Write Around the World with Richard E Grant

“I thought I was so bad in Withnail and I that I just couldn’t watch it. So I gave up then and decided never to watch anything else I was in ever again.”

Richard E Grant reading 'The Talented Mr Ripley' in Hotel Miramare, Positano
Richard E Grant reading 'The Talented Mr Ripley' in Hotel Miramare, Positano

It may surprise you to know that quote comes from none other than the seemingly confident Richard E Grant. It’s particularly shocking when you consider that playing Withnail launched his career and helped turn him into the star we know and love today.

Indeed, had the role gone to either Kenneth Branagh or Daniel Day Lewis, who were also in the running, Grant probably wouldn’t have been offered his latest project, which sounds like a dream come true for someone who is a self-confessed bookworm and dedicated traveller.

During the course of this three-part series he will be choosing a reading list from different periods and genres before jetting off to the places where they were set. He then explores their culture, history and landscape, while reading passages from each tome.

France and Spain will feature later in the series, but Grant begins in southern Italy. During a trip to Naples, he begins to realise why the likes of Charles Dickens, Elena Ferrante, Elizabeth Gilbert and Norman Lewis found its crumbling palazzi and vibrant street life so inspirational.

He then moves on to Pompeii and nearby Positano; the latter was instrumental in the creation of Patricia Highsmith’s anti-hero Tom Ripley.

Finally, at the Unesco World Heritage Site in Matera, he discovers how dramatically the place has changed since Carlo Levi set his book Christ Stopped at Eboli there.

Hopefully Grant was able to move around each place without too much interference, which isn’t always the case, as his Scarlet Pimpernel co-star Denise Black discovered to her cost during a night out during filming in the Czech Republic.

“All these leggy girls swarmed around us while we were dancing in a nightclub,” reveals the former Coronation Street star. “They elbowed me out of the way. I ended up with a black eye.”

But don’t get your hopes up ladies (or men). Grant is devoted to the two females in his life: his wife Joan and their daughter Olivia.

In fact, he’s such a dedicated family man he’s spurned many opportunities to work in Hollywood where he has, nevertheless, enjoyed fame with such projects as The Player, The Age of Innocence and Can You Ever Forgive Me? for which he received an Oscar nomination.

“I enjoy working in America, but it’s a long way from home,” says the actor. “It’s much easier to stay here and get work.

“Your family’s there beyond whether your movie is good or bad,” he continues, “and acting is such an unstable way of life, your family is the on-going, stable centre of everything, and I value that hugely.”

Mind you, Grant’s reluctance to leave home hasn’t harmed his career too much. He’s a man in demand who is set to feature in the eagerly awaited big screen version of the musical Everybody’s Talking About Jamie – here’s hoping he can make time for a second series of Write Around the World too.

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