Reading some plays was a real chance for me to catch up on the horrendous schooling I had". His father, Mark, is a photographer; his mother, Jini - who died in 1993 - was a writer and artist.But Fiennes doesn't really believe in preparation: "there's a fine marriage between the information you collect and the world of the script. You have to be prepared to give yourself and your ideas up to the writer's imagination." Inevitably, I found it difficult not to mention the R-word. The children had a peripatetic upbringing, moving about between London, the West Country and Ireland.If you'd watched him in Stealing Beauty (he plays the small but crucial role of the boy who finally relieves Liv Tyler of her virginity), Martha - Meet Frank, Daniel and Laurence or Elizabeth you'd be forgiven for thinking Fiennes only has three gears: lover, hangdog, and hangdog-lover.
My first impression was that he's smaller than you might imagine - compact and lithe in the way male ballet dancers can be.
"Working backstage as a teenager made me realise there's not much glamour in this profession - just lots of hard work.
That's a good thing to learn early on." Next in the ascendant career of Joseph Fiennes is a part in the screen adaptation of James Hawes's novel Rancid Aluminium.
"It will," he admitted, fidgeting with his cropped fringe. "It'll be fine." Seeing Fiennes in the flesh precisely one hour after watching him on screen, running about Elizabethan London in a state of high passion, was like seeing a blackboard wiped clean.
He folded himself into the corner of a sofa, crossing and recrossing his limbs around him as if I might, at any moment, leap over the table and attack him.