×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Richard E. Grant Makes the Most of His Screen Time

Richard E. Grant is so memorable in “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” that it’s a shock to realize he’s only in a fraction of the film.

Fox Searchlight’s “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”centers on biographer Lee Israel (Melissa McCarthy) when she is broke and desperate, and begins forging celebrity letters. Israel has encounters with multiple characters, but it’s the love-hate relationship with friend and accomplice Jack Hock (Grant) that audiences remember, even though he only enters one-third into the film.

To begin research, Grant read Israel’s 2008 memoirs. “It was her voice, in all its scabrous wit, but she was very scant on detail about Jack Hock. It’s a real achievement that [scriptwriters] Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty were able to extrapolate those few hints or suggestions and create a full character.”

He also credits the “brilliant” costume designer Arjun Bhasin. “The film starts in 1991, but he gave me clothes that were neo-Romantic, early-1980s. So they were a little threadbare, and worn by a character who was past his sell-by date. For Jack, the wardrobe was Custer’s last stand to charm his way throughout the world before destitution and/or AIDS got him.”

Grant became a star with his first film, the 1987 “Withnail & I.” Since then, he’s appeared in 50 movies, dozens of TV shows, wrote-directed the 2006 film “Wah-Wah” and penned three books, including “With Nails” (1998), his razor-sharp observations about experience on 10 movies with such filmmakers as Robert Altman, Jane Campion, Francis Coppola and Martin Scorsese.

Because he’s an accomplished writer, does he ever rewrite dialogue?

“Never! I do what’s written on the page. I have enormous respect for writers because I know how brutal writing can be. Some actors don’t know their lines, which is sadly not uncommon, and they ad lib. I always wonder, ‘You think you have the smarts to outwit the writer?’ Unless encouraged to improvise, I don’t.”

After directing “Wah-Wah,” an auto-biographical film about growing up in Swaziland, is it hard to give up control and follow a director?
“Oh, no. You absolutely accept that and give yourself completely. As long as you respect them, which I did hugely in Marielle’s case, then you don’t even think about it. It’s a given.”

Marielle is Marielle Heller, directing her second feature, after the 2015 “The Diary of a Teenage Girl.” Grant admires her for being so “compassionate, kind and nurturing” on a tough shoot, with only 26 days in rough weather in Manhattan.

He also loved McCarthy, whom he hadn’t met. “It’s like dating. You hope it’s going to work, but you don’t know. It was a fast-track friendship onscreen and in real life. I’d meet with her even on the days I wasn’t shooting.

“Her whole center of gravity seemed to shift when she began playing Lee. I think she’s extraordinary, with the subtlety and commitment, without a scrap of vanity or sentimentality. I truly hope Melissa is rewarded.”

Grant should be rewarded too. Despite his great career, he’s never been Oscar-nominated, which is likely to change with “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”
The actor has been in big hits (“Bram Stoker’s Dracula,” “Logan”), big clunkers (“Hudson Hawk”), prestige films (“Gosford Park,” “The Iron Lady”) and a slew of cult favorites, including TV’s “Dr. Who,” “Downton Abbey” and “Game of Thrones.”

Upcoming: the ninth “Star Wars” movie. Can you tell us anything about it?

“Yes! It opens Dec. 19, 2019, and that’s as much as I’m allowed to say,” he laughs. “There is a Fort Knox-like security, on a level I didn’t even know was possible.”

More Film

  • Elton John and Mark Ronson

    Elton John to 'Shallow' Songwriter Mark Ronson: 'You're Going to Win the Oscar'

    Elton John is willing to bet that Mark Ronson will win the Oscar for Best Original Song for “Shallow” from “A Star Is Born.” The nominations were announced this morning. The legendary performer spoke to Ronson on the latest episode of his radio show “Elton John’s Rocket Hour” on Apple Music’s Beats 1.  “You’re having a [...]

  • Olivia Colman Colin Firth Helen Mirren

    Playing a British Monarch Is a Step on the Road to Oscar Glory - Again

    “Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown,” Shakespeare wrote of Britain’s care-burdened monarchs. Try telling that to the Academy. Once again, playing British royalty has proved to be a tried-and-true route to Oscar glory, with Olivia Colman as the latest actor to be nominated for an Academy Award for portraying an occupant of the British [...]

  • Black Panther Movie

    Oscars: 'Black Panther' Leads Best Picture Nominees to Near-Record Box Office Grosses

    This year’s Academy Award nominees proved the Oscars don’t need a popular film category to recognize movies with huge box office grosses. The 2019 crop of best picture hopefuls have generated an impressive $1.26 billion so far in North America alone. That bounty is led by “Black Panther,” which earned a sensational $700 million at [...]

  • oscar nominations 2019 stream online

    How to Watch This Year’s Oscar-Nominated Films

    The 2019 Oscar nominations have been announced, and if you want to catch up on the nominees, we’ve rounded up some easy ways to watch or stream the original films, documentaries, and songs competing for an award. Period comedy “The Favourite” and Alfonso Cuaron’s “Roma” lead the pack with 10 nominations apiece, while “Green Book” [...]

  • Pawel Pawlikowski "Cold War"

    Pawel Pawlikowski's 'Cold War' Makes History for Poland

    Alfonso Cuaron might’ve tied an Oscar record with four nods to his name for “Roma,” which scored 10 nominations overall. But another black-and-white film in a foreign language, Pawel Pawlikowski’s jazz-infused romantic drama “Cold War,” was honored with three Academy Award nominations Tuesday, the most in history for a primarily Polish-backed production. The film will [...]

  • BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY

    U.K. Cinema Attendance in 2018 Was Highest Since 1970

    Cinema attendance in the U.K. topped 177 million in 2018, the highest number since 1970. Box office held firm at £1.3 billion ($1.7 billion) through the year as 10 movies crossed the £30 million threshold in the year. That compares with six films in 2017. After a sweltering summer in the U.K. and a strong [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content