The White Crow, directed by Ralph Fiennes, tells the life story of Russian ballet legend Rudolf Nureyev.

The actor, who also plays the part of Nureyev's ballet master in the film, gives us a rare interview.



The White Crow tells the true story of Rudolph Nureyev, a unique artist who transformed the world of ballet.

Ralph Fiennes directed the film, but also plays the role of Nureyev's mentor and ballet master Alexander Pushkin.

Asked why he had chosen to make a film about the Russian star, Fiennes says: “Well, it wasn't because I was interested in ballet.”

He had been captivated by Julie Kavanagh's 2007 biography Nureyev: The Life.

“It struck me as an extraordinary story of a young man's unique will to realise himself as a dancer – and a potential film narrative,” he says.

Nureyev is played by world-class ballet dancer Oleg Ivenko, who was chosen after a sweep through Russian ballet schools.

“I always felt we could only make the film if I could have a dancer who could believably and plausibly play and interpret Nureyev,” Fiennes says.

His interest in Russia goes back to his childhood.

“I was curious about Russia and the Russian Revolution when I was a small boy interested in history generally,” he adds.

Fiennes speaks in Russian throughout the film, which he admits was challenging.

“I have rudimentary Russian but it's very hard to act in a language that you don't speak fluently or are not bi-lingual in – that spontaneity of heart, brain and mouth connection.

“But working with Oleg and a great translator, along with my basic knowledge of Russian, all helped. And I knew the script inside out.”

Nureyev was famously egotistical and temperamental.

“I guess I relate to that to some extent,” Fiennes says.

“I mean, Nureyev himself was difficult – a man of extreme temperament, and I don't relate or like to be thought of behaving like him at all, but something in me responded to his drive.

“I find his creative determination inspirational. It just felt dramatically very potent as a story.

“But it comes at a cost – it would be monstrous if everyone behaved like that.”

The film focuses on Nureyev's life before he became a megastar.

“What I want the audience to see is a young boy with a great sense of destiny – he's not sophisticated, he doesn't know anything about western culture. He's just got a burning desire to dance.”

Asked about his favourite Mayfair hangouts, Fiennes says: “I will sometimes go to the Royal Academy, I will sometimes have lunch at The Wolseley or a meal at Scott's.

“I like going to the Curzon Cinema and I like Heywood Hill bookshop.”


Read the full interview with Selma Day in the Mayfair Times here.

Picture above: Ralph Fiennes and Oleg Ivenko in The White Crow