Lupita Nyong’o Says Ralph Fiennes Once Blew Her Off When She Was a Production Assistant: “Give Me My Space”

Lupita Nyong'o on the cover of Rhapsody
Lupita Nyong’o on the cover of Rhapsody

Chill girl! Although she’s now an Oscar-winning actress, starring in one of the most highly anticipated films of the season — Star Wars: The Force AwakensLupita Nyong’o was once an overeager production assistant on the set of 2005’s The Constant Gardener.

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In a new interview with United’s Rhapsody magazine, the 12 Years a Slave star, 32, dished about her days as a “very green” production assistant, in which she was constantly pestering the film’s star Ralph Fiennes

Ralph Fiennes in The Constant Gardener
Ralph Fiennes in “The Constant Gardener”

“I was on a mission to talk to Ralph, but he was talking to some man,” she told the mag. “I went up to them, and suddenly the assistant director was white in the face with rage. He said, ‘You never interrupt the director!’ I didn’t even know who the director was!”

As a PA on the set, Nyong’o would escort Fiennes, 52, to the shoot every day, taking the opportunity to ask him a series of questions.

Ralph Fiennes and Lupita Nyong'o at the 2013 BAFTA LA Jaguar Britannia Awards
Ralph Fiennes and Lupita Nyong’o chatted at the 2013 BAFTA LA Jaguar Britannia Awards

“Ralph is a very still man on set,” she noted. “It would be very quiet, and that made me uncomfortable. I’d try to make chitchat, asking, ‘What’s your favorite film? Of all the films you’ve been in, which have you enjoyed the most?’ He was so polite, and he responded to me. At one point, though, he just said, ‘Lupita, give me my space.’”

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Now that she’s a celebrated working actress herself, Nyong’o said she understands the need for some peace and quiet to prepare.

Lupita Nyong'o filming
Lupita Nyong’o filming “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”

“When an actor lands on a set, there’s a psychological and emotional transformation that needs to happen,” she said. “I learned from that experience what an actor needs — and to ask for it. You have to calibrate yourself. The time before a camera rolls, the moments before my foot steps on a stage, have to be meditative. I have to withdraw from the world as I know it. It’s about listening quietly to my inner motor.”

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