Richard E. Grant

The flam­boy­ant thesp on his eclec­tic, elec­tric ca­reer…

Total Film - - Dialogue -

Ex­plod­ing into movie con­scious­ness as a rak­ish, un­em­ployed ac­tor in 1987’s With­nail And I, the se­duc­tively ar­tic­u­late Richard E. Grant has ap­peared in Bram Stoker’s Drac­ula, Spice World and every­thing in-be­tween. But there’s more to the Swazi­land-born star than lo­qua­cious booze hounds, in­clud­ing, er, al­co­holic grifter Jack Hock, the shady con­fi­dant of Melissa McCarthy’s forger Lee Is­rael in Can You Ever For­give Me?

How did CYEFM? come about?

I was given 24 hours to read it, and said, “What is this, Mis­sion: Im­pos­si­ble?” Then I thought, “Well, who­ever died, this is a great op­por­tu­nity for me.”

How key was Lee Is­rael’s mem­oir in bring­ing Jack Hock to the screen?

Vi­tally. There was rel­a­tively so lit­tle about him, just that he’d been in prison for two years for hold­ing up a taxi driver at knife point. I got Jack’s lit­tle cig­a­rette holder from Lee’s mem­oir. It sug­gests a louche, gad­about image that he had, trot­ting about Green­wich Vil­lage in the early ’90s.

Like Jack, your most fa­mous role is a dis­so­lute al­co­holic, and you’re…

Tee­to­tal! Nine min­utes is the long­est

I’ve been able to keep al­co­hol down with­out be­ing vi­o­lently ill for 24 hours.

Are you sur­prised by the legacy of

With­nail And I?

Ab­so­lutely as­ton­ished. Be­cause of the 30th an­niver­sary, I went to screen­ings of it for the first time. What was sur­real was hear­ing peo­ple who knew all the di­a­logue in a way that I cer­tainly don’t. There’s not a day that goes by that some­one doesn’t say a line of that film to me.

Bruce Robin­son’s fol­low-up, How To is fas­ci­nat­ing…

Get Ahead In Ad­ver­tis­ing,

He was so sple­netic about Mrs. Thatcher, it was a one-man movie rant against her. He said to me af­ter the first week of shoot­ing With­nail, “We’re go­ing to do an­other film to­gether about a talk­ing boil.” It seemed so un­likely. Any­way, we did, and it was an­ni­hi­lated by the press when it came out!

And later, you were in

The Iron Lady… Be­lieve me, [Bruce] has never stopped rant­ing at me about that. I read that [Michael He­sel­tine] took um­brage that they cast an ac­tor who wasn’t even blond. But work­ing with Meryl Streep is like… a thrill.

Wah-Wah is based on your own child­hood. Was it hard to make?

It was dif­fi­cult to write, be­cause you’re sit­ting in a room and recre­at­ing all the stuff that had gone on. But in di­rect­ing it, I was a mid­dle-aged man go­ing back to Swazi­land where all these things had hap­pened. To be in con­trol as the wri­ter­di­rec­tor; that was a great ex­pe­ri­ence.

What was it like mak­ing Spice World at the peak of Spice Ma­nia?

I was so de­rided by other ac­tors who got very grand. I had an eight-year-old daugh­ter who was ob­sessed with them and begged me. The irony is that two decades later, I got to meet Adele, and Lena Dun­ham wrote a part for me in Girls, be­cause they’d seen me in it.

It must have been a thrill to get the call for

Star Wars: Episode IX…

I’d seen the first film when I was a drama stu­dent at the age of 20 in 1977. So to be in one 41 years later is sur­real. I ask J.J. Abrams to pinch my shoul­der ev­ery day I go to work – and he does – to be­lieve that I’m ac­tu­ally there.

When did you first meet J.J.?

I met him at the pre­miere of Ram­bling Rose in 1990. He was 24 years old, had a three-pic­ture deal. He’d seen With­nail, and said, “I’m go­ing to work with you one day.” Be­cause I keep a diary, I re­mem­ber this. I wrote down, “Met J.J. Abrams, a young buck, in­cred­i­bly self-pos­sessed, fast-talk­ing, clearly rich and very suc­cess­ful – the bas­tard.” He didn’t re­mem­ber, but I showed him my pub­lished diaries. He said, “Well, I’ve come good on my word!” JF

ETA | 1 FE­BRU­ARY / CAN YOU EVER FOR­GIVE ME? OPENS NEXT MONTH.

‘met j.j. abrams… fasttalk­ing, clearly rich and suc­cess­ful – the bas­tard’

liV­iNG iN GRiN grant stars with melissa ‘Os­car-buzz’ mccarthy in the up­com­ing Can You Ever For­give Me?

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