Richard E. Grant sur Madonna le dirigeant dans "Filth And Wisdom".
Richard E Grant: ‘Every day people shout, “Monty, you terrible c***!”’
By Nick McGrath 8/08/2010
The Withnail & I star and adorable posho, 53, spills the beans on his dinner date with Michael Jackson, why Mel B’s scarier than Madonna, and having a soft spot for Barbra Streisand
What made you ditch your particularly catchy real name of Richard Grant Esterhuysen?
Richard E Grant: The head of my drama school at university said to me, ‘Your surname is 11 letters long and unpronounceable, what is your second name?’ I said ‘Grant,’ and he said ,’Use that,’ so that’s what I did from when I came to England from Swaziland.
Why are you wearing two watches?
REG: My father gave me this watch just before he died after he’d been suffering from cancer for nine months. I lost it. My wife gave me a replica and then I found it two years later in a drawer and so I keep Swaziland time on one and English time on the other, so it’s both sentimental and practical.
Tell us about your infatuation with Barbra Streisand and Donald Sutherland…
REG: There were two people with very long faces who were in movies in the late 60s: Donald Sutherland, who was tall and gangly, and if he could become a movie actor that gave me hope. Streisand also had a very long, weird-looking face and my parents had her records. These were people whose careers I’ve followed and I’ve subsequently met both of them. They both lived up to my expectations, but meeting your idols is a bit of a cul-de-sac conversationally as they mean something in your life but you mean absolutely f**k all in their lives.
Do you still get starstruck?
REG: All the time. I still think people in the movies are somehow in another world. I should have got over this by the age of 53, but I do believe that people’s talent is a very sexy thing.
Withnail And I is as popular now as it was when it was released in 1987. Do fans shout lines from the film at you?
REG: Every day. They shout. ‘Scrubbers,’ ‘Monty, you terrible c**t,’ ‘We’ve gone on holiday by mistake,’ but I think the one that I hear the most is, ‘We want the finest wines available to humanity, we want them here and we want them now.’
Madonna directed you in her 2008 turkey Filth And Wisdom. How was that?
REG: I got on with her really well and she’s one of those people who draws a line in the sand and you’ve got to step up to the mark or she’ll annihilate you, so you’ve got to stand up for yourself. She is very clear about what she wants and takes no prisoners. Did I get a tongue-lashing from her? No, but I did from the critics. Lead balloon I think is the appropriate phrase.
You also played the Spice Girls’ manger in Spiceworld. Were Geri Haliwell and Mel B as feisty as Madonna?
REG: More so. Mel B is incredibly upfront. What you see is what you get. She’s right out there, I loved her.
Another career highlight must be when X Factor reject Chico beat you on a celebrity edition of Blind Date at a Prince’s Trust event…
REG: It’s true. Roger Moore and I were dumped for the younger, swivel-hipped Chico. To be turned down by Dame Edna Everage on a blind date was very cruel. I’m still in recovery.
In the Argos adverts you play a ludicrously pompous prima donna. Are you pompous in real life?
REG: Somebody called me and told me a magazine had reported I threw a strop in Boots, and said, ‘Don’t you know who I am?’ and I think I’ve been in Boots about six times in my whole life and I have never, ever uttered those lines to anybody. The shame of it would be beyond the Grand Canyon.
What was the first thing you said this morning?
REG: Shall I make the porridge? And yes, that was to my wife.
How did you wangle yourself an invite to Charles and Camilla’s wedding?
REG: I sat next to Camilla at a Prince’s Trust dinner about 11 years ago at St James Palace and we got on famously. I was expecting her to be remote, but she was a no-nonsense straight-talker who answered all my nosey questions. Subsequently we all got to know each very well and I went to the wedding.
You also once sat opposite Michael Jackson at a dinner. What did he eat?
REG: Hardly anything; perhaps four beans and two peas. He spoke in a high-pitched little girl voice and he was the thinnest, whitest-faced and the most fragile human being I’ve ever met. It was at a dinner at Blenheim Palace for 20 people about 10 years ago – before the Martin Bashir documentary – and he’d just spoken at the Oxford Union about the need to read to children at bedtime. He said all this stuff that he’d never experienced as a child, and that he felt that parent-child relationship was missing from his childhood. It was like being with a human Bambi. I thought he was going to snap. Both emotionally and physically.
You’re supporting Edinburgh Festival. What’s all the fuss about then?
REG: I love the combination of having the official festival with all the la-di-dah end of the arts, cheek by jowl with the comedy, jazz and fringe. Edinburgh is unique in that you get this great collision of what has become establishment culture as well as the chance to see a one-man show in somebody’s broom cupboard with an audience of two.
You’ve been married to voice coach Joan Washington for 24 years, an eternity in showbiz. What’s your secret?
REG: We’ve been married for 24 years and together for 27 and the secret is to cook for each other on a regular basis and not spend all your time together.
When was the last time you lost your temper?
REG: This morning at a pedestrian crossing when somebody walked into the road two metres before the crossing on their phone and didn’t look up. I’m in my car going, ‘You f**ker.’ But they couldn’t hear me…
How vain are you on a scale of 1 to 10?
REG: Two out of 10. When I left drama school they said to me, ‘You’ve got a weird long, tombstone face and we don’t think you’re going to make it as an actor. Stick to directing.’ And I remember one of the first reviews I ever got, which was for Withnail & I, had all these descriptions of me like lantern-jawed, bug-eyed, tomb-faced and coffin-faced so you think, that’s what I look like. So it doesn’t encourage your vanity.
What’s the best party you’ve ever been to?
REG: A Fourth Of July party at Robert Altman’s house in 1990 on Malibu Beach. The guest list included Warren Beatty, Al Pacino, Susan Sarandon, Barbra Streisand, Whoopi Goldberg, Julia Roberts, Tim Robbins and Winona Ryder. Altman made everybody feel they had the same status and that’s a great gift as a host. You’ve got that number of egos in one place, it was pretty gob-smacking and I loved it.
When was the last time you used public transport?
REG: I go on the Tube and the bus every single day and I never get any reaction from people. I go on the District Line from Richmond where I live, then on the Piccadilly Line and everybody on the Piccadilly Line is coming in from Heathrow. They wouldn’t know me from squit.
Describe yourself in five words?
REG: Tall, manic, hyper-curious, fast, impatient.
• Richard still visits his native Swaziland once a year.
• His guilty pleasure is Christmas puddings. He stocks up on them in the January sales and pigs out on them once a month.
• After he was cast as Withnail, the director insisted Grant drink a bottle of champagne and half a bottle of vodka during one night so he knew what his character felt like.
Richard E Grant is supporting Edinburgh’s 2010 Festivals season. For information on booking your trip to Edinburgh visit visitscotland.com/perfect. For information on this year’s Edinburgh Festivals see visitedinburghfestivals.co.uk
Richard E. Grant