Richard E Grant was born in Swaziland, now Eswatini, one of the smallest countries in Africa, and took his first steps as an actor as a teenager in the local amateur theatre company. He studied Drama and English at Cape Town University in South Africa, and moved to London in 1982, hoping to find work as an actor, with - in his words - 'nothing more than a couple of suitcases, a boxful of music cassettes and blind ambition.' He worked as a waiter to pay the bills, until his very first film role, in Withnail and I, launched his acting career. Since then, he has appeared in a very wide range of films, with roles in How to Get Ahead in Advertising, The Player, Jack and Sarah, Logan and Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, as well as the Star Wars series. He was nominated for an Oscar in 2019 for his role in Can You Ever Forgive Me? Richard has been a lifelong diarist and has published three collections of memoirs. His most recent book chronicles his long and happy marriage to his wife, the dialect coach Joan Washington, who died from cancer in 2021. DISC ONE: I'm The Greatest Star by Barbra Streisand DISC TWO: When I Fall in Love by Nat King Cole DISC THREE: When a Man Loves a Woman by Percy Sledge DISC FOUR: Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) by Eurythmics DISC FIVE: Chopin: 24 Préludes, Op. 28 - 4. Largo in E Minor by Ivo Pogorelich DISC SIX: Please Forgive Me by Patrick Doyle DISC SEVEN: Fields of Gold by Eva Cassidy DISC EIGHT: Don't Rain on My Parade by Barbra Streisand BOOK CHOICE: Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll LUXURY ITEM: A piano CASTAWAY'S FAVOURITE: When I Fall in Love by Nat King Cole Presenter Lauren Laverne Producer Sarah Taylor
This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
Pvc sounds music. Radio broadcasts, hallo unlearned event, and this is the desert island discs. Podcast. Every week I ask my guest to choose the eight tracks book and luxury they want to take with them. If they were cast away to a desert island and for rights. We since the music is shorter than the original broadcast. I hope you enjoy listening. my castaway this week- is the active richie grant. He took his first steps into the limelight in school, plays while growing up in eswatini then called swaziland during the dying days of colonial rule. Opportunities to pursue his vote,
nation that were limited. So he moved to london rented bets it and took a job in a restaurant after waiting tables and biting his time. He backed the PA of a lifetime. The title rule in with nail and I his big screen davy again a wave of success that continues to this day. In the last few as alone he's been oscar nominated for his performance in the black comedy. Can you ever forgive me, pleaded dust please fifth gen in star wars, the rise of skywalker and drag queen loco chanelle in everybody's talking about jamie screen. He is a lifelong diarist, but dislikes keeping secrets which may explain both why three collections of his writing have been published and their critical acclaim. He is frank about the depth of the
grief after the loss of his beloved wife june. As he is about his enduring appetite for the acting life, he says I'm always excited by a new job. That's never gone away, and I think the day it does is the day you have to hang up your tights and put away your makeup. Richard E grant welcome to desert island this. Thank you very much. What a privilege to be on here also I've listened to it ever since it's been going, so I never ever thought that either we'd be sitting on the island with you. Thank you. It's a pleasure to have you. So, let's start with that sense of excitement wretched. When does it hit you? Is it a first day on set thing or is it when you get a peek, a great script for the very first time? It's when you read the first page of a script, and you know that you're compelled to read the second third fourth and then get to page one hundred and ten, because as much as you think that there are brilliant scripts out there, the amount of times that you don't want to throw everything
far off to page five that happens more than the not without a mines. As I mentioned, you were nominated fur and oscar in twenty nineteen feel role is jack. Hawk in can you have given me? Did you have a sense that that was going to be so successful when you first read the screen I know, but I knew from the moment that I read it, that it was something that I was very keen to do, and the first thing I said to my agent because I was sent it and they said you have twenty four hours to read this and make a decision. I said why who's dropped out and they said don't ask that doesn't matter who is in it. They said, melissa, mccarthy, I said I'm in and you posted the most wonderful video sharing your delight at being short listed for forty. Would that immediately went viral? It was a joy. Did the ceremony live up to expectations? Yes, because it was might be mademoiselle swords for real, where every single person you could see the left right centre in uptown. Sideways was famous somebody had followed. Their entire career always knew the famous fella
