BAZ BAMIGBOYE: Ralph Fiennes wins access to the Rembrandt room

BAZ BAMIGBOYE: Ralph Fiennes wins access to the Rembrandt room

BAZ BAMIGBOYE: Ralph Fiennes wins access to the hallowed Rembrandt room for his film about a Russian ballet star’s defection to the West

Director Ralph Fiennes and Oleg Ivenko (pictured above)

Ralph Fiennes pulled off a stunning cultural feat by winning access to the hallowed Rembrandt Room at the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg for his sublime film about Rudolf Nureyev’s defection to the West.

Fiennes, who directed The White Crow — starring Russian ballet dancer Oleg Ivenko — wanted a scene of Nureyev captivated by Rembrandt’s masterpieces to represent his voracious hunger to absorb art. But the Hermitage bans feature-film shoots.

Using a wiliness worthy of his spy chief, M, in the Bond films, Fiennes and producer Gabrielle Tana put together a string of reasons as to why they should be allowed in.

‘We put a lot of energy into the mission. The director listened and said we could shoot because we’re making a film about a great artist and because, thankfully, we were interested in one particular painting.’

It’s a beautiful moment in the film, written by David Hare, which goes on release next Friday. Hare observed that Nureyev commanded the stage in the way Fiennes commands the stage, as he did in Antony And Cleopatra at the National Theatre.

Oleg Ivenko at ‘The White Crow’ UK Premiere at The Curzon Mayfair, London on 12 March 2019 Copy to caption PMS transfer info

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Ralph Fiennes attends ‘The White Crow’ special screening in partnership with The Dorchester at Curzon Cinema Mayfair

Helena Bonham Carter

From Film The White Crow directed by Ralph Fiennes and starring Oleg Ivenko as Nureyev

On set of the film The White Crow (pictured above) as director Ralph Fiennes works structuring a scene

Fiennes never saw Nureyev dance live. ‘I remember a girlfriend went to see him and I asked what he was like and she said: ‘Honestly, some people were booing him.’ He insisted on dancing until he was, arguably, too old and couldn’t do the jumps.

‘He was loved for his determination not to leave the stage, but it was clear the magic he had in the early Sixties wasn’t there in the early Eighties.’

Fiennes is in the film as Nureyev’s teacher, Alexander Pushkin.

I’ve seen it three times and, for me, it’s a terrific thriller about art.

Ralph Fiennes directed The White Crow — starring Russian ballet dancer Oleg Ivenko

The pair laughed and joked with each other before and after the London premiere event 

Ivenko (left) was one of the four candidates who reached the final stage of screen-testing for the film directed by Fiennes

Fiennes is currently filming the Kingsman prequel, The Great Game, before doing Bond 25, followed by The Dig with Nicole Kidman. He plans to devote next year to theatre roles.

Ivenko was one of four candidates who reached the final screen-test stage. Fiennes said: ‘He hadn’t acted before, but could take direction.

‘I told him I wanted him to convey a mixture of arrogance and flirtatiousness. When I looked at the test, I knew he was the boy I was looking for.’

Ian raises £2m for theatres 

Ian McKellen (pictured above) have foregone their usual fees

The Ian McKellen stage tour, 80 performances around the country to celebrate his 80th birthday, will raise millions for UK theatres.

McKellen and his small team — including director Sean Mathias and producers at the Ambassadors Theatre Group — are taking expenses, but have foregone their usual fees, meaning more than £2 million will collectively stay with the venues the actor visits.

There are a handful of London venues such as the Donmar, the Duke of York’s (where Sir Ian made his London debut), Young Vic and the National, but the majority of venues are in the regions.

Tonight, his solo show is at the Aberystwyth Arts Centre, and from now to his final date (on September 15 at the National’s Olivier Theatre), he will visit Bath, Bristol, Windsor, Nottingham, Sheffield, Jersey, Aberdeen and the tiny Orkney Arts Theatre on August 28.

In between, McKellen will do post-production work on Tom Hooper’s film of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats. The actor plays Gus the Theatre Cat. I’m told it’s a feline delight. It opens in December.

A promotional poster for the Ian McKellen on stage tour (pictured above) which features McKellen standing among falling leaves 

Betrayal trio lay bare tale of infidelity 

Director Jamie Lloyd says that because he set Harold Pinter’s Betrayal, about a trio engaged in infidelity, on an almost bare stage, there’s a sensual force field around the actors — Tom Hiddleston, Zawe Ashton and Charlie Cox, pictured above right.

Designer Soutra Gilmour’s stripped-back set (two chairs, a small table, bottles of wine and beer and a few glasses) allows the cast to be, as Lloyd put it, ‘front and centre’.

He added: ‘There’s nothing in their way, so there’s a heat between them because you feel, palpably, the electricity.

Cast members Tom Hiddleston, Zawe Ashton and Charlie Cox pose backstage following the press night performance of ‘Betrayal’ at The Harold Pinter Theatre

The three famous faces laugh together as they pose for a photograph in the dressing room 

‘You’ve got to believe they’re all having sex. You can’t be prudish about it. Harold wasn’t a prude.’

Lloyd curated the six-month Pinter season at the Harold Pinter Theatre that included 30 pieces. It was a mammoth undertaking, produced by Emily Vaughan-Barratt and overseen by executive Adam Speers.

On many visits, I’ve been struck by the generational mix of the audience. It was also great to see the Pinter’s four levels packed for Betrayal.

The creative team from hit Broadway musical Dear Evan Hansen arrive in London next month to cast the show that starts previews at the Noel Coward Theatre on October 29. The Tony-Award winning musical is about a 17-year-old student with an unspecified anxiety disorder who becomes caught up in another family’s tragedy when the son commits suicide.

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