Richard E. Grant on Melissa McCarthy and the Actor That Influenced His Character in ‘Can You Ever Forgive Me?’

“If you read the scenes, that is how you find out, instantaneously, at what level the person that you’re acting with is gonna pitch their role.” – Richard E. Grant

Richard E. Grant will likely always be most remembered for his career-making debut film performance in Withnail and I, but that doesn’t mean that Grant peaked early. In fact, Grant received his first-ever Academy Award nomination this year for his performance in the film about real-life literary forger Lee Israel in Can You Ever Forgive Me? He spoke to Rolling Stone about who he based his character on and how his initial expectations of his co-star Melissa McCarthy proved to be very wrong.

Grant admits that when he heard that McCarthy didn’t have much time for rehearsal, his initial impression to that news was not positive. He explains:

“If you really admire somebody and you’ve … I had never seen Gilmore Girls, so I knew her comic persona from Bridesmaids onwards. When I heard she wasn’t available for rehearsal, I though, ‘Oh, alright, this is gonna be one of those.’ You know, you’re an adjunct to a star vehicle. Which, the moment I met her … that is literally the last thing that she is. We ended up meeting the Friday before the Monday we started shooting. I was very grateful that Melissa felt exactly the same way. And that we did meet for a couple of hours, managed to talk through everything, read the scenes and get an idea of what the other person’s doing. If you read the scenes, that is how you find out, instantaneously, at what level the person that you’re acting with is gonna pitch their role.”

Speaking about his character, Jack, who assists McCarthy’s Lee Israel with her forgeries, Grant speaks about an actor that influenced his portrayal. He reveals, “When I was trying to find somebody in my own life who reminded me of Jack Hock, I thought of a Scottish actor that was very successful called Ian Charleston. He played the lead in the Oscar-winning Chariots of Fire movie in 1981. He died of AIDS at the age of 40 in 1990. I’d worked with him, we became friends — and he had this combination of kind of a little-boy-lost charm in conjunction with very openly promiscuous, lush lifestyle and [a]scabrous wit. He’d make you cry with laughter. The last time I saw Ian he was wearing a bandanna, [because]he’d lost all his hair. I asked Marielle, ‘Can I do the final scene with Jack wearing a bandanna, because I can’t shave my head.’ Luckily for me, she agreed to that. That was kind of a homage to somebody that I’d known and liked so much.”

More: Richard E. Grant on Having Confidence as an Actor

About Author

In college, overachiever Christopher McKittrick double-majored in Film and English because he loves to read, write, and watch movies. Since then Chris – who was born and raised on Long Island, New York and currently lives in Queens – has become a published author of fiction and non-fiction, a contributor to entertainment websites, and has spoken about literature, film, and comic books at various conferences across the country when he’s not getting into trouble in New York City (apparently it’s illegal to sleep on street corners...) For more information about Chris, visit his website here!

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