James Luxford recalls his nervewracking job of hosting a Q&A with actor Ralph Fiennes

Remember, it’s ‘Ray-fe’, not ‘Ralph”… While this statement may wander into heavy name-dropping territory, there are certain times in my life where I think “how on Earth did I get here? How did this happen?” Talking to Elton John about the Watford result while we both waited for a lift in Claridges, having to repeat every question twice to an increasingly annoyed Eric Cantona, John Rhys-Davies physically moving away from me at a film convention when I mentioned I was a film critic… there are moments in my job, and my life, that seem like a moment from Forrest Gump. This past Saturday I found myself asking a similar question: how did I end up on a stage, in front of 200-plus people, hosting a Q&A with Ralph Fiennes?

The Monday beforehand I got a call from the Phoenix Picturehouse’s manager, Kenny, asking if I would host their event with Ralph Fiennes on Saturday. I’m not what you’d call a chatty person, my friends and family tell me I’m a lot more sociable than I think I am, but it’s unlikely that, if you met me, you would be thinking “God I wish he’d shut up!” So, standing in front of a sold out Screen One introducing myself filled me with terror. However, the movie fan in me desperately wanted to do it, so regret became a bigger fear than failure.

So after five days of planning, rehearsing (“remember, it’s pronounced ‘Ray-fe’ not ‘Ralph’!”) and getting advice/reassurance from everyone I knew, I found myself suited and booted, waiting in the foyer for Mr Fiennes to arrive. Like the President, he zoomed up to the front door in a blacked out car, came in looking every inch the Oscar-nominated actor and was, quite honestly, very nice to everyone. However, I was still a little bit concerned about being up on stage. I’ve done more interviews than I can remember but rarely with more than a handful of people present, and often just on my own with the ‘talent’, so I didn’t know what to expect from over two hundred people (my previous biggest crowd was my wedding speech, which I found thoroughly uncomfortable). Luckily the people of Oxford were very amiable, and anyway they paid to see Voldemort, not me (although I was surprised to see no Harry Potter related questions), so I managed to keep things rolling along smoothly and everyone (I hope) had a nice time.

While a one-man stage show probably isn’t in my future, it’s a terrific feeling to do something that you were a little bit nervous of doing. Moreover, as I looked out at the crowd (which included my Mum, beaming back at me) I realised that in my teens, long before press junkets, I would have been in this crowd and loving every minute. So, another lovely event in what has been a good 2014 for me, workwise and, if nothing else, it made for a terrific Facebook photo.