BRAIN WASH MEETS | HOLLIDAY GRAINGER


I knock up a fancy brunch with eggs and chorizo and Holli arrives right on time to my new address in North West London. We eat and she makes enquiries about things and the girl I’m living with. She tells me about The Borgias, the Baftas and boys. Our catch up has been prompted by Holli’s recent appearance on my television, handing out an award for Best Short Film.

Despite not hanging out for six months or so, within days of my “Presenting a Bafta!?” text message, Holli is in my living room and it’s non-stop talk the same as ever, except these days we have more adventures to share. We met in our early teens and bonded over shared love for the Wizard of Oz sequel, Return To Oz. Now, Holli is the rosy-cheeked girl adventuring in a strange world. 

We make arrangements for an interview in the future and I get all of the Bafta afterparty gossip off the record. In our brief meeting, I get some tales from a red rope dancefloor and get told that I absolutely must propose to my girlfriend properly, as simply agreeing to getting married is not enough.

A few weeks later…

Holli may well be lost and it may well be down to my poor direction; I’m a little lost Mancunian in East London. I decided the interview should be at this place because there’s a happy hour, and they tend never to be accused of false advertising. Liam and I are fresh from checking out an event venue and everything seems well so we wade into a two-Stellas-for-a-fiver deal.

A text soon tells me all is well with Holli. I presume she’s being nice because I know my directions were vague as balls. Either way, the booze is cheap and the place is pretty much empty, which is helpful. We scan the food menu and wait. I consider writing some actual questions for the interview but get no further than some shit about fear of being typecast.

Soon enough we have our interviewee and we put aside snack-thoughts. Welcomes and introductions ensue and I head to the bar as Holli takes a seat.

‘Sorry if this seems odd…but is that Holliday Grainger?’ The barman is clearly excited as fuck.

‘Yeah, we’re doing an interview. But she’s also a friend from school.’ He’s really excited. Apparently he’s seen every episode of The Borgias. I’ve never watched it at all. Love Holli, hate historical drama. Hate drama in general. Anyway, the barman wants to make Holli a cocktail. I’m almost not sure he should be allowed to do it unsupervised. I get more beer and rejoin the guys to await whatever creation this superfan comes up with.

We start off the record and get no real answers about Jeremy Irons’ cock. Holli warns that she may be interrupted at some point by a phone interview she has booked in with InStyle. We’re fully flexible and continue talk everything, taking in a discussion of wanking monkeys. Apparently, if the monkey is cute enough, the wanking is legit.

The cocktail arrives.

Holli: What’s in it?

Superfan: Vodka, lychee juice, cranberry juice, grenadine (some other shit I didn’t record/remember).

Liam: What’s it called?

Superfan: ‘Awesome’.

Everyone: (Internally) Dickhead.

Off he goes and we all have a taste. Pretty much just grenadine. So you made a sweet vodka cocktail. Well done, you’re a mixologist now. And you have something to lube your palm with later.

Again forgetting why we’re here we start to catch up on life in general, with Holli leading the questioning on whether I’ve got around to proposing. I start to tell the sickly sweet tale when Holli’s phone rings.

‘Just my publicist, I’ll call her back.’

I finish the story and Holli’s delighted her words became action and romance has won the day, as I took her advice and proposed properly in a corny spot on a bridge in Chelsea. She’s never met my bride-to-be but seems to like her as much as I do. Holli’s phone rings again and this time it’s the interview she’s been expecting. I listen in for a while and hear talk of ‘Helena’ and ‘Jeremy’ and imagine that the person on the other end of the phone is delighted, as Holli is really fucking good at talking.

In the meantime I call my future wife and order some snacks to try to keep all of this booze at bay. I get another round too, naturally. The phone interview over, we get down to some business talk of our own.

 

BW: So where are you at right now?

Holli: I’ve got a little bit of time off, so I’m going to finish my degree in English Language and Literature, which I’ve been doing forever.

BW: Speaking of, you’re in the new Great Expectations [as Estella] did you see the recent BBC version?

Holli: Yeah, I loved it. The BBC adaptation embraced the realism, whereas ours stays true to the novel but embraces the love story a bit more. I’m friends with Vanessa [Kirby] and thought she was great as Estella.

BW: The casting is pretty perfect, particularly the Helena Bonham Carter role.

Holli: Yeah, you couldn’t pick a better Miss Havisham and I think Jeremy will make a shit-hot Pip.

For some reason, I talk over Holli to ask, ‘Who’s Uncle Pumblechook?’ (From now on, it gets fairly messy, so I’ll go down to individuals. We’re not pros.)

H: It’s the only person I’ve not met, so I’m not sure actually…David Walliams! I think Uncle Pumblechook is David Walliams. Am I right?

Craig: I dunno, I’ve not done my research.

