• Follow us


A Candid Conversation With Richard E. Grant

Richard E. Grant has seen a few things in his 61 years. He was raised in the then-British colony of Swaziland. He went to school with Mandela’s daughters. He lay silent in the back seat of a car on an African dirt road as his mother screwed a man who was not his father, and then endured said father taking a shot at him in an alcoholic rage.

Later, he moved to London and became an actor making his permanent mark as Withnail, an alcoholic wastrel and the title character in Withnail & I, perhaps the most beloved British cult comedy of all time. He uttered believable lines like “I demand booze” and convincingly consumed lighter fluid. (Despite the fact that, in reality, alcohol makes him deathly ill.) Later, on the set of Martin Scorsese’s The Age of Innocence, he prostrated himself at the feet of Daniel Day-Lewis for turning down the Withnail role. The Oscar-winner lifted him up and they had a nice chat. During the rest of shooting, however, Day-Lewis refused to speak to him; Grant’s feelings were hurt until Michelle Pfeiffer told him that Daniel’s character hated his character. Nothing personal.

He soon had a reputation as a dinner-party charmer. His longtime friend Steve Martin wrote, “Once, after only five minutes of sitting next to a woman at a dinner party, he was asking about the duration and flow of her menstrual cycle. The question seemed reasonable at the time, and no one was bothered or offended. I can assure you this is true because I was there, and the woman was my wife-to-be.”

At 42, Grant had a nervous breakdown over his tumultuous childhood. At 48, he made the note-perfect film Wah-Wah, a grueling account of said childhood. In his fifties, he started a cologne line, helped break up a fraudulent HIV drug ring in Swaziland and hosted a preposterously excellent show titled Richard E. Grant’s Hotel Secrets, where the Sky Network paid him money to stay in, well, luxury hotels. (This was a real show and not to be confused with Posh Nosh, his dead-eyed parody of fancypants cooking shows.) Film fanatics know him as the insane, quick-to-sell-out director from The Player. Millennials and Lena Dunham know him as the manager Clifford in the classic Spice World. Still, for misanthropes of a certain age, he’ll always be Withnail to us.

Related Oscars 2019: Breaking Down the Nominations, or This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things ‘Can You Ever Forgive Me?’ Review: Melissa McCarthy’s a Forger Who’s the Real Thing

Grant is happily coupled and has a daughter working in the casting director business, which makes him happy because, unlike actresses, she gets to keep her clothes on. Still, one thing was missing from his life — and that was an Oscar nomination. Fortunately, the Academy saw fit to rectify that this year and nominated Grant for Best Supporting Actor for Can You Ever Forgive Me?, where he plays Jack Hock, the gay Sancho Panza to Melissa McCarthy’s Leah Israel, a writer of some note reduced to selling author forgeries to pay for her cat shit-filled apartment in a sad-trombone version of mid-Nineties New York City.

The actor was in town and taking a break from awards-season campaigning to speak at a screening last week for Withnail & I at New York’s Film Forum. Age has not dulled his sniper wit. No one was safe — not the host, not the audience, not a questioner who had ventured out, according to Grant, on an “ass-paralyzing” night without socks. He parried and eye-rolled for a half-hour and then disappeared. It was strangely exhilarating.

The next morning, we met at a Brooklyn hotel. He was wearing the same blue velvet blazer and brightly colored scarf from the night before. He looked fabulous.

You basically went from playing a bad guy in Logan, a superhero movie, to Jack Hock in a film written by a woman (Nicole Holofcener), directed by a woman (Marielle Heller) and starring a woman (Melissa McCarthy). It was a complete diametric opposite — from the most epic testosteronized experience to working on something that was as intimate and estrogen-bound as I have ever experienced.

And, with Logan, you have the reputation/experience for being a fairly urbane, not muscular man. What that experience was like for you? I was the least muscularized person on the entire set. Action sequences take an enormous amount of time to convert something into literal seconds of action in a movie. Whereas, when you’re doing something that’s as character-based and dialogue-driven as Can You Even Forgive Me?, then you’re essentially doing what we’re doing now. You’re two people sitting talking to each other — it’s two talking heads. As opposed to heads being sliced off in all directions.

