Richard E Grant reveals his mother Leon has died aged 93 as he reflects on their ‘complicated relationship’: ‘She was always withholding approval’

Richard E Grant reveals his mother Leon has died aged 93 as he reflects on their 'complicated relationship': 'She was always withholding approval'

Richard E. Grant has revealed that his mother, Leon Esterhuysen, has died at the age of 93.

The 66-year-old actor shared the news of her death in a Twitter video, where he reflected on their ‘complicated’ relationship.

She captioned her post: ‘Complicated gratitude to my mother, who died this morning aged 93, for giving me the gift of life.’

In the video, Richard said his mother had died in Africa while he was filming, and described her as ’emotionally withdrawn’.

He added that she had ‘denied his approval of anything’ and that he felt ‘abandoned’ after her death, but ended his reflection by expressing gratitude that he had ‘given her life’.

Sad news: Richard E. Grant has revealed that his mother, Leon Esterhuizen, has died at the age of 93. She reflected on their ‘complicated relationship’ in a video she shared with her Twitter followers on Thursday

Insight: The actor, who described his mother as ‘untouchable’ said he felt ‘resigned’ about her death, sharing his gratitude that she ‘gave him life’ (pictured with his mother, Dunn and daughter Olivia)

Richard told his followers: ‘During a filming break this morning, I saw I had eight missed calls from Africa and immediately knew why, which turned out to be that my 93-year-old mother died this morning.

‘We had an incredibly complicated relationship and she was someone who, for me anyway, was emotionally withdrawn and withheld her approval or approval.

‘So nothing was ever good enough, but what it proved was a great motor of ambition and determination to try and prove to yourself that you could be the best you could be.

‘And yet ironically, what he demanded, he got. Applause and approval from everyone around him, including me.

‘I went to stay with him for a few weeks, six weeks after my wife died, after the covid restrictions were lifted, and he sent me a very curmudgeonly email at the end of the trip saying, “I’m sorry to say your trip was a complete disaster, we only have two things in common, books and classical music”.

‘So where he was physically very untouchable, I went to the opposite extreme, and became a very touchy and loving father and husband, I think in response to that.

‘Am I sad that he is dead? I feel resigned more than anything. But most of all thanks for giving me life.’

Grant had a complicated relationship with his parents, his mother having an affair, and his father then seeing a spiral into alcoholism.

Last year, Grant revealed that as a child he accidentally saw his mother and her secret boyfriend together, and that his parents’ marriage broke up a few years later.

On the Desert Island disc, he said: ‘I inadvertently saw my mother push my father’s best friend into the front seat of a car one evening.

‘We were coming back from a cricket match and I was apparently asleep in the back seat and then woke up to the rhythmic movement of the car, which you can well imagine!

‘I tried God and got no response. I obviously couldn’t tell my dad or my mom or my friends, so I started keeping a diary to try to understand what happened.

‘And it was going to be something I did every day to understand the world I lived in.’

Reflection: She captioned her post: ‘Complicated gratitude to my mother, who passed away this morning aged 93, for giving me the gift of life.’

Words: ‘He was very physically untouchable, I went to the opposite extreme, and in response became a very sensitive and loving father and husband,’ he said.

He subsequently sees his father fall into an alcoholic depression and is then brutalized by him.

He told the Daily Mail in 2014, ‘It was traumatic, but I think if you’re an optimist by nature, it’s something that’s out of your control.’

So I never thought I was going to go down. I feel very lucky to have this in your life.’

Discussing his father’s drinking years earlier, he told the Daily Mail in 2007: ‘There was a lot of pressure on me,’ Grant recalls, his expression becoming haunted as if a ghost had passed by.

‘I ended up parenting my parents, so I was forced to grow up before my time.’

One night his father tried to shoot him.

‘The bullet whizzed over my head. Fortunately, he later passed out. He didn’t remember the next day.’

Hendrick died of cancer in 1981.

Richard and his mother were estranged for many years before reuniting.

