'Girls's Richard E. Grant Should Be Known For More Than 'Spice World'

Lena Dunham wrote a number of noteworthy moments into this season of Girls, but so far, only one of them has made me gasp aloud: "Holy crap, that's Richard E. Grant!" Yes, upon the appearance of Jessa's elder rehab comrade Jasper, I promptly flipped out — because Grant is a legend, and he deserves as much screentime as there are screens to offer it. To that end, Grant recently did an interview with Vulture, in which he discusses working with Dunham and the rest of the Girls cast; his brilliant turn as Clifford in the Spice Girls movie Spice Worl d ; and, perhaps most exciting, his forthcoming four-episode arc on Downton Abbey 's next season as art historian Simon Bricker. Still, with all this talk of the actor's most recent work — even referring to him as "Girls's Richard E. Grant" — I start to worry that some of his pre-aughts gravitas might go overlooked. It'd be like calling Betty White "That lady from Community ." (Hey, I work with children who'd never heard of a VCR before — I'm just trying to keep the history alive.)

For example, when Dunham first approached Grant, it was as a fan of his breakout role in 1987's Withnail & I. Though he describes the film to Vulture as "so particularly English," I'd argue it has a number of continent-spanning comedic moments, as Grant (who is notably allergic to alcohol in real life) slurs his way through the role of the perpetually drunk title character. See below, as he utters a phrase I find myself pulling out on the daily: "We want the finest wines available to humanity, we want them here, and we want them now!"


Lest this devolve to mere IMDb rehash, I'll just toss out a few mentions of other notable roles — footman George in the pre-Downton ensemble piece Gosford Park, Dr. Jack Seward in Bram Stoker's Dracula — before jumping straight to the greatest piece of media ever produced by Grant, or, honestly, by mankind. Like most British actors, Grant has some Shakespeare under his belt (even, notably, within Withnail & I ), but the following goes above and beyond even Ian McKellen's black-box Macbeth . It is, ladies and gentlemen, the "To be or not to be" soliloquy from Hamlet made into a disco song. Highlights include: when he attempts to make "Ay, there's the rub" sound sexy; his furtive whispers of "that is the question"; the fact that this was made at all — and that some kind soul has put it on YouTube.

bierviltbitter on YouTube

So, there you have it: a mini-Grant-athon to celebrate his current pop culture cachet. Now, let's ride out on a little Spice World — because, in all seriousness, that movie is a work of genius.

Anneliese Cooper on YouTube