Richard E. Grant (born Richard Grant Esterhuysen;, 5 May 1957) is a Swazi-English actor, screenwriter, and director. He came to public attention in 1987 for playing Withnail in the film Withnail and I, and achieved international recognition as John Seward in the 1992 blockbuster Bram Stoker's Dracula.
Grant was born in Mbabane, Swaziland. His father, Henrik Esterhuysen, was head of education for the British government administration in the British Protectorate of Swaziland. His father had English and Dutch/Afrikaner ancestry and his mother was of English and German descent.
As a boy, Grant went to primary school at St Mark's, a local government school in Mbabane that had only recently become racially integrated. When Grant was ten years old, he witnessed his mother commit adultery on the back seat of a car with his father's best friend, which subsequently led to his parents' divorce. This event inspired Grant to keep a daily diary, which he has continued to do ever since. Grant wears a watch on each wrist, one given to him by his dying father, permanently set on Swaziland time.
Grant attended secondary school at Waterford Kamhlaba United World College of Southern Africa (UWCSA), an independent school just outside Mbabane, where he was a day scholar. Grant studied English and drama at the University of Cape Town. He adopted his stage name when he moved to Britain as an adult and registered with Equity.
Grant was a member of the Space Theatre Company in Cape Town before moving to London in 1982. He later stated, "I grew up in Swaziland when it was mired in a 1960s sensibility. The kind of English spoken where I grew up was a period English sound and when I came to England people said, 'how strange'. Charles Sturridge, who directed Brideshead Revisited for TV, said, 'you speak English like someone from the 1950s'."
Grant's first film role was the perpetually inebriated title character in Withnail and I, which has established a large cult following. Following this film, Grant started appearing in Hollywood films, quickly establishing himself as a powerful character actor in a wide array of films, from blockbuster studio movies to small independent projects. Over the past twenty years, Grant has had strong supporting roles in the films Henry & June, L.A. Story, The Player, The Age of Innocence, The Portrait of a Lady, Spice World, Gosford Park, Bright Young Things, and Penelope.
Grant has twice portrayed the Doctor from Doctor Who, both outside the main continuity. In the comedy sketch Doctor Who and the Curse of Fatal Death, he portrayed a version of the Tenth Doctor, referred to as the Quite Handsome Doctor. He also voiced a version of the Ninth Doctor for the BBC original animated webcast Scream of the Shalka. The latter had intended to be the official Ninth Doctor prior the revival of the TV series. In August, 2012, the BBC announced that Grant would join the cast of Doctor Who for "The Snowmen", in which he plays a villain, Dr. Walter Simeon. He appeared again in the following episode, "The Bells of Saint John" as the Great Intelligence, one of the Second Doctor's most infamous villains and, prior to "The Snowmen" (played by Ian McKellen), was last seen in The Abominable Snowmen and The Web of Fear. Grant reprises the role in the series 7 finale, "The Name of the Doctor".
On 1 December 2006, Grant turned real life investigator when, with the help of BBC Newsnight, he exposed a $98 million scam to sell a bogus AIDS cure.
Grant appeared as "The Voice" in 2+2+2 at American Nights at The King's Head Theatre, from 3 to 29 July 2007, and also recently co-starred in the London-based comedy Filth and Wisdom, a film which marks the directorial debut of pop singer Madonna.
On 22 November 2007, he gave a keynote speech at North London Collegiate School in North London as part of their Performing Arts Centre Opening Festival, and presented the 2008 Laurence Olivier Awards.
In 2008, he made his musical theatre debut with Opera Australia, playing the role of Henry Higgins in My Fair Lady, at the Theatre Royal, Sydney.
Grant is also an author, having written an autobiography and a novel called By Design that is set in Hollywood.
Richard E. Grant is a mentor on the British Airways Great Britons Programme, and will mentor a British talent to write a script that will be produced into a short film and shown on BA flights and at the pre-opening of the Olympic Games ceremony.
In March 2013 Grant starred as Brian Jones (intelligence analyst) in David Morley (writer)'s drama "The Iraq Dossier", with Peter Firth, Anton Lesser, David Caves, and Lindsay Duncan. It recounted the story of how British Ministry of Defence Intelligence expert Brian Jones (intelligence analyst) had tried to warn that his government's September Dossier on Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction was inaccurate.
On 9 May 2015 Grant gave a reading at VE Day 70: A Party to Remember in Horse Guards Parade, London.
Grant wrote and directed the 2005 film Wah-Wah, loosely based on his own childhood experiences. A screenwriter recommended he write a screenplay, after reading Grant's memoirs of his Withnail and I experience.
The film took him over seven years to complete, and starred Nicholas Hoult in the lead role, with Gabriel Byrne, Miranda Richardson, Julie Walters and Emily Watson.
Grant kept a diary of the experience, later published as a book (The Wah-Wah Diaries). The book received positive reviews from critics, many of whom were impressed by the honesty of the tale, especially in regard to his difficult relationship with the "inexperienced" producer Marie-Castille Mention-Schaar.
Grant stated in subsequent interviews that she was a "control freak out of control", and that he would "never see her again as long as [he] live[s]." In a BBC interview, he again mentioned his "disastrous" relationship with Mention-Schaar. He related that he had received only five emails from her in the last two months of pre-production, and that she rarely turned up on the set at all. She failed to obtain clearance firstly for song rights, and secondly to actually film in Swaziland. For the last infraction Grant was eventually forced to meet with the King of Swaziland to seek clemency.
During an interview with an Australian chat show, he mentioned that Wah-Wah was not released in France, and as a result, his producer did not make money out of it.
Grant married voice coach Joan Washington in 1986 and has one daughter with her (Olivia) and a stepson (Tom).
Grant is a teetotaller. He is intolerant to alcohol, having no enzymes in the blood to metabolise it. If he does drink alcohol, he can keep it down for 10 minutes and is then violently sick for 24 hours afterward. After casting him as the alcoholic Withnail, director Bruce Robinson made Grant drink a bottle of champagne and half a bottle of vodka during the course of a night so that he had experience of the sensation.
He also appeared on BBC1's show Saturday Kitchen on 14 July 2007, where he stated he detests dairy products, while his favourite food is giant prawns on a bed of rice. In October 2008, he told The Times that he is an atheist. He is an avid follower of West Ham United, and appeared on Sky Sports' Soccer AM to show his support for the team on the morning of the 2006 FA Cup Final.
In April 2014, Grant launched his new unisex perfume, JACK, exclusively at Liberty of Regent Street. Anya Hindmarch is credited with the conception, Lyn Harris of Miller-Harris helped him create the scent and Perry Haydn Taylor's big fish created the website. The perfume has top notes of lime, marijuana and mandarin.
- The Wah-Wah Diaries: The Making of a Film. 2006. ISBN 0-330-44196-5 (hardcover).
- With Nails: The Film Diaries of Richard E. Grant. ISBN 0-87951-828-6 (hardcover). ISBN 0-87951-935-5 (paperback).
- By Design: A Hollywood Novel. Picador, 1999. ISBN 0-330-36829-X (10). ISBN 978-0-330-36829-2 (13).
- Richard E
. Grant â" official site
- Richard E. Grant at the Internet Movie Database
- "Memories of Mischief". The Guardian, 6 August 2005. (Interview and profile pertaining to the release of his film Wah-Wah.)