Richard E Grant: ‘My wife gave my daughter and me a mantra for navigating the abyss of grief and permission to experience joy without guilt’

Richard E Grant: ‘My wife gave my daughter and me a mantra for navigating the abyss of grief and permission to experience joy without guilt’

Born in then-Swaziland, Richard E Grant worked in theatre in Cape Town before moving to England. He made his film debut in the comedy Withnail and I. He received critical acclaim and an Oscar nomination for his role as Jack Hock in Can You Ever Forgive Me?.

What’s your earliest memory?

The magical smell of Johnson’s baby powder.

When and where were you happiest?

Spring of 2020, during lockdown. Most beautiful weather imaginable, all our family together in a cottage in the Cotswolds. Perfection.

What is your biggest fear?

I am a natural-born worrier, so alleviate anxiety by making lists and ticking them off when done.

What’s your least, and your most, attractive trait?

Impatience and boundless curiosity and enthusiasm.

What trait do you deplore most in others?

The ‘could have/should have/would have’ brigade.

What’s your biggest insecurity?

Striving to be good enough.

Who would you most like to go for a pint with?

Barbra Streisand, of course!

Which fictional character do you most identify with?

The White Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland. Always chasing his own tail and hyper-curious.

What is your most treasured possession?

Having been truly seen and loved by my late wife, Joan, for 38 unforgettable years.

What’s your guiltiest pleasure?

Eating an entire Christmas pudding once a month, guilt-free.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

“You haven’t a hope in hell of becoming a professional actor.”

When did you last cry, and why?

The first anniversary of my wife’s death and when my memoir about her became a bestseller. Bittersweet.

Who would play you in a film of your life?

Herman Munster or Frankenstein’s Monster. Both have the foreheads for it.

Do you believe in a god?

I don’t. I believe in the here and now. We only have one life, so I am making the very best of it.

What’s your favourite word?

Welcome! If you repeat it enough, it sounds like a foreign word.

What’s the last TV show you binge-watched?

Married at First Sight. Hilarious and horrifying in equal riveting measure.

What’s been your closest brush with the law?

My car was stolen and used to ram-raid a cash machine. The gang was caught and the detective spent half an hour giving me all the details. Impressive.

What advice would you give your 18-year-old self?

Never give up.

If you could have a super power, what would it be?

Muscles, as I’ve never had any, and being able to fly.

What’s your most embarrassing moment?

Trying to trade in an old plastic loo seat for a new wooden one, accompanied by my mortified mother-in-law.

What’s the worst job you’ve ever done?

While unemployed in 1985, I painted a white-tiled loo red. The paint didn’t adhere and it looked like that scene from Carrie, and my wife instructed me to sort it. Took three days and multiple tons of Nitromors.

Before her death, your late wife recommended you go find a pocketful of happiness every day. What did you do yesterday to achieve that?

It was her final gift to my daughter and I. A mantra for navigating the abyss of grief and permission to experience joy without guilt. Running four miles in the park every morning is instant happiness.

What was your favourite film role?

Withnail and I — superb script, lifelong friendships with the cast and Bruce Robinson, the writer-director, and my calling card for almost every subsequent role.

You have an unusual porridge recipe. Please do share!

Revolting. Boil oats in water. Splash of cranberry juice to disguise it and spoonfuls of stewed fruit or strawberry jam to make the medicine go down.

What song would you like played at your funeral?

The Wedding by Abdullah Ibrahim.

Richard E Grant’s memoir, ‘A Pocketful of Happiness’, is published by Gallery Books. An evening with Richard E Grant takes place at the National Concert Hall in Dublin on October 20.

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