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

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