Richard E Grant is playing another starry-eyed drunk and this time he’s Oscar nominated
In 1991, actor, perfumier, director and keen diarist Richard E Grant was on the set of Rambling Rose with Laura Dern when he met an enthusiastic young chap who had just scored a three-picture deal. “Met 24-year-old J J Abrams – incredibly self-confident, self-possessed and rich,” wrote the Swaziland-born artist.
He must have made an impression. More than two decades later, Abrams cast the actor in the still untitled Star Wars IX.
“Let me tell you all about it,” says Grant. “So my character is called [he mouths words] and the end of the movie is just fantastic. It’s [he mouths more words]. It’s a good story, isn’t it? How’s your lip-reading?”
It stands to reason that the man with the world’s jolliest Twitter feed likes to have fun during interviews. On Melissa McCarthy: “What a terrible person to work with!” he cries, in utmost insincerity. On Brexit: “I think the current strategy is carry a cork and stick that up your arse.” On Yorgos Lanthimos: “He’s the person I most want to work with: put that in print: I’m bent over in readiness.” On his early career: “Well, when I started a hundred thousand years ago…”
“I’m nearly 62,” he says. “It seems to me you only have one crack at this. So enjoy the ride while you can. There’s so much that you can moan about. But try not to.”
Grant has seldom been away from our screens since his iconic drunken turn in Withnail and I in 1987. In recent years, he’s had recurring roles on Doctor Who, Girls and Game of Thrones. Of late, however, he’s on something of a roll. Following Jackie, Logan and The Hitman’s Bodyguard, Star Wars is just the latest in a series of high-profile projects to feature the affable 61-year-old.
“You can’t plan a career in acting,” he says. “Or I certainly can’t at the level that I’m at. All you can really do say yes or no to something. I’m always constantly reminded of something John Lennon said before he died: life is what happens when you’re busy making plans. I never imagined I’d be the guy shot by Wolverine in his last ever movie. I certainly never imagined I’d be in Star Wars. I remember seeing the first one when I was 20 years old at drama school. Forty-one years later and here I am. It feels surreal.”
‘One of those’
With Star Wars under his belt, it seems inconceivable that movies featuring Grant won’t pass the billion dollar mark in terms of this year’s box office. But, having been named by more than a dozen critics’ circles as 2018’s best supporting actor for his work on Can You Ever Forgive Me?, he may well be shortlisted for an even bigger accolade. There’s major Oscar buzz around the film which has already been shortlisted by the National Board of Review and the Golden Globes across multiple categories. And it’s another starry drunk role for the teetotal actor