The 2019 Oscar nominations have made history in more ways than one. Not only did Black Panther become the first comic book movie to be nominated for Best Picture, but ubiquitous character actor Richard E. Grant also received his first-ever bit of recognition from the Academy Awards. (His Oscars reaction video is utterly wonderful.)
He's been nominated for Best Supporting Actor for Can You Ever Forgive Me?, a funny and poignant comedy-drama recounting the true story of fraudulent biographer Lee Israel. Played by Melissa McCarthy (also an Oscar nominee), the duplicitous Israel finds she enjoys an unexpected measure of success when she begins forging letters from noted literary figures.
Grant plays Israel's dissolute, acid-tonged drinking buddy Jack Hock, whom she enlists in her schemes. So in honour of Grant's historic Academy Award nomination, and in anticipation of the film's release in February, we thought we'd recap his greatest movies.
1. Withnail and I (1987)
Grant's big screen debut is the role with which he is most associated – the disreputable, hard-drinking Withnail from Bruce Robinson's British cult classic. Ironically, Grant is alcohol intolerant – not that you'd know it from his memorable, endlessly quotable and ultimately moving performance as an aspiring thesp fallen on hard times.
2. How to Get Ahead in Advertising (1989)
Grant re-teamed with Bruce Robinson for this sly satire, in which he plays a put-upon ad man who develops a boil on his shoulder after suffering a nervous breakdown. Before long, said boil has developed into a second head (hence the pun in the film's title), allowing Grant to deploy into his signature razor-sharp comic timing.
3. L.A. Story (1991)
This gentle comic fantasy pairs Grant with Steve Martin for the story of a meteorologist whose love life takes unexpected turns. Grant often recounts the story of how he and Martin used to correspond extensively via fax, and the wealth of comedy gold that resulted from the meeting of these two brilliant comic minds.
4. Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992)
Francis Ford Coppola's overripe adaptation of Bram Stoker's pioneering horror novel offers a mishmash of performances. They're of varying quality, from imposing Gary Oldman to stiff-as-a-board Keanu Reeves, but let's take a moment to note Grant's effective performance as strung-out, laudanum-addicted doctor Seward.
5. The Player (1992)
Key to Grant's appeal is his longevity – for every notorious flop like 1991's Hudson Hawk, he always bounces back with a movie worth championing. The Player marked his first collaboration with the feted Robert Altman, a dazzling, biting Hollywood satire in which Grant excels as a conniving screenwriter pitching a legal drama with no stars and a sad ending.
6. Jack & Sarah (1995)
One of Grant's most endearing roles comes in this charming comedy-drama, playing a widowed father struggling to bring up his infant daughter on his own. There are no sour edges to Grant's performance in Jack & Sarah, just a believable and moving portrayal of a parent under difficult circumstances.
7. Gosford Park (2001)
Grant reunited with Robert Altman for this witty British country house thriller, from an original script by Downton Abbey's Julian Fellowes. Imagine Downton with a far more cutting sense of humour – Altman's film observes the upstairs/downstairs tensions with palpable relish, aided by an extraordinary all-star cast. Amid the ensemble, Grant stands out as supercilious footman George.
8. Wah-Wah (2005)
In 2005, Grant made his directorial debut with this terrific, autobiographical account of his upbringing in Swaziland. He proves himself a more than capable helmer, balancing laughs and tears in this story of a young teen whose family falls apart against the backdrop of the waning days of the British Empire. Nicholas Hoult, Gabriel Byrne, Julie Walters and Miranda Richardson are all coaxed into giving memorable turns, no doubt because Grant is the quintessential actor's actor and sensitive to the needs of performance.
9. Logan (2017)
This ferociously violent X-Men movie finally offered the unfettered, off-the-chain Wolverine we'd long been waiting for. Both Hugh Jackman's performance and the desolate landscapes set up a far darker story, and Grant is effectively creepy as Transigen scientist Xander Rice, whose machinations have caused the extinction of mutant-kind.
Click here to book your tickets for Can You Ever Forgive Me?, released in Cineworld on 1st February. Don't forget to tweet us your favourite Richard E. Grant roles and your thoughts on his Oscar chances @Cineworld.