It took some convincing from longtime family friend Ralph Fiennes to get Vanessa Redgrave to take on the role of Volumnia in “Coriolanus.”
“It was never a part that I wanted to play, and more important than that, when I read the script my imagination got blocked. I didn’t think I could play her, but I wasn’t going to refuse working with Ralph,” Redgrave says.
Eventually Fiennes, the film’s director who also plays the lead, Coriolanus, won Redgrave over with his support of her portrayal of Volumnia, which differed from the script’s original directions. The two make up the film’s central relationship, a mother and her warrior son intimately bonded in their shared love of their country.
Volumnia, a warrior in her own right, is arguably the strongest and most courageous character in a film filled with blood-thirsty, battle-ready soldiers.
“As far as she’s concerned, the noblest thing in life is to fight and win for your country. She’s ready to see her son sacrificed if necessary in battle and she would be proud of him for dying in battle,” Redgrave says. “It became clear to me and Ralph that this lady, she didn’t fight herself but she trained young kids to fight and she was proud of that…it was her whole life. That’s what’s rather unique about this lady.”
Redgrave and Volumnia share the military family lineage, as many of the men on Redgrave’s mother’s side were in the British navy. Redgrave says that was an important mindset while preparing for the film.
“She’s not only a military mother, but probably the most influential member of her family and the eldest member of her family, who have fought in the military for generations. You have to find your way to that place,” Redgrave explains.
Redgrave says her respect for Fiennes and for a creative collaboration was shared by all on the set.
“Whether they were British or American or Serbian, we all worked very well together. We all respected Ralph and his co-producers enormously,” Redgrave says.