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Richard E. Grant: The Guardian Interview (1997)

On the scripts in his drawer and learning from the greats

Main image of Richard E. Grant: The Guardian Interview (1997)

Richard E. Grant was interviewed by Richard Williams at the National Film Theatre on 7 November 1997.

Ambitions to direct

RW: [repeating audience question] Do you have any ambitions to direct?

REG: God, scratch every actor. Um, do I have ambitions to direct? When I was midway through my university degree combined with a drama diploma at Cape Town University in the mid-70s, I co-founded a theatre company while still at drama school and then subsequently worked with that at the theatre co-founded and set up by Ethel Fugard and Yvonne Briceland called the Space Theatre in Cape Town, and directed at least half of the productions there, so that was -

And when I left university, my university professor said to me, in the kind of round-up, the outgoing sort of last interview, he said to me, "You are too weird-looking, plain-faced and lightweight to ever have a career as an actor, and I think that you" - well, you know, he was trying to be helpful. [Laughter] I laugh on his tombstone now. And he said, "You - I think that your talents lie in directing things," so when I came to England, there seemed no opportunity or possibility of saying, "Well, I'm from Swaziland, I'm a director". I just didn"t have the balls to do that.

But I do have a drawer full of things and I'm now, I have a script called Mud which is - I know, my wife thinks it's a terrible title, as you obviously do too [Laughter] - which is set in Swaziland where I grew up. So inevitably, write what you know. Which I hope, one day, somebody will give me money, if I think it's good enough to offer to people to consider financing, and I would like to direct it, but not to act in it, because it seems to me that it is - I mean having had the fantastic experience of writing a book, and having a sense of control - control freak; my wife says I am. In a film, you are completely at the mercy of what an editor does, a director does and finally the distributor does with a movie. Whereas, I think, in directing, for better or worse, you do, it seems to me, have the final say of how something can be done.

And having been - worked around the people that I have done, which I realise has been an incredible privilege, and have never ever felt, "Oh yeah, well, Scorcese this week, you know, fuck it," [Laughter] always been, "Yes, oh Marty," that I think something must rub off of how the best people work, which has generally been that they make things seem very easy and straightforward, and people that are not very good, both actors or directors, complicate things and the shit seems to hit the fan and you think, "This is just obvious and straightforward," so, you know, you could be sitting here in five years' time with somebody who's been in my film who's saying, "That is the worst fucker I have ever worked with". [Laughter] So I don't know, but thank you for your question.

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Ambitions to direct (3:17)
Grant, Richard E. (1957-)