Metro.co.uk - 24th July, 2012
By Andrew Williams
Withnail and I star Richard E Grant tells Metro about his hopes for the London 2012 Olympics, not giving germs to Donald Trump - and meeting a murderer.
Richard E Grant says he is flattered that people still remember
Withnail and I so fondly after so many years (Picture: Rex Features)
What’s this BA Olympics film about?
I mentored a writer called Prasanna Puwanarajah, who entered the BA short film competition. He wrote a film called Boy, which has been shown on BA flights for the past two months.
I read the script and mentored him over the two months leading up to the shoot, in which Timothy Spall played the lead.
What tips did you give him?
How to make it shorter and faster. From having read scripts over so many years, and having written and directed my own film, it gave me some insight in how to help him.
He’s an enormous talent on his own though – he didn’t need much help from me.
Are you going to the Olympics?
I’ve worked with BA for a year on this so they’ve invited me to the opening ceremony. I didn’t get tickets for anything else.
Are you looking forward to it? There has been controversy about G4S doing such a bad job with security that the Army’s been called in...
Yes, but everything’s been built on time. It’s just the way we are. We slag everything off and say it’s going to be a disaster and then it all goes alright.
What are you working on at the moment?
A documentary series about famous hotels in London, Paris, the French Riviera, New York, Las Vegas and Los Angeles.
I’m interviewing people about everything to do with hotels – people who stay in them, work in them, design them. I’ve done ten luxury hotels in each city.
Hands off the hands: Grant discovered Donald
Trump doesn't do handshakes (Picture: Getty)
Did you discover any interesting pieces of hotel-related trivia?
Donald Trump doesn’t shake anyone’s hand because he thinks he’ll get germs from you. So greeting him was interesting. What are you expected to do? Give a little bow? I prostrated myself in front of him.
You’re a fan of I’m A Celebrity... – would you like to compete on the show?
No. I like to watch it but I wouldn’t like to be in it. I’d be voted out after 30 minutes due to my general intolerance and impatience.
Who have been your favourite contestants over the years?
Gillian McKeith. There’s nothing better to watch than a control freak who doles out advice to everyone but has lost control of the situation.
What are you most proud of achieving in your career?
My film Wah-Wah, just because it took so long writing it, directing it and getting it out in the cinema. It was very satisfying to do.
Being able to address my pretty dysfunctional childhood from the safety of middle age proved to be a very rewarding experience.
You met a double murderer turned writer when you presented a documentary about diaries a couple of years ago and you didn’t seem impressed with him. What happened?
He said he felt remorse but that he’d also paid his dues by spending 16 years in prison. He seemed to think that was enough for killing two people. I’m afraid I’m not that forgiving.
I believe life is for life. If you kill two people you should spend the rest of your life in prison. I couldn’t really buy his ‘I’ve paid my dues’ story. If someone murders one of your relatives, what would you do? How long do you think they should serve?
Do you have any regrets in your career?
I did Hudson Hawk in 1990 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.
It didn’t turn out as planned?
That’s putting it mildly.
Did you make friends doing it?
Yes, with Sandra Bernhard, who is actually in the hotel series I’m working on. She does a major rant about a hotel in Mexico where she got a freebie. The irony of her slagging it off seemed lost on her but it’s hilarious.
What are people’s misconceptions of you?
You tell me.
Career defining: Grant (right) and Paul McGann in 1987's Withnail and I.
Well, one of them might be that you’re a bit of a luvvie...
Whatever that means. That might come from Withnail & I, in which I played an extremely self-obsessed actor. It’s not unreasonable for people to assume that’s who you are in reality.
Are you still recognised the most from that? Is it a source of frustration?
Not at all. I’m grateful that people still watch and feel affection for something I made 25 years ago.
What else would you like to do in your career?
The things I’ve done and places I’ve been are far beyond what I hoped to do when I first became an actor. I’d like to write and direct more but it’s much harder to get projects off the ground with the economy the way it is.
Richard E Grant is British Airways’ Great Britons film mentor.