News

Get to Know the Nominees: Richard E. Grant For Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Best Supporting Actor prospect Richard E. Grant on working with Hollywood's biggest directors, his time with the Spice Girls, and the performance that could (finally) earn him an Oscar.

by | January 3, 2019 | Comments

Richard E. Grant
Grant as Jack Hock in Can You Ever Forgive Me? (Photo by Mary Cybulski / TM & copyright © Fox Searchlight Pictures)

Rotten Tomatoes’ “Get To Know Your Nominees” series will provide an in-depth look at one nominee from each of the major awards categories – the four acting categories, and directing – diving into their highest-rated work from both fans and critics, essential titles from their filmography, and featuring thoughts on their nominated film drawn from an extended interview. 

The Nominee: Richard E. Grant

How could Richard E. Grant not have nabbed an Oscar by now – let alone a nomination? His 30-plus-year cinematic career reads like a pipe dream, with plucky performances in films helmed by a who’s who of iconic auteurs (Altman, Scorsese, Coppola, and Campion, to name a few). What’s more, he brings it, leaving indelible marks whenever he’s on screen, walking that razor-thin line of grabbing an audience’s full attention without hogging the limelight. Think of him pitching his screenplay poolside in The Player, or going toe to toe with a manic Tom Waits in Bram Stoker’s Dracula, or doing—hell—literally anything in Withnail and I.

Come February, though, that golden statuette may no longer elude the 61-year-old, whose turn in Can You Ever Forgive Me? has garnered hosannas, racking up (as of this writing) Best Supporting Actor for the Film Critics Circles in New York, Chicago, and Philadelphia, as well as a Golden Globe nomination. In the 98% Certified Fresh feature, Grant plays Jack Hock, a sort of half-vagrant, half bon-vivant who befriends Lee Israel (Melissa McCarthy), a biographer reduced to forging letters by literary luminaries for fast cash. Jack has a “scallywag charm,” Grant explains over brunch at the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills. “You don’t give him your car keys, but you lend him some money knowing that you are never going to see it back.” Grant is electric the movie, an impish yin to McCarthy’s despondent yang. 

The Oscars aren’t all that’s on the actor’s horizon in the coming year. In December, he’ll appear in Star Wars: Episode IX . “You have to wear a full disguised cloak to go from the dressing room into Pinewood Studios, because there are drones going overhead trying to get pictures of the characters and the sets,” he explains. “You have to read the script in a security guarded room that has closed circuit camera.” So…no juicy morsels for us. Got it. Thankfully, the gentlemanly actor was more than happy – and, you know, legally allowed – to chat through the details of the rest of his filmography. 


Fan Favorites: From the Movies’ Most Memorable Drunk to A Marvel Villain

Richard E. Grant
Grant as Withnail in Withnail and I. (Photo by © Cineplex-Odeon Pictures)

Would Richard E. Grant the Actor even exist without Withnail and I? “If Daniel Day-Lewis hadn’t turned down Withnail and I, I wouldn’t be sitting here talking to you right now,” Grant says bluntly of his film debut in Bruce Robinson’s 1987 dark comedy. But it wasn’t just fortuitousness that launched him into the spotlight. As Withnail, a booze-addled, constantly grousing failed actor in the dying days of the ’60s, Grant sparkles, giving arguably the most enjoyably accurate depiction of a drunk ever and spitefully spitting out endlessly quotable lines. “The one that I’m asked to repeat to people is, ‘Monty, you terrible c–t,’” he says.

Almost three decades later, that low-budget cult classic earned him a spot on the priciest and biggest TV show of all time. “David [Benioff] and D.B. Weiss were Withnail fans and so they asked me to do this Izembaro character, a bitter and twisted old character actor who’s harrumphing around,” he says of his role on Game of Thrones. (Yes, there’s more than a whiff of Withnail at play here.) The following year, in 2017, he further proved his mettle in Comic-Con fare, tackling the villainous Dr. Zander Rice in Logan, a critical darling that piqued his creative interests. “[The film] wasn’t just superheroes who bounced back as they usually do,” he says of his first reaction to the script. “Because there was a human cost to it.”


The Richard E. Grant Essentials: When Richard Met Robert, Marty, and Francis

Richard E. Grant
Grant in Robert Altman’s Gosford Park.

Grant crossed paths with Robert Altman on The Player and then in the high-society murder mystery Gosford Park, penned by future Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes. “[The director] said that he was as interested in what is happening in the corner of the frame as he is in the center,” Grant says of Altman’s pioneering technique of miking and capturing a dozen or so actors at once. With two constantly moving cameras, Grant – who played a country estate’s sardonic first footman – had to “to be completely in character all the time [because] you’re never told whether you’re in close-up or in a wide [shot].”

His résumé with New Hollywood heavyweights doesn’t stop with the king of overlapped dialogue. In the ’90s, Grant caught the eyes of Francis Ford Coppola and Martin Scorsese in Bram Stoker’s Dracula and The Age of Innocence, respectively. “I met Winona Ryder at a party during the making of The Player,” he says. “She was 19, and she said, ‘I know every line of [Withnail and I], my boyfriend Johnny Depp knows every line. You have to be in Dracula.’ So she got me in a meeting with Coppola.” That chance encounter proved fruitful again: “And then straight after Dracula, I was offered Age of Innocence, which she was in. So Winona Ryder was my Talisman.” As far as the directors’ styles, Grant muses, “Coppola is like a circus ringmaster, where the set is organized chaos,” where Scorsese “is the exact opposite, work[ing] in monastic silence, incredibly quiet and disciplined.”


