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Why Basil From The Dig Looks So Familiar

Historical drama The Dig is coming to Netflix on January 29, just in time to add some late 1930's British period romance to the winter. Director Simon Stone's film is based on a 2007 novel of the same name by John Preston, and tells the story of the excavation of the Sutton Hoo burial site in Suffolk, England. Sutton Hoo is the site of two Anglo-Saxon cemeteries that date back to the 6th and 7th centuries, including a buried ship that was discovered undisturbed.

The film's impressive cast includes Carey Mulligan as Edith Pretty, the owner of the land in which the burial site is laid; Lily James as Peggy Preston, a talented young archeologist at the start of a long, distinguished career; and Johnny Flynn as Rory Lomax, Edith Pretty's nephew, who works for her and has his eye on Peggy. The other name at the top of the poster alongside Mulligan belongs to one of Great Britain's most iconic living actors, who plays Basil Brown, a self-taught archeologist (or "excavator," as he modestly describes himself) whom Pretty hires to explore the mounds. He's most famous for playing He Who Must Not Be Named. You know who he is — he's Ralph Fiennes!

Here's where you've seen Ralph Fiennes before.

He was Amon Goeth in Schindler's List

The film that made the world learn his name is pronounced "Rafe," not "Ralph" was Schindler's List, Steven Spielberg's Best Picture-winning Holocaust drama. A doezen years before taking up the role of The Dark Lord, Fiennes portrayed WWII monster Amon Goeth, the Nazi SS officer who oversaw the construction and administration of the Płaszów concentration camp in Poland. He was a corrupt and brutal man who murdered Jews for his own sick enjoyment. It's a terrifying real-life character, and Fiennes embodied him in an unforgettable way. He won the BAFTA and was nominated for the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, and, in 2003, the American Film Institute ranked Goeth as the 15th greatest film villain of all time.

Fiennes, like all actors playing this type of evil character, said he had to find some sort of empathy for Goeth. "In playing Amon, I got close to his pain," Fiennes told Time in 1994. "Inside him is a fractured, miserable human being. I feel split about him, sorry for him. He's like some dirty, battered doll I was given and that I came to feel peculiarly attached to."

He was Lord Voldemort in the Harry Potter series

There are echoes of Amon Goeth in Fiennes' performance as the dark wizard Voldemort in the Harry Potter film series. His turn as Voldemort was a sadistic, disturbingly seductive performance, though the makeup, prosthetics, and removal of his nose in post-production made him barely recognizable as himself. Fiennes first appeared as Voldemort in the fourth film, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, and ended his run in the finale, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2.

Fiennes famously almost turned down the role of Voldemort when it was first offered to him, but now he can't imagine anyone else playing the part in the current Fantastic Beasts Harry Potter prequel film series. "I feel a kind of affection for Voldemort," Fiennnes told BBC Newsnight in 2019. "So if there was a world in which Voldemort came back, I would be very possessive about wanting to reprise that." They'd better let him do it if Voldemort shows up; Ralph Fiennes is kind of scary, and you don't want to be on his bad side! Plus, of course, he was amazing in the role.

He was M. Gustave in The Grand Budapest Hotel

Fiennes is mostly known for dramatic roles, but he's an excellent comic actor when he a role calls for it. His most notable funny role was in Wes Anderson's tragicomedy, The Grand Budapest Hotel, in which he played Monsieur Gustave H., the famous, eccentric concierge of the titular hotel who gets framed for murder and has to go on the run with his protege Zero (Tony Revolori). His delivery of the line "Take your hands off my lobby boy!" will stay with you forever. 

In an interview with GQ, Fiennes said that when Anderson contacted him about being in the movie, the writer-director sent the script and told him to pick which character he wanted to play, which is a very unusual casting process. Fiennes also said that Gustave was based on a mutual acquaintance of his and Anderson's, though no one has been able to figure out who that is.

He's M in the James Bond series

Shortly after Harry Potter ended, Fiennes joined another iconic British film series: the James Bond franchise. He debuted as M, the head of MI6, in 2012's Skyfall, after the death of the previous M (Judi Dench) earlier in the movie. Fiennes' M was previously known as Gareth Mallory, and was a high-ranking British intelligence operative. After Skyfall, Fiennes appeared in Spectre and will appear in No Time to Die, which will be Daniel Craig's final outing as 007.

Interestingly, Fiennes said that he was considered for the role of Bond himself when the franchise's producers were looking for a new 007 in the 1990s, according to The Telegraph. The part went to Pierce Brosnan, which is fine with Fiennes, who doesn't think he would have been right for the role anyway – at least not as traditionally conceived. "I did feel that I could have had a crack at it if it had been set in the 1950s," he told The Guardian in 2019. "I love the books and I always saw them in black and white, gritty, noirish and very dangerous. And probably very politically incorrect!"