Grainger, 26, grew up in Didsbury, Manchester. She gave up studying for an English degree at Leeds University to pursue acting; she subsequently got a first from the Open University. She has starred in Jane Eyre, the TV series The Borgias and in Mike Newell’s Great Expectations as Estella. She is currently starring in The Riot Club, next year appears in Tulip Fever and Cinderella, and has just started filming the lead in Lady Chatterley’s Lover for the BBC.
Who is your acting inspiration?
Cate Blanchett. After working with her [on Cinderella], I can say she is actually the image of feminine perfection. She has her really lovely kids on set, is super professional, incredibly intelligent and nice to everyone. I think she might actually be a perfect human being.
What are you must-haves on set?
A bottle of water, my sides [mini-scripts] and some chewing gum – you have to get up close in people’s face all the time and you might have just eaten some onions.
What’s the hardest thing about your job?
Realising that a lot of it isn’t acting. You spend such a short amount of time on set in character, compared with the nerves, the preparation for audition and then all the press stuff. It was hard coming to terms with the fact that this is all part of the job.
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Best known for portraying an array of icy, upper-class girls, actress Holliday Grainger tells Benji Wilson why she’s excited about her latest role – in which she gets to reveal her true colours
Holliday Grainger is not, repeat not, posh. But she is also well aware that there might be a perception problem here.
‘I think a lot of people assume that I am a posh, public-school blonde, and a lot of people are shocked that I’m not.’
Her latest role in Lone Scherfig’s film adaptation of Laura Wade’s award-winning stage play Posh, now called The Riot Club, might also suggest a degree of la-di-da-ness. Except that in The Riot Club, for once, her character is the working-class heroine.
The film charts the course of one anarchic evening gone bad for a crop of filthy rich, entitled and thoroughly spoilt students at an Oxford University dining club – evidently The Riot Club is based on the Bullingdon Club, the exclusive all-male society at Oxford notorious both for its illustrious former members, including David Cameron and Boris Johnson, and also for their heavy drinking and sometimes dreadful behaviour.
The film boasts some illustrious names from the cream of young British acting talent – Douglas Booth, Freddie Fox, The Hunger Games’s Sam Claflin, Downton Abbey’s Jessica Brown Findlay and Game of Thrones’s Natalie Dormer. Holliday’s Lauren is the chalk to the braying poshos’ cheese, a grounded Northern girl who falls in love with new recruit Miles (Max Irons) and tries to steer him away from the club. Lauren was a character created especially for the film, and it’s hard to imagine that Laura Wade didn’t have Holliday Grainger in mind, so striking are the parallels.I’m glad I finished my degree. Having it gives me a quiet confidence
‘I do see a lot of me in Lauren, actually. She’s a Northern girl, not posh, who is obviously very intelligent and quite socialist in her views. She has got into Magdalen College along with the boys. I think of her as representing the modern Oxford, Oxford as it is now – except the truth is that there are still elements of The Riot Club at Oxford even today. Some of the male actors did their research and chatted to people, and it actually sounds as though what goes on in this movie is quite tame compared to what happens in real life.’
Ravishing beauty with pale skin and crimson lips, Holliday Grainger is a delicate English rose. Self-taught, the 26 year old actress has already made several notable appearances, including Great Expectations and Jane Eyre. She learns from the greatest since Lucrezia Borgia interpreted alongside Jeremy Irons in The Borgias, then played in Anna Karenina, Joe Wright. A budding star.
Sleeveless jacket in wool gabardine, and stole back, Paul Smith sheep.