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Richard E. Grant on St. John's, Swaziland and 1960s London

Q&A with the actor and perfumer.

Richard E. Grant

Hometown Mbabane

Home Base London

Claim to Fame Playing iconic roles in cult favourites across generations, including Withnail and I and Spice World

Current Project Starring in Logan, the third and final film in the Wolverine franchise, out this month, and wrapping shooting for Disney’s The Nutcracker and the Four Realms in London

Next Trip Chicago in April to play Henry Higgins in My Fair Lady at the Civic Opera House


You grew up in Swaziland. how did that inform your view of the world?
Wedged between Marxist Mozambique and Apartheid South Africa, Swaziland is nicknamed the “Switzerland of Africa.” It made me acutely aware of how valuable it is to have freedom of speech and live multiculturally.

What do you miss about it?
The heat, the smell of gardenias, the clarity of the starry sky at night and my childhood friends, who know me inside and out. It was a very easy and safe place to grow up – as children, we could play and explore wherever we liked, climbing trees and swimming in rivers. We took it for granted.

Do you have any rituals before you start a new role?
As I’m also a perfumer, I like to find a scent that suits who I’m playing. It’s helpful in understanding how the character sees and feels about himself. For Dr. Zander Rice in Logan, it was hospital disinfectant.

You filmed the World War II miniseries Above and Beyond in Ontario and Newfoundland. Any favourite spots?
St. John’s. It’s very dramatic, on the edge of the Atlantic – and the seafood is delicious. I ate crab, crab and more crab!

Your fragrance, Jack Piccadilly ’69, launched last fall. What was your inspiration for the scent?
I visited London with my parents in 1969 when I was 12. Piccadilly Circus was jam-packed with patchouli-scented hippies, who contrasted with the fume-filled streets. I drank Earl Grey tea at Fortnum & Mason, sat on leather banquettes and saw Hair. I’ve combined all these “ingredients” to recreate that indelible first impression of London in the ’60s.

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