Richard E Grant on life in the movies, his early days in Notting Hill and why he’ll be spending Christmas with Paddington Bear

I once read a refreshingly-honest interview where you said that people often assumed you had scripts flooding through the letterbox, when in reality you were struggling for the parts you wanted. Have things changed?
Apart from a few leading roles, my career is made up of supporting character roles which has afforded me a great variety of work which I am very grateful for.

What film/TV part would you have killed (or at least nudged someone out of the way) for?
Send a stamped addressed envelope for the list! No matter what age you are, there is always a shortlist of contenders going for the same role, and we all know each other.

There seems to be a greater awareness now of the sexist attitudes faced by actresses when it comes to ageing. How do you find men in the industry are treated in that regard?
Female actors have a much tougher time of it. Statistically there are far more parts for men of all ages than there are for women. The pressure to stay young and beautiful doesn’t apply to men in the same way.

British TV is going through a very exciting time at the moment – what do you tend to watch?
I love box-set binges. I’m addicted to Peaky Blinders, the Great British Bake Off, Downton Abbey, Dr Foster and The Apprentice.


‘My favourite line in Withnail & I? “He’s so mauve”‘

Withnail & I director Bruce Robinson’s book on Jack the Ripper came out recently. What do you think of his detective work – have you read it yet?
It’s a riveting read and vituperative attack on the Victorian Establishment written with his trademark bilious wit.

You’re narrating Paddington’s Christmas Concert at the Cadogan Hall this month, what do you like about the character?
I identified with him as I emigrated from Africa three decades ago and landed in London with one suitcase and lived just off Portobello Road. He is forever an ‘outsider’ who became an ‘insider’.

You’ll be narrating alongside Simon Callow, how are you feeling about it?
I’m looking forward to finally working with Simon as our paths have crossed socially through the years. He has a very distinct style which will doubtless inform his narration.

What’s Christmas like in your household?
Full on. A 12ft tree goes up on the first of December, we cram every room with decorations, fairy lights around the garden and up the trees and a kitchen crammed with food, topped off by a party for my friends. You can never have enough plum pudding.

In your early days in London, you lived in Notting Hill, what are your memories of the area?
I rented a bedsit in Blenheim Crescent for £30 a week for two years in 1982. I saw every movie I could at the Electric Cinema as it was still a cheap bughouse; buying vegetables in Portobello Market at the end of the day was affordable too.


Richard will be narrating at Paddington Bear’s Christmas Concert

Do you ever find your way back to Notting Hill?
I have lots of friends living there and I’ve been having lunch at Mediterraneo restaurant every Saturday ever since it opened. I’ve been a regular Friday visitor of the antiques market on Portobello and Golborne road too as I am an inveterate collector. My best find was a Venetian mirror with a painted pierrot in the middle of the glass.

What childhood book stands out in your memory the most?
Alice in Wonderland. My all-time favourite and I read it once a year –idiosyncratically English, hilarious and eccentric by turn.

I’m sorry to ask this but we have to know – what’s your favourite Withnail & I line?
‘He’s so mauve’. 

Paddington Bear’s First Concert with narration from Richard E. Grant and Simon Callow will take place at Cadogan Hall Sunday 20 Dec, 2.30pm and 5.30pm, tickets £25-£30, 020 7730 4500;


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