Editorial use only. No book cover usage.Mandatory Credit: Photo by M Cybulski/20thCenturyFox/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock (9927691b)Richard E. Grant as Jack Hock, Melissa McCarthy as Lee Israel'Can You Ever Forgive Me?' Film - 2018When Lee Israel falls out of step with current tastes, she turns her art form to deception. An adaptation of the memoir Can You Ever Forgive Me?, the true story of best-selling celebrity biographer Lee Israel.

‘Can You Ever Forgive Me?”

You didn’t have a lot of time with Melissa before shooting began. That must have been nerve-wracking. Yes, because she’s Melissa McCarthy — that’s a very daunting prospect. If you really admire somebody and you’ve … I had never seen Gilmore Girls, so I knew her comic persona from Bridesmaids onwards. When I heard she wasn’t available for rehearsal, I though, “Oh, alright, this is gonna be one of those.” You know, you’re an adjunct to a star vehicle. Which, the moment I met her … that is literally the last thing that she is.

We ended up meeting the Friday before the Monday we started shooting. I was very grateful that Melissa felt exactly the same way. And that we did meet for a couple of hours, managed to talk through everything, read the scenes and get an idea of what the other person’s doing. If you read the scenes, that is how you find out, instantaneously, at what level the person that you’re acting with is gonna pitch their role.

Was there anyone in your past that inspired your portrayal of Jack — someone charming, reckless and promiscuous? When I was trying to find somebody in my own life who reminded me of Jack Hock, I thought of a Scottish actor that was very successful called Ian Charleston. He played the lead in the Oscar-winning Chariots of Fire movie in 1981. He died of AIDS at the age of 40 in 1990. I’d worked with him, we became friends — and he had this combination of kind of a little-boy-lost charm in conjunction with very openly promiscuous, lush lifestyle and [a] scabrous wit. He’d make you cry with laughter. The last time I saw Ian he was wearing a bandanna, [because] he’d lost all his hair. I asked Marielle, “Can I do the final scene with Jack wearing a bandanna, because I can’t shave my head.” Luckily for me, she agreed to that. That was kind of a homage to somebody that I’d known and liked so much.

Editorial use only. No book cover usage.Mandatory Credit: Photo by Handmade Films/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock (5882635i) Paul McGann, Richard E. Grant Withnail and I - 1987 Director: Bruce Robinson Handmade Films BRITAIN Scene Still Comedy Withnail & I Withnail et moi

Paul McGann, left, and Grant in ‘Withnail & I.’

Did you have more rehearsal time with Withnail? We had two weeks. Because [director-screenwriter] Bruce Robinson was very determined that not a single word was to be improvised. Every single thing was as he wanted to hear in the script. Nothing was played for comedy value; it had to be played for the desperation of the situation that they find themselves in. He was also determined that I lose weight: “You’re very fat, Grant.” He said, “You’ve gotta lose 12 pounds before we start shooting.” So I’d just spent a year in my unemployment trying to put on weight with weight-gain powder. I had just worked with Gary Oldman, so I said, “Gary, what do I do to get this weight off? He said, “This is what you do … This is the ‘weight-off powder.'” [Arches eyebrows]

Was your breakdown a product of your childhood? Yeah. I had an absolute brilliant American psychoanalyst. When I literally thought that I was physically paralyzed, he said, “Your father was 42 when essentially he lost his career, he was very publicly cuckolded as a public figure in Swaziland by his wife and he had a 10-year-old son.” I was 42 and had a 10-year-old daughter. And so, he said, “Subconsciously, you’ve just kind of hit the wall.”

And once he unpicked all that, it was revelatory to me because he made it sound so simple. I understood that it was something I had been carrying and hadn’t been able to deal with — I was just angry all the time. It took me 18 months, but ended with reconciliation with my estranged mother, so it was win-win really.

In the 2005 movie based on your childhood, Wah-Wah, there’s the shooting and your love of marionettes as a kid, real-life things you experienced. Was the facial tic the character has something that you suffered from? Absolutely, yeah.

