Opportunities to understand China, Chinese culture and Chinatown



We spent an evening with actor Richard E Grant, thirty years on from his break-through role in the cult-classic film Withnail and I. Richard talked about his career diverse and the inspiring people he has worked with, including Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, and recently Lena Dunham. He described how, on meeting Dunham, the writer, director and star of hit TV show Girls, she said “people know you from Withnail, but I loved Spice World the movie”. Richard then explained how his daughter had persuaded him to accept the role in Spice World, where he starred alongside the Spice Girls, and that the band members had been so great with his daughter.

Richard reflected that his most challenging role had been in How to Get Ahead in Advertising, and he had to go to bed for a week after filming. Whereas his “best time ever” was working on Wah Wah, the semiautobiographical film about growing up in Swaziland that he wrote and directed. Richard claimed that he is very sentimental, and explained that he wears his father’s watch, set at Swaziland time, as a reminder that “all our time is limited”.

During the audience Q&A, Richard and the audience were in for an emotional surprise when the brother of the late Vivian MacKerell, the basis for the character of Withnail, introduced himself to the room. Mr MacKerell said that Richard’s portrayal of his brother’s character had been “spot on”. When asked by another audience member what his advice would be to an aspiring actor, Richard said “never give up, until someone gives you a break or a job”.

Watch the video to find out more about Richard’s super-human sense of smell, his love of Barbara Streisand, and what happened when he met Donald Trump.