Prolific Profiles...Richard. E Grant

Richard E. Grant

Richard E. Grant was born on May 5th, 1957 in Mbabane, Hhohho, Swaziland as Richard Grant Esterhuysen. He studied English and drama at university in Capetown, South Africa. The initial E in his name came about because there was already someone registered with Equity as Richard Grant. So with permission of the other Richard Grant and Equity, he added the E. to his name.

One of his first big breaks was playing the Doctor in a line of BBC animated Doctor Who adventures showcased on the Internet.

However, his biggest break was landing the role of Withnail, the perpetually inebriated title character in Withnail and I, which is considered a classic. Even though in real life he's allergic to alcohol, Withnail and I revolved around him playing a character who drinks all kinds of alcoholic drinks.

Grant is forever grateful to Daniel Day Lewis who turned down the role and, subsequently, credits Daniel Day Lewis for his success. Following this, Grant started appearing in Hollywood films, quickly establishing himself as a powerful character actor in a wide array of films, from blockbuster studio movies to small independent projects. Over the past 20 years, Grant has had strong supporting roles in the films: Henry & June, L.A. Story, The Player, The Age of Innocence, The Portrait of a Lady, Gosford Park, Bright Young Things and Spice World. (A film he describes as ‘A win, win, win…’)
While filming L.A. Story with Steve Martin, the pair communicated by fax in what became for both a hilarious dialogue: “I kept these faxes, which grew to a stack more than 2in thick, because they entertained me, and because I thought they were valuable aesthetic chunks from a screeching mind, a stream-of-consciousness faucet spewing sentences – sometimes a mile long – none of it rewritten, and bearing just the right amount of acid and alkaline."
He was one of the guests at Prince Charles's and Camilla Parker-Bowles' wedding.

Took part in a special celebrity edition of Blind Date on The Prince's Trust 30th Birthday: Live 2006. He and actor Sir Roger Moore lost to The X Factor (2004)'s Chico Slimani, who got to date Barry Humphries.

He has two roles in common with both David Collings and David Warner. Collings played Bob Cratchit in Scrooge (1970), Warner played him in A Christmas Carol (1984) and Grant played him in A Christmas Carol (1999).

Grant played the Doctor in Comic Relief: Doctor Who - The Curse of Fatal Death (1999) and Doctor Who: Scream of the Shalka (2003), Collings played him in the Big Finish audio drama Full Fathom Five and Warner played him in the Big Finish audio dramas Sympathy for the Devil and Masters of War.

Richard is allergic to alcohol. He can have a drink and keep it down for about 10 minutes, but will be severely ill for 24 hours afterward.

He loves new smells and believes that smells evoke memories, so he loves to smell new books, cars, sofas, people.

He wears two watches. The one on his right wrist was given to him by his late father and has Swaziland time. The one on his left wrist is set to British time.

Unlike other actors to take on the role of The Doctor Doctor Who in their careers, he is the only one to play the role Scream of the Shalka before returning as another major character in the series The Snowmen as Dr. Simeon/The Great Intelligence.

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll is one of his favourite books and that he has re-read it every year since he was seven.

He was nominated for the 2019 Golden Globe Award in the Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in any Motion Picture category for his role as Jack Hock in Can You Ever Forgive Me? But lost to Mahershala Ali for Green Book.

Richard attended school in Swaziland (South Africa) with Nelson Mandela's daughters Zindzi Mandela and Zenani Mandela where they occasionally appeared in school plays together.

As a struggling actor in 1983, he was renting a Notting Hill bedsit in London for £30.00 per week. Thirty six years later he stood outside that very same residence to announce on his Twitter feed that he'd been Oscar-nominated for Can You Ever Forgive Me? His very first nomination.

"I'm still star-struck. I'm thrilled to say that hasn't changed. I think it has a lot to do with coming from nowhere and going somewhere. Where I grew up all there was in live entertainment was a drive-in cinema. I'm very aware of the leap from there to here. Ultimately, I think I'm too curious and enthusiastic to take any of it for granted.
When an actor asks you to read his script, your heart sinks. The number of scripts I've been given by actors that are so unbelievably terrible! It's well known that actors are lousy writers".