in the sweetie shop of fame, I'd absolutely loved it it's time to get into the music bridges we're going to start with your festus. What have you gone for? It is barbara streisand singing I'm the greatest star from the movie soundtrack of funny girl. Now your lover, while restrictions is long enduring and very much on the record. Why? If he chosen this track in this version, in particular, what fifty three years and toto saw her in this movie when I was twelve years old in nineteen sixty nine and because she had on usual face like Donal. Some of them had a very long face and they I'd seen both them and movie that same year and everybody has set a you, can never be a professional act and say not coming from swaziland, as was then called. So these are the two p
that were my kind of loadstars, I thought well. If they can do it, and this is such a creed occur off impassioned wanting to be successful. Unesco backstage rag to reach a story of comedian, fanny bryce, and I just thought that is encapsulated everything, a pre had wishing to be did, and nobody else has ever son it like she has. the green it is done- I am by No one is gone gonna hear of the city, while flute belcher reach two terrific, when I export can't you see the look at me that natural restoration,
and I'm the greatest stone tend to your lifelong devotion to barbara stress and later rigid. For now, I want to know a bit more about your early life for him, so you were born Nineteen fifty seven to Henry currently only in what was then swaziland set the scene for us. It was a goldfish bow in that it was hermetically sealed expert colonial life of people who, in retrospect were very self important about their roles in pet helmets, and there was a very, very strict pecking order. In the last gasp vampa unto independence came in eighteen, sixty eight and it sounds like you had aspiration. for very different life from an extremely young age, there was an hour to fit the swaziland feared a club was one cinema and also that was it so being plays and seeing them there was the only theatre that I had ever been exposed to. Did you get my very much oh yeah when constantly
Judy member was every play that I could possibly get into every panties. So rigid, as I mentioned, you've always been a great diary. Keeper and some collections of your diaries have been published, but I believe you were first inspired to start keeping one when you were ten, what prompted you to first put pen to paper, I inadvertently witnessed my mother bunkley my father's best friend on the front seat of a car late. One evening we were coming back from a cricket match and observers. His sleep on the box and then work up to the rhythmic movements of the car, which is something that you can well imagine. So I tried, god got no response. As you can tell my father, all my mother or my friends. So I thought that to try What had happened? I started keeping an eye and its continued to be something that I've on every day to try and make sense of the world that I'm alive it. What I could completely unjust
and why so, with that in mind, I think we'd better, find it a little bit more about you. You, mother leone, tells about her He is now ninety one formidable chain smoke she drives herself. She plays bridge three times a week. She reads five books for a pub show that she does ad hoc workforce, so she is a force of nature and dumb. We had a great estrangement for decades and after I had psychoanalysis when I was forty two after a breakdown, I had this breakthrough with her. In that I was guided by the psychoanalyst to try and get her to reveal her narrative of what had happened to explain why she ended up in the front seat of the car. That thing that I mentioned earlier, and I got a very, very detailed links, a letter written with a voice of a young woman in the colonies. having a child and dealing with
I can order not allowed to work and all those countries of restrictions and why I understood that I've been reciprocated by giving her the hammer on what had happened to me at the hands of my subsequently alcoholic father after she had left so she was us as astonished by that, as I was by her revelations, convincing me that all secrets in families are toxic. She said Three words to me when we finally have a face to face after these letters had been exchange. I went to visitor and He lent forward on a table in a restaurant and never see my mother cry before and she said three magic words. Please forgive me that instant, removed all these weights and pillars of prejudice zones long, standing misunderstanding that we'd had between us. So it was incredible. I know skype up once a week. rested, let's see a music from you, your second choice today, it's not king
singing. When I fall in love and first ten years of my life when my parents, seemed all right from my point of view. This view, I nostalgic and sentimental music sums up and conjures up that air for me when I will be forever the around the the The Arrests, less like this, love, is ended. Having but I was never go mad when I did fall in love and them had thirty eight years together with my wife jar.
