindler's List," "The English Patient," and as the villainous Voldemort in the "Harry Potter" films, has directed his second feature film, "The Invisible Woman," about the celebrated novelist Charles Dickens and his mistress.
By CBSNews.com senior producer David Morgan
"The Invisible Woman"
Ralph Fiennes on the set of his second film as a director, "The Invisible Woman," about Charles Dickens and the woman who became his mistress.
Fiennes told CBS News correspondent Anthony Mason that he had been "pretty much ignorant" of Dickens and his work, having been consumed by Shakespeare while he was in the Royal Shakespeare Company.
"I hadn't gone down any Dickens road - not for any negative reason, I just hadn't really. And so it was only when I read an early draft of this screenplay of this film, 'The Invisible Woman,' and subsequently Claire Tomalin's book -- suddenly this man who I'd only had sort of goblets of information about, didn't really know much about, he's coming at me."
Born in 1962 in Ipswich, England, Ralph Fiennes - an eighth cousin of the Prince of Wales - was raised in a family of artists: a photographer father, and a writer mother, his five siblings included fellow actor Joseph Fiennes, filmmakers Martha and Sophie Fiennes, and composer Margnus Fiennes.
Ralph studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts and later joined the Royal Shakespeare Company.
His film debut was in the 1992 film version of Emily Bronte's "Wuthering Heights," as Heathcliff opposite Juliette Binoche's Catherine.
"Schindler's List"Ralph Fiennes' breakthrough performance was as SS officer and concentration camp commander Amon Goeth in Steven Spielberg's "Schindler's List."
"Schindler's List"Ralph Fiennes as SS officer Amon Goeth in "Schindler's List." Fiennes received an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor for his performance.
Ralph Fiennes starred as Charles Van Doren in director Robert Redford's Oscar-nominated "Quiz Show" (1994), about the cheating scandal surrounding the 1950s quiz show, "Twenty One." Also pictured are Christopher McDonald as host Jack Barry, and JOhn Turturro as contestant Herb Stempel.
Alex Kingston and Ralph Fiennes
Actors Alex Kingston and Ralph Fiennes, photographed in March 1, 1995. The two, who met while at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, married in 1993; they divorced four years later.
Tony AwardsTony Award winners Matthew Broderick ("How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying"), Cherry Jones ("The Heiress"), Glenn Close ("Sunset Boulevard"), and Ralph Fiennes ("Hamlet") pose for photographers in New York City, June 4, 1995.
"Strange Days"Angela Bassett and Ralph Fiennes in the Y2K thriller "Strange Days," directed by Kathryn Bigelow.
"The English Patient"
Ralph Fiennes played Count Laszlo de Almasy, a Hungarian nobleman and cartographer mapping the Sahara Desert, in the 1996 romantic drama, "The English Patient."
"The English Patient"
Ralph Fiennes and Kristen Scott Thomas as lover in the 1996 romantic drama, "The English Patient." The film won the Oscar for Best Picture; both Fiennes and Scott Thomas received Academy Award nominations.
"Oscar and Lucinda"Ralph Fiennes and Cate Blanchett in the duplicitous romance, "Oscar and Lucinda," directed by Gillian Armstrong ("My Brilliant Career").
Ralph Fiennes and Uma Thurman starred as secret agents John Steed and Mrs. Emma Peel in the big-screen version of the classic 1960s spy series, "The Avengers."
"Sunshine"Ralph Fiennes played three roles in Istvan Szabo's "Sunshine," a multi-generational tale of a family's experience through several turbulent decades of Hungary's history.
"The End of the Affair"Julianne Moore and Ralph Fiennes rekindle a wartime romance in "The End of the Affair."
Ralph Fiennes with director David Cronenberg on the set of "Spider."
When asked in 2003 about his attraction to darker roles, Fiennes told CBS' "The Early Show," "I suppose I'm interested in people, there's an ambivalence in people's inner life. I like the conflict inside people. I think people who are struggling - it's always interesting."
"Spider"Ralph Fiennes played a man released from a mental institution who suffers the memories of his mother's murder at the hands of his father (Gabriel Byrne) in "Spider." With Miranda Richardson.
"Red Dragon"Ralph Fiennes played a schizophrenic serial killer in "Red Dragon," the prequel to "The Silence of the Lambs." The film co-starred Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter.
