David Lurie, the novel’s protagonist and Fiennes’ character, is a divorced Cape Town professor who flees the disgrace that surrounds him when his university discovers the affair he’s initiated with a young student. Near the start of the novel, he’s described this way:
He himself has no son. His childhood was spent in a family of women. As mother, aunts, sisters fell away, they were replaced in due course by mistresses, wives, a daughter. The company of women made him a lover of women and, to an extent, a womanizer. With his height, his good bones, his olive skin, his flowing hair, he could always count on a degree of magnetism. If he looked at a woman in a certain way, with a certain intent, she would return his look, he could rely on that. That was how he lived; for years, for decades, that was the backbone of his life.
Then one day it all ended. Without warning his powers fled. Glances that would once have responded to his slid over, past, through him. Overnight he became a ghost. If he wanted a woman he had to learn to pursue her; often, in one way or another, to buy her.
He existed in an anxious flurry of promiscuity. He had affairs with the wives of colleagues; he picked up tourists in bars on the waterfront or at the Club Italia; he slept with whores.
They’re going to need a truckload of makeup to transform Fiennes into the ghost Lurie has become.
Update: A friend notes, “Ralph Fiennes is going to play Voldemort, who is described as being green and emaciated with glowing red eyes, so anything is possible. Oh, and I remember that The English Patient has him burnt to a crisp. He’s no stranger to the makeup chair.”