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Grant was born at Charing Cross Hospital in Hammersmith, London, the second son of Fynvola Susan Mac Lean (b. Hounslow, London, July 2001) and Captain James Murray Grant (b. Grant's grandfather, Colonel James Murray Grant, DSO was decorated for bravery and leadership at Saint-Valery-en-Caux during World War II.
Grant has an older brother, James, living in Portugal.
Grant's first leading film role came in Merchant-Ivory's Edwardian drama Maurice (1987), adapted from E. During the late 1980s and early 1990s, Grant balanced small roles on television with rare film work, which included a supporting role in The Dawning (1988), opposite Anthony Hopkins and Jean Simmons and a turn as Lord Byron in a Goya Award-winning Spanish production called Remando al viento (1988).
He also portrayed some other real life figures during his early career such as Charles Heidsieck in Champagne Charlie and as Hugh Cholmondeley in BAFTA Award-nominated White Mischief.
In 1990, he made a cameo appearance in the sport/crime drama The Big Man, opposite Liam Neeson, and in which Grant assumed a Scottish accent.
The film explores the life of a Scottish miner (Neeson) who becomes unemployed during a union strike.
Grant first received attention after earning the Volpi Cup for his performance in James Ivory's Maurice (1987) but achieved international success after appearing in the Richard Curtis-scripted Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994).
The entertainment media's coverage of Grant's life off the big screen has often overshadowed his work as an actor.Grant started his education at Hogarth Primary School in Chiswick but then moved to St Peter's Primary School in Hammersmith, Grant was then educated at an independent prep school Wetherby School.From 1969 to 1978, he attended the independent Latymer Upper School in Hammersmith on a scholarship and played 1st XV rugby, cricket and football for the school.The film was called an "anti-romantic opus of sexual obsession and cruelty" by the Washington Post.His other work in period pieces such as Ken Russell's horror film The Lair of the White Worm (1988), award-winning Merchant-Ivory drama The Remains of the Day (1993) and (as Frédéric Chopin in) Impromptu (1991) went largely unnoticed.