How did you get away from that, especially as an actor? Because my stepmother did exactly what Emily Watson did in the movie. She had done a psychology degree and she had done vocational guidance with students. She would just imitate me doing this tic and say, “Let’s get it out of you.” And, eventually, after a year it did. It did disappear. But when I have real anxiety …

It comes back a little bit? I can feel that it is coming back and I sort of involuntarily do that.

Action sequences take an enormous amount of time, whereas something that’s character-based — it’s two talking heads. As opposed to heads being sliced off in all directions.

In a couple interviews, you still have a sharpness in your responses. Including last night with the host. After you specifically said, “I cannot talk about Star Wars with you,” he then asked: “So, are you a villain?” You might’ve questioned his mental faculties.I did. I said, “Are you mentally retarded?”

So, that sharpness did not go away once you’d reached some level of peace about your family? No, and I know very specifically where it came from. My father was incredibly witty and charming by day, and volcanically verbally and physically vicious when he was drunk. So, that divide of seeing people that I knew, as adults, were our family friends — I would then hear his take on them when he was drunk.

Right. So, that schism … I don’t think the majority of children have that, where you say, “This is so and so, this is Mr. And Mrs. Smith and they’re lovely people and they have these jobs.” Then you hear, “Yeah, well she’s fucking him and he’s done this and he’s done that.” So, I think once that template is set in your head, it’s set. You don’t buy just the façade of what people are like. You sniff out the motive.

Last week, there was a lot of buzz on social media about you visiting Barbra Streisand’s home and showing a letter you’d wrote her when you were 14 and she was splitting up with Ryan O’Neal. [Grant invited her to vacation at his home in Swaziland.] You seemed to have great, for a 14-year-old, empathy for her romantic troubles. Do you think that was somewhat connected to the childhood experiences you’d had? Yes, and I think that because I had read everything about her and that she was somebody that, even though she was famous by the time she was 19 years old, her childhood was so dysfunctional. That is an immediate bond that you have with somebody because you go, “This person I understand.” So, when you hear the voice singing, that’s what you hear, whether true or not. You think, as a kid, Well, if I invite them to come and stay here, they’ll have a good time. It’s fantasy time. When I said to my analyst “Why do I have this ongoing obsession with it?” Because, that fan worship should really pass by the time you’re an adult. He said, “Well some people are sort of emotionally arrested at that stage — and you clearly are.”

Grant laughed and he related how happy he was that Streisand wrote back to him on Twitter congratulating him for his nomination and thanking him for his letter. For a moment, I thought Grant — who, as Withnail, never backs down from a scrap and tells a drug dealer, “I could take double anything you could” — was going to cry.

But an assistant told him it was time to go. He was hustled toward a black SUV. I asked him where he was going. He gave me a conspiratorial grin. “We’re touring Barbra’s childhood neighborhood.” He did a little skip and was breathless. “She’s just so fabulous and amazing.” And then he was gone.

In This Article: Cult Movies, direct, Oscars, Oscars2019

Want more Rolling Stone? Sign up for our newsletter.

Read More

Leave A Comment

More News

Rolling Stone Latest Movies

Oscars 2019: Who Should Win, Who Will Win 2019-02-18 09:00:47Peter Travers predicts who's going home with the gold on Oscar night — and who really deserves the award

Robert Rodriguez: How We Made ‘Alita: Battle Angel’ 2019-02-17 10:00:35The director (and producer Jon Landau) break down the FX design and technical process of bringing this anime heroine to the big screen

Bruno Ganz, Swiss Actor Who Portrayed Hitler in 2019-02-16 10:31:57Actor also known for collaborations with director Wim Wenders, including Wings of Desire and The American Friend

Academy Awards Reverse Decision to Cut Categories From 2019-02-16 09:04:11"All Academy Awards will be presented without edits, in our traditional format"

Trailers of the Week: ‘Aladdin,’ ‘Ma,’ ‘Frozen 2,’ 2019-02-16 08:00:25From a blue Will Smith to first looks at a big-time Disney sequel and Danny Boyle's world-without-Beatles movie

Watch Charlize Theron, Seth Rogen Flirt in Trailer 2019-02-15 17:46:13Film will hit theaters on May 3rd

