Archie’s Jason Isaacs on What It Took to Play Cary Grant


Initally, when Archie star Jason Isaacs first heard about a Cary Grant project in the works, he wasn’t at all interested in playing the famous actor. Because, as he tells Consequence, “what kind of moron would want to play Cary Grant? He was the biggest film star in the world for 30 years.”

However, Isaac’s perspective changed gradually, as first he learned that the writer behind it was Jeff Pope (Philomena, Stan & Ollie), who “has written some brilliant things before, and they were always complex and rich and human. And I thought, ‘Well, he’s not an idiot. He surely wouldn’t expect an actor to play Cary Grant. What’s the point of that?’ And then I read it, it’s called Archie, and then I realized, of course, it’s not about Cary Grant, it’s about Archie Leach. And Archie Leach struggled to play Cary Grant himself, and certainly couldn’t play him in his private life.”

To write his portrait of the star, whose career highlights include some of the greatest films of the 20th century, Pope used Dyan Cannon’s book about her complicated relationship with Grant as a primary source. This allowed Pope to create a portrait of a man who, as Isaacs describes, was “a tortured human being with incredible scars, open wounds from his childhood that only got more and more open as he tried to make himself feel loved by getting the entire planet virtually to worship him — and feeling even more unlovable than before. Because he knew it was all fake.”

As depicted in the series, with Laura Aikman playing Cannon, Grant and Cannon’s relationship becomes increasingly toxic after their marriage. “He wooed her by playing Cary Grant to her, too, but once they shut the door and they came home, he just turned into a control freak and a monster, and a very, very difficult man full of rage and regret and self-hatred and many other things,” Isaacs said. “And I thought, ‘Well, that is playable as an actor.’”

To play not just Cary but Archie himself, Isaacs did extensive research on Grant’s life, from speaking with Grant’s daughter Jennifer Grant and Cannon, to reading “every single biography that existed,” to examining the minutes of business meetings and Grant’s divorce papers.

“He certainly was a code switcher. He learned to please people, to make them want him — very early on, he was a male escort when he was in New York,” Isaac says, adding that “hunger was a huge factor in his life, when he was a little kid — Dyan has told us that not only would he eat his own meals, he would eat everyone else’s meal. He couldn’t bear any waste, because that instinct to eat everything always never went away, even when he was a centi-millionaire.”

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