Star Wars: Why joining Dark Side isn't even highlight of Richard E. Grant's year
It’s been a pretty big 12 months for Richard E. Grant, what with his first Oscar nomination and meeting his hero Barbra Streisand.
Now he’s playing a villain in Star Wars, and not just any Star Wars. This is Star Wars: Episode IV The Rise Of Skywalker, the epic finale; the end of the nine-movie saga he has been a fan of since he saw the original film three times in two weeks during his drama student days.
So surely his role as the baddie Allegiant General Pryde tops off his year?
Well, not exactly, he tells Sky News.
“Oh goodness me,” is his response to the question of which of the three – Oscar nomination, meeting Streisand and being in Star Wars – has been his highlight. “That’s hard.”
Landing a role in the final Star Wars (of this saga, at least) has certainly been a career highlight for Grant. But although it was “very emotional for me to see it and to be in it, in the best possible way”, he’s also a really, really big Streisand fan.
Remember his reaction to finally getting a response from the star, to a letter he had written to her as a teenager with a crush 47 years earlier? (Clue: there were tears).
But it didn’t stop there. Because after getting an Oscar nomination for his role in Can You Ever Forgive Me? – his first, in his 60s, after more than 30 years in the industry – he then got to meet his idol at the ceremony. And then again, when she invited him to a screening at Donna Karan’s house. As you do.
“I had a two hour one-to-one conversation, this close with Barbra Streisand, at Donna Karan’s house this summer. That pretty much did it for me,” he says.
So just to confirm: Barbra Streisand tops Star Wars?
Director JJ Abrams is “a big fan of hers as well”, says Grant. “So, you know… I’m in good company.”
His co-star Domhnall Gleeson, who has played ruthless First Order officer General Hux in all three films in the sequel trilogy, isn’t impressed.
“Never been nominated for an Oscar. Never met Barbra Streisand. So I’m going to have to go with Star Wars. We’re not all as lucky as Richard E Grant, are we.”
I’m speaking to Grant and Gleeson as The Rise Of Skywalker is released. Shrouded in secrecy, with so much speculation and anticipation about how it would end, they both say they have been under strict orders to keep things under wraps.
“I’ve never known lock-down security on a job like this ever,” says Grant. “You couldn’t even go from where you got dressed and made up into the studio without wearing a cloak because there were drones going overhead, people trying to take photographs. That was… And no scripts given out.”
Gleeson interrupts. “Well, they gave out some scripts… to John Boyega.”
Boyega, who plays Finn, a defector Stormtrooper turned member of the Resistance, made headlines when his top-secret script ended up on eBay for £65 after he left it under his bed during a house move.
But that was just a mistake – not Dark Side evil.
If Grant and Gleeson had to pick one cast member most likely to turn to the Dark Side, who would it be?
“Oscar Isaac,” Gleeson answers straight away.
But Isaac plays Poe Dameron, a pilot and commander in the Resistance, and one of Leia Organa’s most trusted operatives. He’s a goodie.
“He’s already there, he’s already here,” jokes Gleeson. “He’s not a good person.”
I was expecting a diplomatic, “we couldn’t possible say,” I tell them.
“Oh no, Oscar Isaac,” jokes Gleeson. “He’s a terrible human being. Yeah, he’s done things… I mean, he’s just. Yeah. He’s a nasty piece of work. Nasty piece of work.”
“He has no sense of humour. He’s unkind,” adds Grant.
“And he’s not very good looking either,” says Gleeson. “So you put all that together…”
“Yeah, he’s got a dark side,” says Grant, although he also points to Gleeson.
And finally, as Star Wars fans, they must have “borrowed” some props from set?
“They didn’t allow us to take anything,” says Grant. “It was not for lack of trying… I would have loved to have taken some props.”
“They’re just super strict about it,” says Gleeson.
With a life-size Chewbacca outside the room, maybe they could try getting him home?
“Oh my God, that would be amazing,” says Gleeson. “I’ve got to get a plane home, though. Getting Chewie on the plane? Do you put him in the overhead, do you get him his own seat?”
First class for Chewie, surely?
“No, stick him in a big bag. Check him in.”
Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker is out in cinemas now