Chris Cornell Documentary Produced by Brad Pitt in 2019-02-14 16:04:19The film will be directed by Peter Berg and Cornell's widow, Vicky Cornell, is also a producer

50 Greatest Romantic Comedies of All Time 2019-02-14 13:41:46From '30s screwballs to 21st-century meet-cutes, Rock and Doris to Hanks and Ryan — our picks for the best rom-coms ever

Academy Clarifies Controversial Plan to Cut Oscar Categories 2019-02-14 09:35:35Four awards will be presented during commercials, while speeches will be edited into live broadcast

‘Birds of Passage’ Review: Colombian Crime Saga Is 2019-02-13 15:41:49Drug-war story set in the South American nation's indigenous community is bold, brilliant — and a regional reinvention of the gangster movie

Albert Finney, Oscar-Nominated British Actor, Dead at 82 2019-02-08 11:10:12Four-time Best Actor nominee starred in films like Tom Jones, Under the Volcano and Erin Brockovich

Watch Chucky Come to Life in ‘Child’s Play’ 2019-02-08 10:00:59Murderous doll returns in horror classic remake


News Brief: FAST AND FURIOUS 9 & DUNE’s 2019-02-19 07:22:35  News Brief about: Fast & Furious 9, Mattel Ups TV Slate, The Punisher & Jessica Jones Cancelled, and More In brief, new movie news and

GOTHAM: Season 5, Episode 7: Ace Chemicals TV 2019-02-18 21:32:52  Gotham Ace Chemicals Trailer; Ep. 8-9 Plot Synopses Fox‘s Gotham: Season 5, Episode 7: Legend of the Dark Knight: Ace Chemicals TV show t

TRUE DETECTIVE: Season 3, Episode 8: Now Am 2019-02-18 18:46:12  True Detective Now Am Found Trailer HBO‘s True Detective: Season 3, Episode 8: Now Am Found TV show trailer stars Mahershala Ali, Stephen

SUPERGIRL: Season 4, Episode 13: What’s So Funny 2019-02-18 18:22:22  Supergirl What’s So Funny About Truth, Justice, and the American Way? Trailer The CW‘s Supergirl: Season 4, Episode 13: What’

TV Review: HANNA: Season 1, Episode 1: Forest 2019-02-18 17:49:07  Hanna Forest Review Amazon Prime‘s Hanna: Season 1, Episode 1: Forest reintroduces the viewer to the story-line of the original film but

Box Office: February 15-17, 2019: ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL, 2019-02-17 21:30:39  Box Office February 15-17, 2019 Alita: Battle Angel premiered in the Number One spot at the box office over the weekend with $27.8 Million. The

DOOM PATROL: Season 1, Episode 2: Donkey Patrol 2019-02-17 18:27:44  Doom Patrol Donkey Patrol Trailer, Synopsis, Opening Credits Video DC Universe‘s Doom Patrol: Season 1, Episode 2: Donkey Patrol TV show

ANIMAL KINGDOM: Season 4 Teaser Trailer: Ellen Barkin 2019-02-17 16:41:53  Animal Kingdom Season 4 Trailer TNT‘s Animal Kingdom: Season 4 teaser trailer stars Ellen Barkin, Shawn Hatosy, Jake Weary, Finn Col

BLACK LIGHTNING: Season 2, Episode 13: Pillar of 2019-02-08 11:00:20  Black Lightning Pillar of Fire Trailer The CW‘s Black Lightning: Season 2, Episode 13: The Book of Secrets: Chapter Three: Pillar of Fire

US (2019) Movie Trailer 2: Lupita Nyong’o Protects 2019-02-08 10:00:01  Us Trailer 2 Universal Pictures has released the second movie trailer for Us (2019). The first movie trailer Jordan Peele‘s Us can be vie

THE SUN IS ALSO A STAR (2019) Movie 2019-02-08 09:00:37  The Sun Is Also a Star Trailer Ry Russo-Young‘s The Sun Is Also a Star (2019) movie trailer stars Charles Melton, Yara Shahidi, John Legu