Surprise Gems: A Brush With Girl Power That Would Impact His Career

Richard E. Grant
Grant says he took the role in Spice World for his daughter. (Photo by © Columbia)

Grant’s journey hasn’t been without its rare bumps, however. “I genuinely thought I would never work again,” he responds plainly after we ask him about Hudson Hawk, a 1991 action-comedy flop starring Bruce Willis. “Because it cost so much money to make, and I think practically closed the studio down. And it was critically annihilated.” The flop, though, has gained something of a cult audience, which shocks the actor. “Oh my god,” he replies when fronted with this. “I assume they’re on drugs.”

Another Rotten role awaited in Spice World, in which Grant plays the buttoned-down manager of the ever-bubbly girl-group phenom. But his agreement to sign on came from an admirable place. “My daughter was eight and saw that I was offered it and said, ‘You have to be in Spice World because then I can meet them.’ So I did, and they were amazing.” Equally amazing: “As a result of being in that, Lena Dunham saw me in that and wrote four episodes of Girls that I was in,” he says, referring to his arc on the zeitgeist-tapping show as Jessa’s druggy chum Jasper. “You know, people were snooty about Spice World when I first did it. But it’s paid dividends.”  


Can You Ever Forgive Me? opened in limited release on October 19, 2019. The Golden Globe Awards will be broadcast on January 6, 2019, on NBC. 

Tag Cloud

spain Pirates Rocketman Oscars stand-up comedy richard e. Grant VICE First Look composers Winners war APB Chernobyl Sundance Music period drama IFC LGBTQ TBS Mary poppins Best and Worst Anna Paquin DGA MCU south america police drama The Witch Television Academy Comedy Super Bowl CNN Trivia quibi Fantasy CMT Superheroe children's TV Mary Tyler Moore WGN justice league ITV The CW History 21st Century Fox Horror Extras Lionsgate Columbia Pictures E! space medical drama Amazon Prime Video Spring TV Lifetime IFC Films docudrama based on movie Superheroes blaxploitation Trailer WarnerMedia Emmys joker TLC cinemax award winner LGBT Video Games sequel finale halloween Sundance Now Universal batman adventure Ellie Kemper game show Family anthology PBS anime Premiere Dates VH1 Summer ghosts Film Festival cancelled TV Fall TV politics Action Calendar Countdown Netflix cats GLAAD MTV comic kids Awards Tour TIFF Writers Guild of America President Vudu cancelled TV series Podcast what to watch Captain marvel political drama strong female leads Valentine's Day psycho Ghostbusters Interview psychological thriller dc Martial Arts green book Mystery Bravo dceu Country Spike Awards Star Wars OWN Toys Nickelodeon canceled Esquire A&E Apple TV+ Schedule Lucasfilm Trophy Talk National Geographic Red Carpet NBC Rom-Com Britbox Emmy Nominations Set visit Fox News Sony Pictures Women's History Month crossover American Society of Cinematographers zombie unscripted streaming free movies spider-man crime thriller 71st Emmy Awards Western cults ABC Family Pixar supernatural Holidays DC Universe dragons Kids & Family TruTV DirecTV BBC Shudder MSNBC theme song Grammys crime drama ratings jamie lee curtis Amazon Prime game of thrones Arrowverse 2015 DC streaming service E3 thriller hist RT History movies YouTube X-Men New York Comic Con 2016 Mindy Kaling Brie Larson tv talk festivals robots SDCC Paramount Film Tarantino witnail aliens Dark Horse Comics The Arrangement The Walking Dead Certified Fresh Heroines video Sneak Peek See It Skip It Pop television Epix AMC Comic Book animated dramedy Food Network Box Office binge NYCC Tomatazos Comedy Central mutant Peacock SXSW Pet Sematary nature Rock Starz spy thriller Binge Guide HBO Max miniseries USA Network Disney Plus SundanceTV Shondaland Hulu Musicals 2017 disaster Animation slashers Apple Watching Series historical drama transformers Disney Channel FX revenge GoT CW Seed cars Cosplay Adult Swim 20th Century Fox Drama golden globes RT21 comiccon Black Mirror sports singing competition discovery Paramount Network FOX HBO 2019 hispanic Freeform DC Comics harry potter Election Song of Ice and Fire Elton John TV Land YouTube Premium Masterpiece spinoff latino Tumblr series 45 ABC Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Year in Review biography boxoffice San Diego Comic-Con Opinion cops Teen Logo zero dark thirty zombies Mary Poppins Returns Creative Arts Emmys TCM Cannes cooking Spectrum Originals natural history YouTube Red technology USA elevated horror Nat Geo canceled TV shows CBS facebook Mudbound Warner Bros. toy story adaptation Reality Pride Month social media Polls and Games Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt spanish language PaleyFest Reality Competition science fiction diversity FXX mockumentary El Rey TCA vampires TNT true crime Marvel Walt Disney Pictures cancelled TV shows Photos 007 Biopics Cartoon Network GIFs serial killer Showtime talk show book casting sitcom Nominations Disney cancelled television romance First Reviews Sci-Fi ESPN YA Character Guide doctor who teaser CBS All Access BBC America crime Ovation renewed TV shows Infographic Crackle Syfy Stephen King travel Star Trek Rocky Marathons Musical BET Quiz Comics on TV Amazon Winter TV 2018 Disney streaming service TCA 2017 TV renewals Thanksgiving Christmas Acorn TV foreign 24 frames