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‘The Invisible Woman’: Ralph Fiennes on the ‘totality’ of Dickens

As the most famous author in Victorian England, Charles Dickens cast a long shadow -- one in which he had to hide a passionate love affair with the young actress Nelly Ternan. Their story is told in the new historical drama “The Invisible Woman.”

At a recent installment of the Envelope Screening Series, actor-director Ralph Fiennes talked about playing the larger-than-life author on screen.

“He’s a fascinating man, a complicated man,” Fiennes said. "... I think there’s a whole totality to Dickens: the vital, charismatic amateur actor; manager; family man; the man who raises money for charities; socially gregarious, vivacious. But then Nelly came into his life and he was smitten. These things happen. I like those contradictions in someone.”

VIDEO: Watch Ralph Fiennes, Felicity Jones discuss ‘The Invisible Woman’

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Dickens was a celebrity in his day, and Fiennes said he had both a private and public persona. “I think his sense of himself toward his public was very strong,” Fiennes said. "... He was always a keen amateur actor, but his readings of his own work were very, very successful. And in his later life this was almost the main thing. And I think his sense of himself to his public was very, very important. He developed a strong persona, I suppose: This is, in quotes, ‘Charles Dickens.’”

Felicity Jones, who plays Ternan, said of her character, “I had such great empathy for her, in some ways, having to deal with someone like Dickens. I think he was obviously an extraordinary genius, but at the same time, he was a very demanding human being. And it’s not until, in a way, that Dickens dies that you see Nelly rise up and sort of really understand what this relationship meant to her.”

For more from Fiennes and Jones on “The Invisible Woman,” watch the full video above and check back for more highlights.

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