L.A.’S FINEST (2019) TV Show Trailer: Jessica Alba 2019-02-08 08:00:45  L.A.’s Finest Trailer Spectrum‘s L.A.’s Finest (2019) TV show trailer stars Jessica Alba, Gabrielle Union, Sophie Reynolds, J

NYT > Movies

Amazon Resets Its Film Operation After Rough Year 2019-02-18 19:10:57The tech giant put “too much focus” on art-house fare, said Jennifer Salke, the head of Amazon Studios. It will now focus more on films fo

Lisa Borders, CEO of Time’s Up Anti-Harassment Group, 2019-02-18 18:34:49Borders, formerly president of the WNBA, is leaving Time’s Up for family reasons after four months in the position.

The Carpetbagger: Writers Guild Award Goes to a 2019-02-18 09:19:49“Eighth Grade,” written by Bo Burnham, won for original screenplay, while Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty won adapted screenplay for &ld

Jussie Smollett Timeline: Mystery Deepens as Police Review 2019-02-18 08:15:54Here’s a timeline to help keep track of the twists and turns in the reported assault on Jussie Smollett, the “Empire” actor.

In Bid to Conquer Oscars, Netflix Mobilizes Savvy 2019-02-17 20:22:15Lisa Taback, who worked with Harvey Weinstein on awards campaigns for best picture winners like “The Artist” and “The King’s S

Inside the Scramble to Make the Oscars Shorter 2019-02-17 15:40:52A look at how the producers of the telecast are dealing with the inclusion of four categories previously relegated to commercial breaks.

‘Alita: Battle Angel’ Leads a Weak Box Office 2019-02-17 15:13:59The costly James Cameron-produced sci-fi movie avoided total disaster. But it failed to invigorate what continues to be a lackluster movie year.

‘The Wandering Earth’ Review: Planetary Disaster Goes Global 2019-02-17 13:47:10“The Wandering Earth” proves that China can make a sci-fi blockbuster as awash in murky computer imagery and stupefying exposition as any

Bruno Ganz, Who Played an Angel and Hitler, 2019-02-16 08:35:37“Wings of Desire” and “Downfall” were among the highlights of Mr. Ganz’s long film career, which he spent mostly in Euro

The Carpetbagger: Dear Academy: Face It, the Short-Film 2019-02-15 21:49:53Giving these shorts their due in a separate ceremony would make the main event swifter and stronger, argues the Carpetbagger.

Donald Smith, Who Produced ‘The Silent Scream,’ Dies 2019-02-15 19:04:21His controversial anti-abortion documentary, professing to show a fetus expressing pain, became a formidable weapon for abortion opponents.

The Carpetbagger: Oscars Rewind: When Harvey Weinstein Was 2019-02-15 16:48:26He pulled off an upset when “Shakespeare in Love” won best picture 20 years ago, though in retrospect he may not have been the underdog he

Movie News

Can How to Train Your Dragon 3 Save 2019-02-20 19:18:34DreamWorks' How to Train Your Dragon 3 opens, while Dwayne Johnson's Fighting With My Family expands nationwide at the box office this weekend.

Jennifer Connelly Didn't Know Labyrinth 2 Was Even 2019-02-20 18:11:08It's beginning to look like Jennifer Connelly will not be back as Sarah in the upcoming Labyrinth 2.

Ghostbusters 3 Director Calls It Love Letter to 2019-02-20 17:52:15The director also says Ghostbusters 3 will hand the movie back to the fans, which is causing controversy with loves of the 2016 remake.

Jurassic World Short Is Coming to Theaters with 2019-02-20 17:15:42Mattel revealed at the New York Toy Fair that a live-action Jurassic World short is in the works that will screen in theaters.

Chris Hemsworth Is Hulk Hogan in Netflix's Hulkamania 2019-02-20 16:32:53The Immortal Hulk Hogan of international wrestling fame will be played by Chris Hemsworth in a new biopic.

Daniel Radcliffe Talks Teenage Struggles with Alcohol During 2019-02-20 16:00:35In a recent interview, Daniel Radcliffe explains why he used drinking to cope with his Harry Potter stardom in his youth.

