Kelsey Grammer and director Vadim Jean talk about their new film Breaking the Bank
The most impressive thing about Kelsey Grammer’s appearance in Breaking the Bank is not his British accent – as extraordinarily convincing as it is – but the fact he bothers to work at all.
After earning a reported US$1.6million (Dh5.9m) an episode at the peak of his Frasier career, and with net-worth estimates starting at $60m, the 59-year-old could understandably head to be heading for the pipe and slippers territory.
“I have been divorced a few times,” says the star ahead of the movie’s world premiere which took place at Diff on Tuesday, “and that costs you a lot of money – the lawyers get it all in the end, don’t they?”
According to reports, he parted with at least $30 million after his split with his ex-wife Camille, his third, in 2010 – the same year he put his Bel Air mansion on the market for $18m.
Clearly a topic dear to Grammer’s heart, it’s money that is at the centre of his latest movie, directed by his old friend Vadim Jean. The pair met in 1998 while working on the film The Real Howard Spitz.
“That film didn’t get a lot of play, but it was a great experience and I always thought, ‘I’ve got to find an excuse to work with him again’,” says Grammer, “and, finally, we stumbled upon this”.
“This” is a farcical comedy, written by ex-banker Roger Devlin, in which the Frasier star plays a bumbling British bank heir caught up in the subprime mortgage crisis.
Jean says he was inspired to offer the role to Grammer after the actor’s 2011 marriage to wife number four, Katye – a 34-year-old British former fight attendant.
“I mean, I know Kelsey can play anything,” says the director, “and I had a feeling about him playing a Brit – especially now he’s married to one.”
Utterly useless in his trade, Charles Bunbury’s incompetence leads to the loss of the institution that had been in his, somewhat upset, wife’s family for 200 years. Is it hard to play a character so inept?
“Typecasting,” interjects Jean, at Grammer’s side
“I thought it was a very charming role,” says the actor, “but a lot of people have told me they think he’s not very likeable.
“He’s just not very adept – in fact he’s straight out inept, but that’s what I was drawn to.”
Arriving at his scheduled interviews, hosted in Madinat Jumeirah’s Bahri Bar, Grammer was promptly mobbed by eager fans asking for photos.
How often does he do this a day, I ask?
“It can be several,” he answers with a smile. “It’s a powerful thing, television, and it’s a powerful thing to have done something that made people happy, gave them a laugh.”
Grammer is speaking, of course, about Frasier Crane, the role he played for two decades, first in Cheers and then in the most-successful TV spin-off ever, Frasier.
But he is also loved by a different generation of comedy fans as the voice of Sideshow Bob, a recurring character on the long-running US show The Simpsons.
“With The Simpsons, my voice is based upon an old American actor called Ellis Rabb,” remembers Grammer. “I used to paint his apartment and worked in his offices.
“I read Sideshow Bob and thought – that’s Ellis Raab. So I just jumped in, and that’s who he is – he’s Ellis. I hope Ellis is pleased.”
Looking ahead, 2015 will see Grammer return to the stage, starring in a Broadway adaptation of Finding Neverland.
Somehow, in his late fifties the actor has also found a career niche in action-movie franchises Transformers, X-Men and The Expendables, and says he is very much “in the mix” for a fourth instalment of Sly Stallone’s ensemble piece.
“I’m in there,” he said, “I’ve told them I want to take the gloves off and do some fighting this time – so we’ll see what happens there.”
A British production, Breaking the Bank is being marketed for distribution on home turf and in the United States. It’s very rare for a western movie to make it’s world premiere here in the UAE.
“They really wanted us to bring it here,” explains Jean. “It felt like perfect timing, and the festival has been incredibly nice – and persuasive. It’s been fantastic.”
The trip marks Grammer and Jean’s first visits to Dubai. What, then, were the pair hoping to tick of the bucket list?
“We want to go up there,” says Grammer, pointing from the balcony at the Burj Al Arab’s Skyview Bar, “and have a drink.”
Updated: December 17, 2014 04:00 AM