Walliams sounds bang on casting too, he does an excellent impression of a dickhead. We chat a little more about the cast before asking an almost professional question.

C: So do you prefer TV series or features?

H: TV series is great because you get longer, there’s more you can do with it. The story of the Borgias is epic, there’s so much you couldn’t put in a feature. I started off as a little 15 year old girl and then by the end of series two I’m a woman with a kid who’s threatening to kill her family.

C: So you like to develop a character. How does that balance out with such a well-covered character like Estella?

H: With Estella it’s really complex, I feel like I know the character [from the book], but I also know the version I’m trying to portray. It’s complicated, there’s like three scenes that I’m trying to fit a lifetime of emotional manipulation in to.

C: Do you make decisions based on what you DON’T know from the novel?

H: She’s a cold coquette, but she’s sometimes portrayed as too cold, so you don’t feel anything for her and just see her as manipulative. But I kind of feel sorry for her, she’s really emotionally damaged…she doesn’t feel worthy of [Pip’s] love…she punishes herself.

Liam’s laughing wildly at ‘coquette’. Food arrives and we snack and change topic.

C: Would you ever do anything entirely commercial?

H: (Loads of enthusiasm) Yeeeah!

C: Like an absolutely soulless remake?

Liam: Like Total Recall!

H: I’ve never seen the original…

(Thing’s go awry here, in terms of talk and ‘tape’ I don’t remember how we got there but suddenly we’re here.)

H: Freddy Kruger? Yeah…

L: Freddy Kruger…sword fingers! He’s got a melty face and trilby.

Next we talk about remakes that happen just because Americans need movies in American, like Let Me In. Also getting a mention is the updated Great Expectations that starred Ethan Hawke and Gwyneth Paltrow, which we all enjoyed, because it has a great cast and was sexy as fuck. And then we apparently discuss the platter of snacks we have on the table for some time ‘there’s still two of these awesome meaty balls left’. We fight off the digression and I ask the trite question of

C: Who do you think is good?

H: Well, I’ll always love Tom Harper, who did a film I’m really proud of, The Scouting Book For Boys.

L: That was really good…were you in Scouting Book For Boys!?

H: Yeh.

L: Ahhhh.

We laugh off more of our idiocy and Holli continues.

H: He’s amazing, I’ve worked with him a few times, he’s one of those people you work with and he just gets you, and it’s cool to ad lib and stuff.

Scouting Book is perhaps the performance that has allowed for the most of Holli’s true character to come through. Emily is fun, energetic, open to suggestion and full of ideas. Holli has all of these qualities and is incredible company, especially during times of adventure. The film is wonderfully shot and the performances are strong across the board, though there is that usual edge of British super-sadness. Holli also has kind words for Joe Wright, who she worked with on Anna Kerenina.

C: Is there anything you’d particularly like to do?

H: I’d love to do a big action film or something where I’d have to really learn a skill. Like martial arts or ballet. The characters I’m playing at the moment have much darker side than me. Lucrezia and Estella, have a quite damaged, dark side and I’d like to tap into that again but in a more contemporary setting.

L: Villains are way more interesting…characters that have issues are more interesting than American-style heroes. They’re idiots…they’re the ones that are, like, brainwashed.

Much laughter. It’s like that moment when someone says the title of a film in a film.

C: Lets try to wrap this up, because it’s been half an hour and it’s going to take me ages to edit. Who’ve you got your eye on to work with?

H: I’d like to maybe do something a bit more improvisational, a bit more naturalistic, so maybe Shane Meadows or Dominic Savage…some kind of social realism or something.

Again there’s too much noise, I can’t hear a thing for a little bit until,

L: Michael Bay? I hear he’s auditioning for Transformers 4.

Another friend arrives and it’s about time to wrap things up anyway. Remembering our recent magazine, I ask the question on everyone’s lips:

C: How do you feel about the democratisation of the moving image?

H: Oh shut up Craig.

And so things tail off into drink and, eventually, Indian food.

A couple of months later…

Season 3 of the Borgias is on screens by the time of another visit from Holli, fresh from set with Hungarian wine and a wedding gift. We return the favour with residence on our sofa, which is also the temporary home of her childhood best friend. Fun ensues and we head to a restaurant, as everything seems like an occasion. This time, Holli asks the questions, hot-seating around the restaurant to hear wedding plans, showing the same enthusiasm as ever.

When her car arrives in the morning, we’re still eating breakfast and gathering our wine-soaked minds. She’s heading back to Hungary and leaving behind an open invitation to visit. Borderline-poverty means we never get to go to Budapest, but we see Holli again when she returns for her graduation. It just so happens we’re in Manchester at the time, so we head to her house for a party. And it’s champagne again as we toast this time of success. It’s strange that Holli has just graduated, but it also seems perfect that she’s casually added another achievement to her impressive beginnings.

@ByCBallinger