Does the Star Wars 9 Trailer Finally Have 2019-02-20 15:37:26It looks like the first trailer for Star Wars 9 will debut before we get the title, according to sources.

LeBron James Confirms Space Jam 2 Shoots This 2019-02-20 15:06:05During a recent interview, LeBron James confirmed that Space Jam 2 will begin production this summer, with Ryan Coogler producing.

A Clockwork Orange Rerelease Trailer: Kubrick's Classic Returns 2019-02-20 14:28:48BFI has released a new trailer for the upcoming UK re-release of Stanley Kubrick's classic A Clockwork Orange.

New Avengers Theory Brings Adam Warlock Into Endgame 2019-02-20 13:56:42Will Avengers: Endgame set up Adam Warlock for the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe?

Jumanji 3 Rehearsal Photo Brings Danny DeVito to 2019-02-20 13:22:34Kevin Hart is often the butt of more than a few Dwayne Johnson jokes and a familiar nickname has come back to haunt Hart at the Jumanji 3 table read.

Secret Life of Pets 2 Trailer Introduces Harrison 2019-02-20 12:49:39Harrison Ford is a tough Welsh Sheepdog named Rooster in the latest Secret Life of Pets 2 trailer.


Let Him Go: Kevin Costner and Diane Lane 2019-02-20 18:29:02The pair previously worked together in 2013's Man of Steel The post Let Him Go: Kevin Costner and Diane Lane to Star in Suspense Thriller appeared fi

Legendary Teaming With Now You See Me Writer 2019-02-20 17:22:06Legendary is reportedly close to a deal with a director for the series. The post Legendary Teaming With Now You See Me Writer For Oz TV Series appeare

DC Universe’s Doom Patrol Episode 2 Photos Released 2019-02-20 16:58:00The new episode will launch this Friday The post DC Universe’s Doom Patrol Episode 2 Photos Released appeared first on ComingSoon.net.

King Shark vs. Gorilla Grodd Photos Released for 2019-02-20 16:56:00The series returns Tuesday, March 4 The post King Shark vs. Gorilla Grodd Photos Released for The Flash Episode 5.15 appeared first on ComingSoon.net.

Chris Hemsworth to Play Hulk Hogan in Todd 2019-02-20 16:32:40Scott Silver is on board to write the script The post Chris Hemsworth to Play Hulk Hogan in Todd Phillips’ Directed Biopic appeared first on Com

Idris Elba Headed To Saturday Night Live For 2019-02-20 16:11:15Elba's debut is slated for March 9. The post Idris Elba Headed To Saturday Night Live For Hosting Debut appeared first on ComingSoon.net.

Atlanta’s Brian Tyree Henry In Talks For They 2019-02-20 15:15:23The film will be co-written and directed by Creed II scribe Juel Henry. The post Atlanta’s Brian Tyree Henry In Talks For They Cloned Tyrone app

Ramon Rodriguez Joins NBC Drama Pilot Prism 2019-02-20 15:07:13The actor joins cast members Malin Akerman and Mykelti Williamson The post Ramon Rodriguez Joins NBC Drama Pilot Prism appeared first on ComingSoon.ne

Nancy Drew Starts Her Investigation in New Hidden 2019-02-20 15:01:21The film will be released on March 15 The post Nancy Drew Starts Her Investigation in New Hidden Staircase Clip appeared first on ComingSoon.net.

The Curse of La Llorona Poster Reveals Closer 2019-02-20 14:36:59The new horror film is produced by James Wan The post The Curse of La Llorona Poster Reveals Closer Look at the Evil Entity appeared first on ComingSo

Exclusive Mezco Toy Fair 2019 Reveals Gallery 2019-02-20 14:32:01Including products from horror, superhero and cult film franchises! The post Exclusive Mezco Toy Fair 2019 Reveals Gallery appeared first on ComingSoo

New Captain Marvel TV Spot: Discover What Makes 2019-02-20 14:03:38Brie Larson stars in the new MCU chapter The post New Captain Marvel TV Spot: Discover What Makes a Hero appeared first on ComingSoon.net.

Disclaimer and Notice:WorldProNews.com is not responsible of these news or any information published on this website.