"It's a chicken-and-egg situation: You've got to get name actors in order to get the finance, and in order to get the name actors you've got to bullshit that you've got the finance, while all the time you feel the whole thing could just unravel, the wheels come off the pram, everything conspires to make you sink into a pit of self-pity and despair".

"Hollywood is on what they call a shit tide, meaning a tide where stuff comes in and goes out very quickly. People come in, get a part in something, get in a magazine, then they go away and you never hear of them again. The sun shines, the level of paranoia is bottomless, and everybody you meet has an agenda. And that's it. Show business, 24 hours a day. If you're doing well, you're a target, nobody's interested in you except how you can be of use to them. And you can't engage with anyone, you can only engage with their agenda".

"What is there now? Famous people running away from explosions. That's it. They call it production values. Audiences will queue round the block to see an unimaginably highly paid film star running away from a fantastically expensive explosion. They think it's their money's worth. I despair".

"When I see actors talking about world peace, it makes my sphincter weak. There is a difference between Emma Thompson talking about a world catastrophe and God! Goldie Hawn talking about the elephants has a different impact than Joanna Lumley. Sometimes Hollywood doesn't seem a million miles from a Miss World contest".

Hollywood is fear-filled. You only need to be there when the sun is not shining to notice the grim determination and the need to be on every billboard. Every meeting has some agenda. People smile in case you might be of use 10 years down the line. If you are successful everyone is your friend. God forbid that you are in a movie that's a clunker.

I did Hudson Hawk in 1991 with the best of intentions. It had a great cast and looked great on paper and my agent said it would be a big success. You go into something thinking it's going to be the next big thing. You're wise in retrospect but I regret doing that.

In 1995, Grant starred as the titular character in Peter Capaldi's short film Franz Kafka's It's a Wonderful Life. The film won the 1995 Academy Award for Best Live Action Short Film. In 1996, he portrayed a hilarious Sir Andrew Aguecheek in Trevor Nunn’s film of Twelfth Night.

On 1 December 2006, Grant turned real life investigator when, with the help of the BBC’s Newsnight, he exposed a $98 million scam to sell a bogus AIDS cure.
In 2008, he made his musical theatre debut with Opera Australia, playing the role of Henry Higgins in My Fair Lady, at the Theatre Royal, Sydney, a role he reprised in 2017 at the Lyric Opera of Chicago.

Grant at the premiere of Can You Ever Forgive Me?, October 2018
July 2018, Lucasfilm announced that Grant would appear in Star Wars: Episode IX. That same year, Grant received critical acclaim for his role as Jack Hock in the film Can You Ever Forgive Me? alongside Melissa McCarthy, receiving an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor nomination.
Grant wrote and directed the 2005 film Wah-Wah, loosely based on his own childhood experiences. A screenwriter recommended he write a screenplay, after reading Grant's memoirs of his Withnail and I experience. The film took him over seven years to complete and starred Nicholas Hoult in the lead role, with Gabriel Byrne, Miranda Richardson, Julie Walters and Emily Watson. Grant kept a diary of the experience, later published as a book (The Wah-Wah Diaries). The book received positive reviews from critics, many of whom were impressed by the honesty of the tale, especially in regard to his difficult relationship with the "inexperienced" producer Marie-Castille Mention-Schaar
Grant stated in subsequent interviews that she was a "control freak out of control", and that he would "never see her again as long as he lives. In a BBC interview, he again mentioned his "disastrous" relationship with Mention-Schaar. He related that he had received only five emails from her in the last two months of pre-production, and that she rarely turned up on the set at all. She failed to obtain clearance firstly for song rights and secondly to film in Swaziland. For the last infraction, Grant was eventually forced to meet with the King of Swaziland to seek clemency. During an interview with an Australian chat show, he mentioned that Wah-Wah was not released in France, and as a result, his producer did not make money out of it.



Back to News