"Maid in Manhattan"Jennifer Lopez is a chambermaid and Ralph Fiennes a hot-shot politico who meet cute in the rom-com "Maid in Manhattan."
Irish Film and Television AwardsActor Ralph Fiennes attends the Irish Film and Television Awards at the Burlington Hotel on November 1, 2003 in Dublin, Ireland.
"The Constant Gardener"
In "The Constant Gardener" (2005), based on the John le Carre novel, Ralph Fiennes plays a British diplomat increasingly frustrated by his wife's secretive behavior.
"There are two equal parts to this movie," Fiennes said. "On the one hand, it's a political thriller about corporate wrongdoing, malfeasance and manipulation. On the other, it's about the relationship between Justin and Tessa Quayle [played by Rachel Weisz].
"Justin's journey traces not only what Tessa was investigating; he's also playing detective about their relationship, [and] rediscovers and re-assesses his own relationship with his wife. It's a wonderful part, because he goes from being a reticent nice guy to being someone who is forced to confront some pretty tough truths about the world."
Weisz won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her performance.
Ralph Fiennes and Joseph FiennesActors and brothers Ralph Fiennes (left) and Joseph Fiennes attend the after-party following The Constant Gardener" Opening Gala for The Times BFI London Film Festival, at the Park Lane Hotel on October 19, 2005 in London, England.
"The Curse of the Were-Rabbit"
In the Wallace & Gromit stop-motion animated feature, "The Curse of the Were-Rabbit," Ralph Fiennes voiced the dashing Lord Victor Quartermaine.
"The White Countess"
Ralph Fiennes and Natasha Richardson starred in "The White Countess," directed by James Ivory and writtren by Kazuo Ishiguro ("The Remains of the Day").
"The White Countess" PremiereRalph Fiennes and Natasha Richardson attend the premiere of Merchant Ivory's "The White Countess" at the Paris Theatre on November 21, 2005 in New York City.
He Who Must Not Be NamedActor Ralph Fiennes as Voldemort, the dark lord and adversary of the boy wizard Harry Potter.
Nose JobComputer animators digitally erased the nose of actor Ralph Fiennes for his portrayal of the evil Lord Voldemort in the Harry Potter films.
"Deathly Hallows"Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) is threatened by Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) in "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2."
Tribeca Film FestivalRalph Fiennes, Lara Flynn Boyle and Donald Sutherland attend the premiere of "Land of the Blind" during the 5th Annual Tribeca Film Festival May 1, 2006 in New York City.
"In Bruges"Ralph Fiennes played a crime boss searching for a hit man who failed an assignment in Martin McDonagh's black comedy, "In Bruges."
"In Bruges"Ralph Fiennes played a crime boss with ethics in Martin McDonagh's black comedy, "In Bruges."
In "The Duchess," Ralph Fiennes played a philandering, cruel 18th century English Duke who begins an affair when his wife (Keira Knightley) does not deliver him a son.
Toronto International Film FestivalRalph Fiennes and Kiera Knightley speak at "The Duchess" press conference during the 2008 Toronto International Film Festival, at the Sutton Place Hotel on September 7, 2008 in Toronto, Canada.
"The Hurt Locker"Ralph Fiennes played a British mercenary in Kathryn Bigelow's Oscar-winning Iraq War drama, "The Hurt Locker."
In "The Reader," Ralph Fiennes played the older version of the film's central figure, who as a teenager has an affair with an older woman (Kate Winslet). She is later revealed to have been an SS camp guard during the war, and Fiennes is drawn to make up for his own complicity - his silence - in her prosecution.
"The Reader" PremiereDavid Kross, Kate Winslet and Ralph Fiennes attend the premiere of "The Reader" at the Ziegfeld Theater on December 3, 2008 in New York City.
New York CityLiam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes attend the opening night of "Mary Stuart" Off-Broadway at the Broadhurst Theatre on April 19, 2009 in New York City.
"Clash of the Titans"Ralph Fiennes as Hades, God of the Underworld, in the fantasy, "Clash of the Titans."
"Coriolanus"Ralph Fiennes plays a Roman general who seeks revenge upon the state that branded him a traitor, in the modern-day film adaptation of Shakespeare's bloodiest play, "Coriolanus." It was Fiennes' first film as a director.
