05/09/1994 at 01:00 AM EDT
The glacial purity of his eyes, the fine lines of a face that just escapes—and gorgeously so—being gaunt, a 5'11" frame that is lean without a trace of scrawniness—these assets would earn Ralph Fiennes (pronounced Rafe Fines) second glances in any crowd. But it is a trait less cosmetic than cosmic that helped him generate more heat than any actor since Robert De Niro and garner an Oscar nomination for his portrayal of sadistic Nazi Amon Goeth in Schindler's List. Says Adrian Noble, artistic director of Britain's Royal Shakespeare Company, where Fiennes, 31, cut his acting teeth and worked alongside his wife of eight months, actress Alex Kingston: "Ralph can be both angel-like and demonic at the same time. That's very extraordinary, very sexy." This odd carnality led Steven Spielberg to cast the then-obscure son of a photographer father and novelist mother. In Fiennes's screen test, he said, lurked "sexual evil."
Gorging on pasta and pints of Guinness, the Brit actor gained 28 pounds for the role. "My pet theory," said Fiennes, "is that Goeth was so steeped in brutality that unconsciously, as a kind of remedy, he had to stuff himself to numb his sensibilities." Straightaway, the intensely shy Fiennes had to get down to his usual 150 pounds to star in director Robert Redford's movie Quiz Show, due in September. How did he do it? "Redford got me a personal trainer," he admitted ruefully. Welcome to Hollywood, Ralph.