I felt that I'd reclaim that song for the two of us, it's wonderful when that happens, to have a kind of recalibration yeah, exactly a very special track when I fall in love by nat king cole, so richard e grant we've we've heard about your mother. Tell me about your your father, henrik. He worked as director of education the up and he wasn't yet. He was in credibly, witty fast thinking, dynamic person by day and the moment that she left him. He hit a johnny walk a bottle a day, so by nine o clock at night it was a like a switch that he became and completely different character, very morose very angry and often violent, and then told me on his death bed at the age of fifty three that he had. Never Stopped loving my mother, and I thought he was referring to my step on their just- walked out of the room, and he said no, no, your mother, there
on the one hand, and it could be charming- articulate look man by day and then is absent monster. They come out at night which culminated when I was fifteen one. I naively thought that, emptied all twelve bottles of scotch down the sink that he would somehow stop. Drinking and I was on the eleventh bottle and felt something very cold on the back of my head, and it was a big gum. Ducked ran into the garden, and then he chased me fixed on the garden lights and there were pool lights as well. And found me and then hold me and city I'm gonna blow brains out and I said, yeah go ahead and do just let's get this over and done with. He missed because he was drunk Then I ran away from home for a couple weeks, but having said that my memory of him is
much more than remembering that part of him, because I knew that that was something that was entirely brought about by addiction rather than the man that I absolutely worshipped and loved, but so difficult to have of those sites, and it help keeping. It are rigid. It's time you third piece of music when a man loves a woman by percy sledge Nineteen, seventy percy sledge came to the soft law independent stadium. In swaziland, no international pop star had ever visited the country before so, I went to see him and got his autograph and when I got mad and on the first of november nineteen, eighty six, it was the first song we dance to at our wedding party, Tat gave a man on the future a good thing he's fine
wrong? You mean has he went and then look suleiman rickety granted. After boarding school, you went to study, drama and english at cape town university. Aunt em, you stop. There are nineteen, seventy six well. She was obviously at a time of huge social and political struggle in south africa. In what was it like arriving in the city as a young student. Amidst all of that, while having come from swaziland, which was completely multi racial, it was a real shock going into a city and a country that still had apartheid, but with the a month of being at the university students- were writing about not being taught in africa black students. It felt like we were in the crucible of a revolution and it was for
a young student as I was. I thought what this is it everything's going to change and finally, freedom would be for everybody equal rights or that upon it, be complete. dismantled. I naive isn't realise honest, but many people didn't that's. The government was so powerful that they squashed, all of that for more than another decade, it's a twenty five that you do to make the move to london, I hadn t did leaving after setting up a theatre company for yeah and then my father was diagnosed with lung cancer, so I stayed another year and then a few months after he died, I decided to emigrate, with literally like dick whittington, with two suitcases and a box of cassettes and a walkman and came to london rented a bed. in notting hill gateways thirty pounds a week and then worked as a waiter at oppressor and income gone, which is still there till. I started getting at
work. So I didn't really have any contacts whatsoever, but just came over with blind ambition and hope, and I gave myself till I was thirty. I thought if, within five years couldn't get regular employment. I'd have to go back and open up a pineapple beer stall or something in the water that it's time for your next piece of music written the full. Oh, this is sweet dreams are made of this by the euro, makes which I had listened to own repeat on my walkman. When I was a in January. Nineteen three and then subsequently became friends with any lennox who I met on chechnya, and then I discovered that she'd been to the same school is don't be too happy, so the only the teachers in common and with subsequently have become great friends.
