“Can You Ever Forgive Me?” Star Richard E. Grant Wins Spirit Award, Honors AIDS Victims

The actor also revealed who was originally set to play his gay role.

Could you have forgiven voters if he’d lost?

Richard E. Grant won Best Supporting Male last night at the 2019 Film Independent Spirit Awards, which were hosted by Aubrey Plaza and aired on IFC.

Grant was recognized for his performance as charming gay grifter Jack Hock, who befriends lesbian writer and literary forger Lee Israel (Melissa McCarthy), in the “homo-saturated” biopic Can You Ever Forgive Me? Hock died of AIDS-related illness in 1994.

Tommaso Boddi/Getty Images

“The person that most inspired my performance was an actor called Ian Charleson, who played the lead in Chariots of Fire in 1981,” said Grant in his acceptance speech, choking back tears. “He died of AIDS at the age of 40 in 1990. This movie, more than anything, is an homage to that generation of men that were wiped out by that disease.”

Presented his trophy by Glenn Close, who won a Spirit Award for The Wife, the 61-year-old Swazi-British actor also revealed that Sam Rockwell and Chris O’Dowd had originally been cast as Hock.

The Oscar nominee spoke to NewNowNext about Charleson earlier this year. “Ian developed AIDS and approached it with a combination of incredible boyish charm and salacious, louche decadence,” he recalled. “His appetite for squeezing every last drop out of every day in case it was his last informed this part.”

Grant beat out Spirit Award nominees Raul Castillo for 
We the Animals, Adam Driver
 for BlackKklansman, Josh Hamilton for 
Eighth Grade, and John David Washington for 
Monsters and Men.

Can You Ever Forgive Me? also won a Spirit Award for Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty’s screenplay.

If Beale Street Could Talk was the biggest winner at the Santa Monica ceremony, taking home trophies for Best Feature, Best Director for Barry Jenkins, and Best Supporting Female for Regina King. The producers thanked late gay author James Baldwin and his estate.

Amy Sussman/Getty Images

Besides Shangela’s surprise musical number, other queer Spirit Awards highlights included Jim O’Heir’s spoof of Fyre Festival’s Andy “take one for the team” King and a Bryan Singer dig by ceremony “director” John Waters: “It’s television, Aubrey. Like Bohemian Rhapsody it doesn’t really have a director. It directs itself.”

See a full list of the Spirit Awards winners here.

Watch Grant’s full acceptance speech below.

Celebrity interviewer. Foodie and Broadway buff in Manhattan. Hates writing bios.