Which director would you like to work with that you haven’t before?? “Ang Lee. I like the detail he brings to his films. I love ‘The Ice Storm’ particularly.”

How do actors balance commerce vs. art?? “There’s more interesting material usually from the independent sector. I suppose you hope that people will want to see it and it might turn into something commercial. In the end, I have to go with what my instincts tell me.”

Up next:“At the moment, a low-budget independent movie called ‘Bernard and Doris’ with Susan Sarandon. It’s about Doris Duke and the relationship she had with her Irish butler.”

As Justin Quayle in “The Constant Gardener,” Ralph Fiennes is the picture of a very proper Englishman until circumstances force him out of his shell.

Thesp says he was attracted to the role precisely because of Quayle’s evolution from mild-mannered diplomat to man of action. “He’s a good guy who has to find courage he didn’t know he had. I liked having to chart that journey, while still keeping true to the spirit of who he was.”

While the thriller/love story is set against the machinations of the pharmaceutical industry, to prepare for his part, Fiennes concentrated on the world of diplomacy, spending time with the British High Commission. “The people I met are very good listeners, very attentive,” he says. “That quality was useful for Justin.”

Already a fan of novelist John le Carre, the twice-Oscar-nominated thesp grew even more excited about the project when Fernando Meirelles was named director. An admirer of the helmer’s kinetic style, Fiennes says, “It seemed on the set he was discovering shots and angles as he was went along. The camera keeps changing and has a very on-the-hoof feeling about it, which I loved because it gave us a sense of spontaneity and surprise as we were filming.”

It’s an appropriate dynamic given that Fiennes’ Quayle is continually uncovering details about his wife.

Fiennes had worked with co-star Rachel Weisz before, in 1999’s “Sunshine.” Reuniting for the “Constant Gardener,” he explains, “It was more of a rekindling. There was a freshness in the way we engaged in each other.”

Both actors threw themselves into their parts in earnest. “We’re both mad perfectionists. We kept asking for more takes, and Fernando couldn’t understand why,” recalls Fiennes.

Pic was shot in London and Berlin as well as Kenya. Uncertain what to expect going into the experience, thesp was pleased that the production was determined to film on location. “Fernando wants to shoot the real things, and that’s good,” he says. “Like shooting in the marketplace, just walking through and asking people questions. There’s a sense of authenticity that’s underpinning the whole project.”

Fiennes even picked up the camera himself to capture a scene from Quayle’s vantage point. Says the thesp, “I like that — being surprised and pushed by a director to do things unexpectedly.”