Richard E. Grant says playing drag queen in Everybody's Talking About Jamie gave him 'sleepless nights'

The actor said in 2019: "How can you justify heterosexual actors playing gay characters?"


Words: Jamie Tabberer; pictures: Max Harwood and Grant in Everybody's Talking About Jamie (Amazon Studios)

Richard E. Grant has spoken of his "terror" over playing a drag queen in new Amazon Studios film Everybody's Talking About Jamie.

The movie, about a teenage drag queen and based on the hit stage play of the same name, is out this Friday (17 September 2021).

In it, Grant plays an older drag queen Hugo - a mentor figure to main character Jamie, played by Max Harwood.

"The whole creative team was gay"

Speaking to Travel Gay in a new interview, Grant - who is straight - said: "When I met Jonathan Butterell, the director of Jamie, I asked why he wasn't casting a gay actor or drag queen? He said, 'you have sad eyes'. He pointed out that the whole creative team was gay and we've decided you're the best person to play this part."

The 64-year-old added: "I told him he'd have to argue and justify casting me. He said it was for him to make that decision and asked if I'd do it. So that's what I did. You don't want to be insensitive or seem like you're taking an opportunity away from someone else. I was in terror of doing it as it's so out of my comfort zone. I'd never done drag or a Sheffield accent. That made it frightening but also exhilarating."

He continued: "By the time you've been doing it for four decades like I have, to get something that gives you sleepless nights is a good thing to find."

The star has previously addressed the debate around straight actors playing gay roles, telling the Sunday Times in 2019: "How can you justify heterosexual actors playing gay characters?" He played a gay man the year before in the movie Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Jamie's release comes at a difficult time for Grant, whose wife Joan Washington died of lung cancer on 2 September 2021.

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