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Ralph Fiennes, Spider

A few years back, the director of ”The Fly” and ”Dead Ringers” received Patrick McGrath’s screenplay (based on his 1990 novel), along with a note saying that Ralph Fiennes was eager to play the title character, a schizophrenic man who, after spending 20 years in an institution, is released and begins to unravel again. Right up David Cronenberg’s dark alley. ”Spider’s profound confusion about life and identity and memory is universal,” he says. ”He doesn’t have the distraction most people have…. In that sense, he’s an existential figure who could easily come from the pages of Kafka or Dostoyevsky or Samuel Beckett.” Miranda Richardson plays three characters in the film — one of whom is a boozy tart quite different from the Brit’s past roles. ”Hopefully it’s not a caricature,” she says. ”There’s a horrible black humor about it. It’s so ‘Grand Guignol’ that your only option is to giggle.” Uncomfortably, one assumes. (Feb. 28)