the sweet dreams by you with makes richly when early in your time in the uk, you met your future wife june she's, a dialect coach, sorting out your vowels. I think she was. I went to the actors centre where a very feisty spike had kika booted,
boil a suited. Woman called John Washington was doing a series of six regional accents and after a couple of these, I said to her in the reception my said: would you teach me privately and she said what for and I said well to iron out my colonial accent and she's abandonment? Doesn't sound too bad me. I shall bob somebody's identify their sunday as somebody speed with nineteen fifties session. Had always shared by I busy I'm young and I said please, I beg of you and she laughed. I got on my knees and she said I'll get up caltech and I said how much is going to cost and she's at twenty pounds an hour- and I said I can really for twelve, because it I'm paying thirty pounds a week from my bed sit and I'm a waiter and she saw it will do or do you can have some lessons on the proviso that you pay we back if you ever make it so she did get paid back indeed, so obviously the tv got together
As you mentioned, her career was up and running, but use took wild to take off. In fact, he eve hadn't worked for the best part of a year when I ronicky enough. The pot of with nail who is an out before actor, came up that there's more than one irony beta and another. Is that despite playing the alcohol it with nails, invincibly you're allergic to booze yourself, young rethought with you with an alcoholic father, that it would be psychosomatic, but I couldn't hold alcohol down for more than ten minutes with the longest I ever managed at being violently ill for twenty four hours, and so I went to a doctor had a blood test and he said you have no enzyme to process alcohol. You can never ever drink it. Pleaded toxic to your system, but what about on the set with nail, because without chugging down drinks left right and centre? Oh that's a district robinson, that's a directive with now and I he insisted that on the final night,
before we did the last day of rehearsals at Shepperton studios before going up to penrith that I had to experience what it was like to be drunk. So he said his bottle of champagne gonna get that down your gullet, so I did, and I threw up throughout the night and got to the rehearsals, the next They are driven in because I was so drunk and I managed to get through. I think forty minutes of the script and Paul Mcgann and bruce were laughing I remember them laughing all the time and I couldn't really I understand why and then I passed out with nail was a huge breakthrough for you, but it did come out of a very difficult moments in your personal life. For you and for joan just one week into the making of the film, you lost your first daughter tiffany. She was born prematurely and and only lived for half an hour. It must have been absolutely devastating, especially as you were in the middle of this life changing
project. How did you deal with it? Ie the abyss of grief is something that you have to navigate your way through and around, and I don't know that you ever get over it and, I suppose, as a part of me, that doesn't want to get over it because getting over it. people saying one time, heals everything. I don't agree with that, because its it then implies that you're, forgetting about that personal, your disregarding whereas these things have such lasting him I told you that I never want to forget. We should it's time to go to the music, your fists election today. What have you got for us? It is the chopin prelude, opus. Twenty eight number four. a minor and is played by eva pilgrimage, it was the first concept that I went to the south bank when I'd emigrated in, bring some of nineteen eighty two and he was a kind of rock god of paris at that point, and this was a piece of music that I had on repeat,
after my wife died and after our daughter died. So that is why it means so much the the
the plates so much slower than any other interpretation that I've heard, because if I want to take it to the islands you seem a completely different, Gerry Adams, absolutely stronger chopin prelude, opus twenty eight than before in a minor played by evil patronage, so riches which they live. the turning point for you ever since you ve always been in work and you ve had so many professional triumphs evils. And your hand to directing too, when you made the film wall, while based on your childhood in swaziland. like putting your story on screen. In that way, it was the most natively satisfying thing that I've ever done, because having been completely powerless to control everything. Why
I was a teenager when all these things were going on the openings. The film is what I mentioned right up front. That's it! You was inadvertently waking up in discovering my mother intrigante on the front seat, a car so going back as a middle aged man to swaziland were film had never been made before in invalid. agents where all these events happened. I felt the writing process was painful and cathartic by term but actually shooting it was the most. Exhilarating things. I've ever done its tankers among these wretched. What, if six desk? Oh, how appropriate tackled? Please forgive me and its from the wonderful pat Doyle clause weaken composer of the soundtrack of war. Were my autobiographical phil the
the Please forgive me from the film wala, the soundtrack composed by Patrick Doyle, with london symphony orchestra conducted by james shaman, so richly grant, no that you ve kept a diary, since you were ten Andy recently published a memoir, a pocketful of of happiness covering your wife jones cancer diagnosis just before christmas, twenty twenty very sadly her death last september. It's a very tender description of your lives together was putting everything down on paper, rent and sharing it in public.
