Richard E. Grant (‘Can You Ever Forgive Me’) based his grifter character on a friend who ‘still owes me money’ [EXCLUSIVE VIDEO INTERVIEW]

Richard E. Grant describes Jack Hock, his character in “Can You Ever Forgive Me?,” as “a Labrador who just goes up to anybody and licks them into submission.” A lifelong grifter with a quick wit and easy charm, he encounters a “hedgehog/porcupine” and perhaps a kindred spirit in misanthropic author Lee Israel (Melissa McCarthy). “Somehow, they just manage to rub each other the wrong way until eventually they become friends.” Watch our exclusive video interview with Grant above.

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Directed by Marielle Heller, this Fox Searchlight release tells the true story of how Israel turned from noted celebrity biographer to literary forger when her career declined due to her alcoholism and orneriness. She penned letters in the name of legendary figures like Noel Coward and Dorothy Parker, and eventually she enlisted Hock to help sell her fakes to literary collectors for top dollar.

Grant referenced “The Odd Couple” (1968) and “Midnight Cowboy” (1969) as comparisons to Israel and Hock’s partnership. “You have this relationship that is co-dependent,” he explains, “and you think, how the hell are these two people friends? But somehow, they are.”

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Israel was “so prickly and self-obsessed” that she wrote very little about Hock in her memoir, and what’s there is “very, very sketchy.” Grant therefore relied a great deal on Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty‘s script to flesh out the role. He based the character largely on an old college friend who “still owes me money.” But even as Hock “grifted and huckstered his way through” life the actor found that “there was something in the way that he operated that was so charming and beguiling that … you give into it.”

Grant won a SAG Award as a member of the ensemble cast of Robert Altman‘s “Gosford Park” (2001). He will campaign for Best Supporting Actor on the awards circuit this year for “Can You Ever Forgive Me?

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