Some Oscar nominees, upon hearing that they are up for an Academy Award, try to downplay the achievement and be humble. But Richard E. Grant is going to savor this one, thank you very much.
At TheWrap’s Screening Series at Landmark Theaters in Los Angeles, awards editor Steve Pond asked Grant about the viral video he made after learning he was nominated for Best Supporting Actor for his work alongside Melissa McCarthy in “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” The video showed Grant shaking his fists excitedly in front of the tiny studio he rented out when he first arrived to England from Swaziland to begin his acting career in the early 1980s.
“I have looked at it again in the normal light of day and I look like a completely insane person,” he said. “I thought I would get three or four hundred likes or whatever the things are that you get on there. It had 3.4 million hits and my daughter says, ‘Dad! You’ve gone viral!'”
It’s an unlikely turn of events for Grant, who despite earning critical praise over his 30-year movie career has only earned his first Oscar nomination now playing Jack Hock, the gay, erstwhile friend of Lee Israel, whom fellow nominee Melissa McCarthy plays in the film and who was famous for forging private letters from famous authors. Attempts to make a film on Israel’s life had fallen apart in the past, and the role of Jack was previously going to be played by Sam Rockwell and Chris O’Dowd before falling into Grant’s lap.
“Whenever I read a script, I think of how you would sell this movie or what does it remind you of, and for me, it really reminded me of ‘The Odd Couple,'” he said, referring to the classic 1968 comedy starring Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon. “And also ‘Midnight Cowboy’ … You have these two lonely, isolated people living in New York who form an interdependent relationship, and more than anything I think this is a movie about friendship and loneliness and what that does to people.”
Along with Lee Israel’s notes on Jack, Grant says he also drew inspiration for his performance from the late Ian Charleson, who starred in “Chariots of Fire” and whom Grant befriended in the early years of his career. Grant says that Charleson had two major similarities to Jack: both men had a “scabrous charm,” and both fell victim to the AIDS epidemic of the ’80s and ’90s.
“He was very open about the promiscuous life that he led, and the last time I saw him, he was wearing a bandana. So I asked [director] Marielle Heller and the costume designer if we could add that, because it was something worn by people who had been devastated by that disease. That was my personal tribute to a very good friend.”
This isn’t the last time we’ll see Grant this year, as he will also have a role in “Star Wars: Episode IX” this December. Grant is sworn to secrecy like the rest of the “Star Wars” cast, but he does say that he’s relieved that he’s not being asked to play more alcoholic roles like Jack Hock. Then again, he’s relieved he’s still getting roles at all.
“Just being 61 and three-quarters and still being paid to eat onscreen and to play roles is the best job in the world when you have it,” Grant said. “So I’ve never gotten tired of it…even though ‘Hudson Hawk‘ was a trial to make!”
Watch Grant show off his “technique” for acting drunk in the clip above.