therapy take were the same impulse that I had in recording what had happened that I witnessed when I was ten of feeding completely having no controller over anything when she was diagnosed by keeping of data die. What happened? Databases I thought well, I haven't control over any of this- and I know that she's terminally ill, but I wanted as detailed a record of the time that we had left together. So that's I will always have something that I could re read or go back to that one of the strange about dealing with a diagnosis of any kind is the ability you have to develop overnight to live in the moment to stay in the moment, just as a means of survival. Was that a new skill? Forgive yes, I suppose, is the nature of my job, because it's not regular, you never know what you're going to be doing next, so there's always a kind of low level hum of anxiety. If you will, I ever get another job or
the job that I'm going to get be worthwhile doing or whatever so between covered where everything stopped, and we spent that historically gorgeous spring that had never happened in england before three hundred years or whatever spending. All of that time together was an extraordinary gift. So that when she was an diagnosed The end of that on that on her birthday on the twenty four of december twenty twenty and was given twelve to eighteen months and then, sadly, for us only managed eight months, it meant that you have to who live in the moment for a moment as much as possible, rather than trying to project into the future of peoples. in this jeering jones. Illness was very important to you. I mean I think. Sometimes it can be difficult for friends to know what to say what helped for both of you and for people to those who have a friend who's going through. Perhaps something like that.
and they just don't know where to start. What would you say to that work? I prefer this by saying that the only time that's audience I had a real caught at all with John was that's your daughter olivia. You call her only three weeks after she was diagnosed, she was detained that nobody should know about this, because she had the fantasy that chick carry on working remotely or via faced time, and we said list. much of a burden to carry this secret because for me, secrets are toxic and I dealt with too much of that. My growing up years. People want to appealing to show that they can that they love you and all those things So she reluctantly agreed to this and was then astonished by the avalanche of support that we got from flowers to people bringing ice cream by Jan andersson, sent us food. She cabdriver food that you cooked every sunday
which was practical, loving, extraordinary and so people to do whatever they can say, whatever they can study a conversation and don't cross the. Recent think, oh if I say something to this person again to fall apart, like a blubbering jelly, don't ignore the fact that that person ill or that person has died because If you ignore it, it feels as though that person's life didn't count. All didn't register and that feels more hurtful and its. I find it very difficult not to be. Judgmental towards people who flatly react as though it never happened. I think that that have some salamis merchant, your second choice, if you go and oh, my goodness, this is eva Cassidy's version sting song fields of gold. Known, sting and truly style for almost forty years and
yeah, I think, he's a great sing, a song writer, but when I heard even Cassidy's version of this It has never ceased to reduce me. It's the best interpretation of his song. That's I've ever heard you Where was so long ago. you can't to this to go,
and so she took the eva Cassidy and fields of cold. It's such an emotional track that wretched and a nice sleep here in the distance that you've chosen so far. There is that threat of emotion in there. I wonder if, if me, It's been an emotional support tee in your grief in this moment in your life yeah, it has for answer, have been unable to hold it together seem to that, but I think it's because especially that that song? That version of it is that I have no religious conviction whatsoever so, but the fantasy of finding that person that you loved again his.
