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

telelvision Film Crackle American Society of Cinematographers comics christmas movies superhero Fantasy Disney+ Disney Plus golden globe awards crime thriller documentaries PaleyFest Shudder VICE PlayStation concert Alien Brie Larson Awards Superheroe live action Premiere Dates Cartoon Network SundanceTV Sundance Now crossover Sundance cancelled TV shows TV One japan Mary Poppins Returns Nat Geo Masterpiece 71st Emmy Awards Music Ghostbusters Exclusive Video venice emmy awards NYCC BBC America ViacomCBS Reality Competition finale revenge transformers jamie lee curtis streaming movies Hear Us Out Discovery Channel Character Guide blockbuster rotten movies we love tv talk Sneak Peek science fiction television Turner Classic Movies die hard Ellie Kemper batman Pacific Islander Summer french Grammys 1990s TV Land Nickelodeon 72 Emmy Awards OneApp Spring TV sag awards NBC Showtime Pop zombies lord of the rings Hallmark Christmas movies FOX Syfy Rock Netflix Podcast First Look The Purge toronto Columbia Pictures E3 Tomatazos criterion archives Comic-Con@Home 2021 Apple TV+ Horror Elton John Stephen King Interview italian book adaptation Rom-Com period drama festivals USA Network docuseries golden globes best dragons CW Seed romance Fox News Broadway renewed TV shows halloween tv natural history DC Comics 90s video Writers Guild of America australia TV movies Star Wars TCM international Paramount Plus witnail versus rotten fresh mockumentary YouTube aapi TV 2017 OWN screen actors guild kong sitcom DC Universe independent serial killer Turner anthology south america adenture SXSW Super Bowl strong female leads social media Ovation child's play Endgame MCU facebook Logo HBO Go ID Musicals disaster adaptation BBC films movies Legendary technology New York Comic Con boxing Freeform A24 GIFs 2016 Classic Film discovery rom-coms Photos Paramount Network comedies 2019 TCA 2017 free movies WGN TCA historical drama MSNBC TNT travel Teen FX on Hulu dceu TV renewals kaiju romantic comedy cancelled television razzies TCA Winter 2020 reboot crime what to watch quibi Esquire supernatural high school Funimation Sundance TV elevated horror godzilla stoner Pixar CNN unscripted ABC game show olympics Acorn TV documentary ABC Family DirecTV Musical nbcuniversal indie Disney Channel 2015 war CBS All Access video on demand hidden camera crime drama superman CBS spy thriller dogs stand-up comedy 2020 Universal cinemax spain mission: impossible Awards Tour Reality adventure target medical drama Hulu animated Family Walt Disney Pictures cooking The Arrangement Warner Bros. Pirates spider-man 45 Sony Pictures werewolf IFC Films black Avengers japanese cancelled king arthur Disney streaming service 24 frames screenings 20th Century Fox El Rey Amazon Prime Video aliens BET mutant ABC Signature Winter TV Binge Guide thriller ITV marvel cinematic universe zombie cults Comic Book comic books cartoon richard e. Grant YouTube Red foreign Calendar Netflix Christmas movies Marathons reviews Thanksgiving 99% 2021 Lifetime Christmas movies PBS Trophy Talk Television Critics Association prank Country BAFTA TLC kids Paramount cancelled TV series Song of Ice and Fire 93rd Oscars joker DGA LGBTQ a nightmare on elm street popular TIFF game of thrones movie NBA scorecard Quiz Television Academy Mary Tyler Moore Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt 007 wonder woman nature cars Marvel Studios Marvel Television Wes Anderson 21st Century Fox Biopics Disney Plus AMC Infographic Starz Black Mirror hollywood Tokyo Olympics Heroines Animation VOD Holiday name the review Extras heist movie sequels jurassic park Disney HBO news harry potter 2018 Academy Awards Star Trek Lucasfilm Apple TV Plus festival casting Year in Review ghosts satire remakes saw IFC all-time boxoffice TCA Awards Amazon Studios know your critic Emmy Nominations The Walking Dead Tubi parents ratings police drama Black History Month directors National Geographic LGBT Pop TV BBC One History canceled YA book San Diego Comic-Con X-Men Britbox award winner Rocketman canceled TV shows Mudbound Mary poppins Comics on TV Certified Fresh Amazon Prime Marvel anime king kong new star wars movies Martial Arts Christmas Chilling Adventures of Sabrina worst james bond sports Red Carpet GoT slashers E! Comedy Central Drama DC streaming service Cannes asian-american Shondaland twilight spanish language Dark Horse Comics Sci-Fi dramedy franchise First Reviews 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards dc vampires spanish toy story Adult Swim Tarantino ESPN psychological thriller halloween Baby Yoda new york psycho basketball women FXX APB Crunchyroll WarnerMedia blockbusters docudrama talk show pirates of the caribbean RT21 Spike space Winners zero dark thirty VH1 biography The CW chucky Captain marvel Set visit Holidays true crime Opinion worst movies Fox Searchlight Watching Series Vudu hist See It Skip It YouTube Premium based on movie deadpool Kids & Family HBO Max Anna Paquin dark robots Image Comics blaxploitation Video Games Travel Channel Polls and Games politics SDCC diversity MTV CMT doctor who Mindy Kaling Bravo sequel President Lionsgate Film Festival Epix Comedy Creative Arts Emmys critics Hallmark Apple justice league comiccon Emmys Spectrum Originals breaking bad Nominations comic Peacock Best and Worst obituary children's TV Toys political drama A&E Food Network Rocky series binge Oscars legend suspense fast and furious Trailer The Academy composers indiana jones monster movies new zealand rt archives Valentine's Day Arrowverse The Walt Disney Company RT History Amazon scene in color scary movies cats singing competition classics Western Pet Sematary BET Awards universal monsters teaser Chernobyl 4/20 Pride Month theme song latino cops spinoff TruTV trailers Tumblr FX GLAAD Countdown Schedule Cosplay USA Election green book Superheroes Fall TV Box Office The Witch nfl Mystery hispanic stop motion Action football Trivia streaming Women's History Month Lifetime miniseries laika TBS