It comes after the Star Wars actor revealed earlier this month that following the death of his wife of 30 years, Joan Washington, he had put their idyllic farmhouse in the south of France on the market.

Joan, a renowned dialect instructor, died in September 2021 at the age of 74 after a battle with cancer.

Grant wrote on social media: ‘Heart sore to sell Le Pigeoniere in Provence after 30 summers. Sleeps 7. Pool, badminton, olive and fruit trees.’

Last year Grant spoke of his regrets about returning to the property to pick up Mrs. Washington’s belongings.

He said: ‘Thirty-three years ago my wife and I bought a little house here in the south of France when my daughter was just six weeks old, and it’s very emotional to be here picking out her clothes and dealing with other things.

The family will be home with their daughter Olivia, 34, and Grant’s stepson Tom from Ms Washington’s previous relationship.

Announcing his death, Grant said alongside a video of him and his wife dancing: ‘Our hearts are broken with the loss of your life last night.

‘Married 35 years and together 38. Truly known and seen by you, your immeasurable gift. Don’t forget us, my sweet monkey.’

Speaking to Radio Times about her death, he said: ‘The hardest part is in the evenings, when I can’t FaceTime Joan and tell her about the minutiae of my day.

‘I have an ongoing conversation with him in my head, knowing there will be no reciprocity.’

Grant said how he misses his wife even more during the winter months around Christmas and on their wedding anniversary in November.

He said: ‘Our wedding anniversary is November 1; Joan’s birthday is December 21; Christmas Day and then Oily’s Day [his nickname for his daughter Olivia] Birthday 4 January.

‘Last year, Oili and his partner Florian very generously invited me to visit his family in Venice and then in the south of Austria, which was absolutely magical.

‘This year I’m going to the Caribbean with them both, so I’m not in London at Christmas.’

The couple have overcome the tragedy in their lives and have spoken publicly about how their first child together tragically died just half an hour later.

Joan suffered multiple miscarriages but was determined to keep trying after seeing how much better her son with her husband Tom was from a previous relationship.

Then in 1989 she became pregnant with daughter Olivia and after telling her ‘fatherhood suits you. You are very good at it’.

Washington, from Aberdeen, trained at the Central School of Speech and Drama and has nearly 40 years’ experience in the film industry as a voice and dialect coach, working with stars including Anne Hathaway, Vanessa Redgrave and Emma Stone.

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

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

In a joint interview with The Independent in 2011, Grant recalled the first time they met.

He said: ‘I met him at the Actors Center in London. He was wearing a boiler suit and had fairly short, cropped hair and kicker shoes, and was chain-smoking, which I thought was crazy.

‘She was teaching a pronunciation session with a bunch of actors, and I thought she had the most amazing voice and huge, monkey eyes. He seemed quite mad.

‘I thought she was really cute and all that. It was December 1982.’

The actor previously admitted that he never considered getting married until he met her.

Throwback: Richard is pictured in 1962 as a five-year-old

Parents: Grant’s mother Leon is pictured with husband Henrik Esterhuysen

Flashback: Richard previously revealed that as a child he accidentally saw his mother and her secret lover together and his parents’ marriage broke up a few years later (pictured aged seven)

Heartbreak: Richard’s wife Joan Washington, a vocal coach, died in September 2021, just eight months after being diagnosed with stage-four lung cancer.

Speaking in an interview with The Independent, she explained: ‘I didn’t really think about getting married, didn’t think it was necessary.

‘Joan was married, and she told me adamantly that she didn’t want to be married again, and so we never talked about it.’

When Richard returned to his family home in South Africa for Christmas break, it wasn’t until the couple had spent six weeks apart that he realized marriage was the ultimate commitment.

The star proposed on his return and Joan happily accepted, with the couple set to set up home together in Richmond, south-west London.

Richard added: ‘I didn’t put any store near it before marriage.

‘My parents divorced when I was 11 and it had such a profound effect on my life that I think I thought that by not getting married, you could avoid carving your life in two. But that changed.’

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