Sharing Steve :: New Stuff
Sunday, June 18, 2006

Another retro article -- for Richard Grant's WahWah

The New York Times
June 4, 2006 Sunday
Late Edition - Final
Section 9; Column 1; Style Desk; A NIGHT OUT WITH: Richard E. Grant; Pg. 4
Prey for a Saturnine Shark

HE has appeared in about 60 movie and television roles since his debut as a dissolute, down-on-his-luck actor in the 1987 cult favorite ''Withnail and I.'' But a few weeks ago, Richard E. Grant was pacing outside the ArcLight Cinemas on Sunset Boulevard, muttering, ''My stomach's doing figure eights.''

The attack of butterflies was understandable. Mr. Grant was about to screen the first movie he has directed and written, in front of an audience of Hollywood power brokers. Six years in the making, the movie, ''Wah-Wah,'' is an autobiographical portrayal of Mr. Grant's tumultuous upbringing in Swaziland in the waning days of the British Empire. (''Wah-wah" is how Mr. Grant's American stepmother referred to the snobby slang bandied about by class-obsessed colonials.)

Casually elegant in a rumpled linen ecru suit and deeply tanned, Mr. Grant had the British colonial look down pat this evening in Hollywood. He had a watch on each wrist: the watch on the left, given to him by his father on his deathbed, was set to Swaziland time; the right watch to Los Angeles time. According to the Los Angeles watch, it was showtime.

In the theater, Steve Martin bounded over. ''We've been friends for 16 years, since 'L.A. Story,' '' Mr. Grant said. ''In Hollywood, that's like dog years.'' Mr. Martin asked after Mr. Grant's wife, Joan, a dialect coach. ''We were together in New York last week, but she had to go back to London for work,'' Mr. Grant said. ''Plus she was all shopped out.''

After the screening and Q. and A. session with the audience, moderated by Mr. Martin, Mr. Grant was greeted by another old friend, the comedian Tracey Ullman, who had her teenage son in tow. The three entered an elevator heading down; as its doors started to close, Eugene Levy, another comic actor, popped into view, hurling his compliments about the movie through the crack. Before time ran out, Mr. Levy raised his hand to his ear in the universal ''telephone'' gesture and said rapidly, ''I'vegotsomethoughtsI'llcallyou.''

Ms. Ullman took a step back to admire Mr. Grant's ensemble. ''Ooh, such a clotheshorse, this one, for as long as I've known him,'' Ms. Ullman said. ''We met filming 'Pret-a-Porter' in Paris.''

The group headed across the street to the Sterling Steak House for the post-screening party. Mr. Grant was waylaid at the front door by a burly autograph hound brandishing a random assortment of memorabilia from his movies: a ''Hudson Hawk'' poster, a ''Spice World'' calendar, a promotional photo from ''The Player.''

Waiting in the cavernous restaurant were members of what one might call Hollywood's British colony, including Eric Idle, Michael York and Julian Sands, the guest of honor's co-star in the horror movie ''Warlock.''

Scanning the crowded bar, Mr. Grant's eyes lit up when he saw another former cast mate, Winona Ryder. Her companion, the documentary filmmaker Henry-Alex Rubin, said, ''I've been waiting a decade to meet that man.''

Ms. Ryder said, ''We quote lines from his book 'With Nails' to each other all the time.'' (Mr. Grant has published three books.) ''Like, we'll call someone a 'saturnine predator.' ''

Mr. Rubin added, ''Or a 'rotund apotheosis of harassment.' ''

As if conjured by Ms. Ryder and Mr. Rubin, a saturnine predator suddenly appeared in the form of the autograph collector who had accosted Mr. Grant outside. Having evaded the sentries at the door, he was now circling like a shark. But the staff yanked him like a weed.

Around midnight (or 9 a.m. in Swaziland), a visibly tired Mr. Grant announced he was going to collapse into a bath. The man of the hour was all out of time.


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