What you were sorry, what are you wrong for so I have. I have found old europe to answer your question. Music is. The emotional wallop of all the key to understanding everything in a way that goes beyond language. Sorry, for her part, it's an understandable and, and that's what music, for, I think it's to express the things we can't put into words. That's why we give you all eight discs to take to the island, made them less than minimum. Well, why not choose that? One and done honestly start me off: okay, so richards,
Looking to the future and to your next chapter, you ve had a hugely varied korea, hugely successful one. I wonder if this anything left on your wish or I'll, let you yet to play or have a fantasy that Clinton term tumors cost me, as I said, a sleazy lounge lizard vegas singer, but has never come to pass, but that is what I would like us to be in a western. Ah, I would watch the hell out of both if there was about Maybe put them together, he's done that before he's done westerns, he should search at the time. Nearly upon us, or should I say you because we're going to cast you away to the desert island? I wonder about the practical sides, this endeavour. Will you be able to fend for yourself in this new landscape? Absolutely I'm used to trying to
I have problems and be practical because of where I grew up, where there was no be in queue that you could go to to get stuff sorted out. Yet you had to make do and be ready for anything, and I love the heat with where I grew up while we'll let you have one more desk before we cast you away, your final choice was going to be well. This is Barbra streisand singing, don't rain on my parade, which is a battle cry for anybody who has been told. No, you can't in your career, it's rid of the motor that I think any actor can identify with, of when you're told no keep going and keep trying. So her interpretation of it is, absolutely extraordinary. As the final note, so at least it didn't fake it make it can have on Y know,
do We know my parade sung by bob restrict. And from the film soundtrack to funny girl. I have a two foot tall sculpture of her head I told the commission when I have had this to our conversation. How'd, you sit that into a conversation actually changed. She said you know that you're crazy and I said yes, I know now she said no, no, you are crazy. I said I'm happy to be crazy. That's fine, but me so I see that every my god how wonderful and she's gonna be on the desert island with you so richly grand time to cast you away. I am giving you, the bible and the complete works of shakespeare to take along with you to keep you busy, which other book would you like, Alice in wonderland, where I first read it
I was seven years old. I also had the lp as they were called them with joan greenwood doing the voice about stanley, holloway, doing old male voices. I've read that book every single year without fail subsequently, and it is officially that the most clear understanding of the english class system. And the english imagination and sense of humour of anything that I've ever come across. So I loved for all of those things. You can also have a luxury item. What you fancy I'd like a piano! Please do play well, I don't play well, but I play by ear and being at the sea no piano tuna. It would certainly acquire hockey quality, which my pen at home has now called because the central heating, so am I love that keep me entertained old l, l, it's yours and finally, which one track of the eight that you share with us today. Would you rushed They from the waves when I fall in love by not can co because it would run.
And me of my parents, in the best of their time, together and of my wife and our time of thirty ideas together. we should grant. Thank you very much for letting us your does island discs. Thank you very much for her. the I also hope that rich its happy on his island play in away on his honky taunt piano. We ve cost many act as a way of the us, including deemed you d, dense tom hanks, some likely kane. You can hear that programmes if you search through a desert, island discs programme archive,
when the BBC sands, the studio manager for today's programme, was jackie, marjoram and the producer with Sarah tina next time my castaway will be the epidemiologist professor, jean golden founder of the children of the ninety study. I do hope. You'll join us the hulu alan discs, friends, I'm ducked michael, mostly- and I want to let you know about my new podcast sleep well in each episode, our focus on a scientifically proven slipped. Nick and guide you through old help. You drift off is designed to be listened to at bedtime. Anytime you want to really unwind. The idea is to get comfortable, listen,
and let the cares of the day fall away. We'll take a sonic deep dive into the body, an encounter some incredible sleep related mechanisms at play from the breath. The powerful nero chemicals of light, I hope you'll subscribe to the podcast on BBC sand.
Transcript generated on 2023-02-18.