The Dig's vocal coach on teaching Ralph Fiennes 'Suffolk' and becoming great friends

ralph and charlie

Ralph Fiennes, who played Basil Brown in Netflix's hit movie The Dig, on set with his personal Suffolk dialect coach Charlie Haylock. - Credit: Carey Mulligan

The man who taught Ralph Fiennes how to talk in a Suffolk accent for The Dig has revealed how the celebrity extended his contract - so he could be the star's personal coach throughout filming. 

Charlie Haylock was originally contacted by Ralph Fiennes in July 2019, after the Harry Potter actor had seen his dialect tour of the UK on YouTube and was impressed by his work. 

Dialect specialist and author, Charlie Haylock , was behind the brilliant Suffolk accents in The Dig

Dialect specialist Charlie Haylock was behind the brilliant Suffolk accents in The Dig. - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

Fiennes asked The Dig's director to get Mr Haylock onboard as his Suffolk dialect coach.

The two have since become great friends, working closely together to ensure Fiennes' character, Basil Brown, mastered the Suffolk accent in the hit Netflix movie - which tells the tale of the excavation of Sutton Hoo. 

Initially, Mr Haylock was supposed to finish the dialect coaching with Fiennes pre-filming.

Dialect specialist and author, Charlie Haylock , was behind the brilliant Suffolk accents in The Dig

Dialect specialist and author, Charlie Haylock, was behind the brilliant Suffolk accents in The Dig. - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

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However, as the script was continually being tweaked and needed 'Suffolk-ating', Fiennes requested that Mr Haylock stay on set as his personal dialect coach until filming was complete.

Producers agreed and Mr Haylock spent time making notes about the Suffolk dialect on every take, even if it was 15 or 20 takes more, reporting back to the script supervisor to ensure they got it spot on. 

Charlie Haylock with Ralph Fiennes on set of The Dig

Charlie Haylock on set with Ralph Fiennes as Basil Brown in The Dig, the story of the discovery of Sutton Hoo - Credit: LARRY HORRICKS/NETFLIX © 2021

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Mr Haylock said: "The first person Ralph looked at when coming out of a take was me, to see if he got the dialect right, but rather than run over to him each time we worked out a bit of sign language. 

"Thumbs up was obvious he got it right, a beckoning meant he would come over and he would practise again, and there was a pucker of the lips for the 'now' sound. 

Crews filming a boat

Behind the scenes of filming for The Dig in 2019. - Credit: Screen Suffolk

"We were blowing kisses at each other throughout the takes and a few eyebrows were raised, as you can imagine."

Mr Haylock said it was a real pleasure working with the cast who played the Suffolk actors in the movie, adding: "Ralph Fiennes was seeking perfection."


Ralph Fiennes on location shooting The Dig with director Simon Stone, right, and director or photography Mike Eley, left. - Credit: LARRY HORRICKS/NETFLIX © 2021 

He said: "Ralph had become Basil Brown, and out of respect for all the hard work and research he had done to achieve that, I called him Basil on set, off set and all of the time.

"It was my little way of helping him stay in character."

In the build-up and throughout filming, Mr Haylock said the actors got out into the Suffolk community to ensure that not only the accents were accurate, but also their delivery. 

He explained: "Joe Hurst, who played John Jacobs, came all the way from South Wales to spend a day with me in Aldeburgh and then onto Snape Maltings Sunday market.

"Ellie Piercy, who played Mrs Lyons, accompanied me to the Blaxhall Ship for their round-the-room busking afternoon. And Ralph also visited the Blaxhall Ship, talking to a number of locals.

"They all knew they must not sound like West Country pirates."

The first trailer for The Dig, filmed in Suffolk, has been released. The film is released in January

Carey Mulligan stars as Mrs Edith Pretty in The Dig with Ralph Fiennes as the self-taught archaeologist Basil Brown who uncovered the Anglo-Saxon ship burial - Credit: Larry Horricks/Netflix

Since the film aired last week, Mr Haylock has received hundreds of messages complimenting his work, including praise from those he worked with. 

Fiennes sent the following feedback to Mr Haylock: "Charlie is a perfectionist and would correct me on anything that felt inaccurate. The challenge being to avoid sounding West Country. His pleasure when we (the Suffolk characters) got it right was tangible.

"I loved that it was a matter of pride for Charlie that he wanted us to speak the Suffolk dialect accurately. His pleasure in the work made it one of the most fulfilling experiences."

Ralph Fiennes as Basil Brown in The Dig Picture: LARRY HORRICKS/NETFLIX

Ralph Fiennes as Basil Brown in The Dig. He was coached by Charlie Haylock to make sure the Suffolk accent was right. - Credit: LARRY HORRICKS/NETFLIX © 2021

Susanna Lenton, the film's script supervisor, added: "The best dialect coach is one who, through working with the technique and understanding of the roots of a dialect, allows an actor to find and play the inner truth of his character.

"The dialect and the dialogue become as one with the natural physicality and thought process and just the simple being of the character. Charlie absolutely achieved this with Ralph."

Mr Haylock is still in close contact with Fiennes, who he has described as a "great friend" and a "pleasure" to coach. 

The Dig is now available to watch on Netflix and you can also learn how to 'speak Suffolk' like Basil Brown in Mr Haylock's video coaching lesson here.

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