Entertainment

Nigella Lawson and Jessica Chastain lead tribute to Richard E Grant’s wife Joan

Joan died on Thursday aged 71 (Picture: CARL COURT/AFP via Getty Images)

Nigella Lawson and Jessica Chastain have led tributes to Richard E Grant’s wife of 35 years Joan Washington, following her death aged 41.

Washington was a voice coach with nearly 40 years experience in the film industry, and worked with actors including Anne Hathaway, Emma Stone and Vanessa Redgrave.

Her husband Richard, known for films including Withnail And I and Can You Ever Forgive Me? confirmed she died on Thursday, in a post on Twitter, and described her impact on their family as an ‘immeasurable gift’.

Jessica Chastain, who worked with Washington on films including The Debt, 2011’s Coriolanus starring Ralph Fiennes and Crimson Peak, shared a picture with the late coach and tweeted: ‘My heart is broken. Joan Washington had such a profound impact on me, yes as an artist, but mostly as a woman. I’ve looked toward her. Her strive towards excellence made her the celebrated dialect coach she was.

‘We worked together on The Debt, Poirot, Coriolanus, Miss Julie, Crimson Peak, The Zookeeper’s Wife, & The 355. Every day I was excited to go to work and giggle with Joan. She was a barometer of truth with a wicked sense of humor. I loved her very much.

‘The way she celebrated her family has been very meaningful to see over the years. My heart goes to her beloved Richard and Oilly. You were always her North Star.’

Nigella Lawson tweeted: ‘What a wonderful woman Joan Washington was. And how devastating to have to say ‘was’. My heart’s broken for @RichardEGrant and @OliviaGranted. May her memory be a blessing.’

Musical theatre star Elaine Page tweeted: ‘It’s heartbreaking to hear of Joan Washington’s passing. She was special both as a teacher & as a friend. Never to be forgotten. My deepest sympathy to Richard & all the family.’

The Crown star Jason Watkins described Washington as ‘incomparable’ and recalled receiving lessons from her as a young actor.

‘Joan taught me dialects and accents when I trained at @Rada and beyond,” he said.

‘I have made my career using accents and dialects. I owe her everything. Such a terrible loss to @RichardEGrant and us all. Rest in Peace.’

Comedians Sarah Millican, Dawn French and David Baddiel were also among those sending messages of support.

Dawn tweeted: ‘Joan Washington will ALWAYS be remembered by those of us who knew her & were taught by her, as a PHENOMENAL WOMAN. So much love to @RichardEGrant & all the family.’

Richard, 64, announced the news on Friday by sharing a video of them dancing together to the song Only You by The Platters on Twitter.

He wrote: ‘ONLY YOU! Joan – Love of my Life & Giver of Life to our daughter Olivia.

‘Our hearts are broken with the loss of your Life last night. 35 years married & 38 together.

Joan and Richard shared daughter Olivia (Picture: TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images)

‘To be truly known and seen by you, is your immeasurable gift. Do not forget us, sweet Monkee-mine.’

He and Washington married in 1986 and had a daughter, Olivia, and Tom, a son from Washington’s previous relationship.

Washington, from Aberdeen, trained at the Central School of Speech and Drama and had nearly 40 years experience in the film industry as a voice and dialect coach.

Among her early projects in the mid-80s were Yentl starring Barbra Streisand, Highlander, and The Bounty, featuring Mel Gibson and Sir Anthony Hopkins.

Recent years saw her work on features such as The Witches, where she coached Anne Hathaway for the part of the Grand High Witch, and Yorgos Lanthimos’ black comedy The Favourite, where she worked with Emma Stone.

In a joint interview with the Independent in 2011, Grant recalled them meeting for the first time.

He said: ‘I met her at the Actors’ Centre in London. She was wearing a boiler suit and had fairly short, cropped hair and Kicker shoes, and was chain-smoking, which I thought was insane.

‘She was teaching an accent session with a bunch of actors, and I thought she had the most wonderful voice and huge, sort of monkey eyes. She seemed fairly frenetic. I thought that she was really cute and all that. It was December 1982.’


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