"Coriolanus"Ralph Fiennes in "Coriolanus."
Salute to Vanessa RedgraveAttending the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' salute to Vanessa Redgrave, at the Curzon Soho Cinema in London on November 13, 2011: From left, Joely Richardson, Vanessa Redgrave, Ralph Fiennes, screenwriter/host David Hare, Franco Nero and Meryl Streep.
London Film FestivalActor-director Ralph Fiennes attends the "Coriolanus" press conference during the 55th BFI London Film Festival at the Vue West End on October 16, 2011 in London.
"Skyfall"Ralph Fiennes played the political overseer of MI6 who is pretty handy with a weapon himself, in the James Bond adventure, "Skyfall."
"Skyfall" PremiereRalph Fiennes, Daniel Craig and Berenice Marlohe attend the Royal World Premiere of "Skyfall" at the Royal Albert Hall on October 23, 2012 in London, England.
Poets' CornerPrince Charles, Prince of Wales, and his wife Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, listen as actor Ralph Fiennes speaks during a ceremony at Westminster Abbey in London to mark the bicentenary of the birth of British author Charles Dickens, February 7, 2012. Dickens was buried in the Abbey's Poets' Corner in 1870.
"The Invisible Woman"Ralph Fiennes as Charles Dickens and Felicity Jones as his mistress, Nelly Ternan, in "The Invisible Woman." It was Fiennes' second film as director.
"The Invisible Woman"
Ralph Fiennes directed and stars in "The Invisible Woman," about the author Charles Dickens and his affair with a young aspiring actress, Nelly Ternan (Felicity Jones, center). The film also stars Fiennes' "English Patient" costar, Kristen Scott Thomas, as Nelly's mother.
"I was really moved by 'Nelly's] story," Fiennes told Mason, "by the story of a woman who is trying to find some sense of closure with a previous love affair, [which] happens to be with Charles Dickens. But what moved me was what is it like to not have had some kind of resolution with a past intimacy. That's really what led me."
"The Invisible Woman"
Fiennes described Dickens as a man of "ferocious energy, a man who can't stop working, writing not only installments of his novels but editing a magazine. He's putting on amateur productions of plays -- the director and the actor. He's producing a big family. He's socially engaged at a level that is terrifying. He loves social engagement, taking on charitable causes.
"What comes off the page of the novels is this extraordinary imagination. I'm so glad I've come to Dickens at the age that I am because I haven't had the burden of teachers saying, 'Write this essay,' or 'This is what you've got to study.' I haven't had to study him. I've just completely enjoyed this incredible, descriptive imagination and comedic sensibility. Amazing."
Toronto International Film FestivalActress Felicity Jones and actor-director Ralph Fiennes of 'The Invisible Woman' pose at the Guess Portrait Studio during 2013 Toronto International Film Festival on September 7, 2013 in Toronto, Canada.
New York Film FestivalActors Ralph Fiennes and Joanna Scanlan attend the Gala Tribute To Ralph Fiennes during the 51st New York Film Festival at Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center on October 9, 2013 in New York City.
Having played Dickens, Ralph Fiennes also recently starred in Mike Newell's new film version of Dickens' "Great Expectations," playing Magwitch opposite Toby Irvine as Young Pip.
"There's a range of adjectives [Dickens] describes to use the first appearance of Magwitch as a man who sort of literally emerges out of the shadows of a graveyard to frighten young Pip.
"And I think I'm meant to be scared by this guy. He is capable of violence and harm. But he's also got a sense of honor in him which comes through. Dickens likes to reveal someone is capable of doing a good deed or capable of some kind of loyalty and love. Magwitch is a great creation of Dickens: a convict who's been in Australia, made some money, comes back -- he's the man who's given Pip all these opportunities. Maybe [he's] the fantasy that Dickens would have liked; he would have liked someone to magic him with sort of a Pip-like life in London."
"The Grand Budapest Hotel"
Ralph Fiennes, as a hotel manager, with Saoirse Ronan in "The Grand Budapest Hotel," a new comedy from writer-director Wes Anderson ("Moonrise Kingdom").
"The Grand Budapest Hotel" opens in theatres in March 2014.
By CBSNews.com senior producer David Morgan