Ancestry and early life
Grant was born at Hammersmith Hospital in London, England, the son of Fynvola Susan (ne MacLean) and Captain James Murray Grant. Genealogist Antony Adolph described Grant’s family history as “a colourful Anglo-Scottish tapestry of warriors, empire-builders and aristocracy.” Grant is from a long line of Scots military men, doctors and explorers, including William Drummond and Dr. James Stewart. John Murray, 1st Duke of Atholl, Heneage Finch, 1st Earl of Nottingham, Rt Hon. Sir Evan Nepean, and former British Prime Minister Spencer Perceval are a few of his notable maternal antecedents. Grant’s grandfather, Major James Murray Grant, DSO, a native of Inverness in Scotland, was decorated for bravery and leadership at Dunkirk during WWII.
Grant’s father, Capt. Grant, was trained at Sandhurst and served with the Seaforth Highlanders for eight years in Malaya, Germany and Scotland. He ran a carpet firm, pursued hobbies such as golf and watercolouring, and raised his family in Chiswick, West London, where the Grants lived next to Arlington Park Mansions on Sutton Lane. In September 2006, a collection of Capt. Grant’s paintings was hosted by the John Martin Gallery in a charity exhibition, organised by his famous son, called “James Grant: 30 Years of Watercolours.” His mother, Fynvola Grant, was the great-granddaughter of Sir Evan Colville Nepean (CB), whose father, Rev. Canon Evan Nepean, served as the Canon of Westminster and was Chaplain In Ordinary to Queen Victoria. She worked as a schoolteacher and taught Latin, French and music for more than 30 years in the state schools of West London. She died in Hounslow, London, at the age of 65, in July 2001, after an 18-month battle with pancreatic cancer.
Grant’s famous RP accent is an inheritance from his mother and, on Inside the Actors Studio in 2002, he credited her with “any acting genes that [he] might have.” Both his parents were children of military families, and, despite his parents’ posh upbringings and backgrounds, Grant has stated that his family was not always affluent while he was growing up. Grant’s childhood passions included shooting and hunting, especially with his grandfather in Scotland. Grant’s elder brother, James “Jamie” Grant, is a successful banker as Managing Director, Head of Healthcare, Consumer, & Retail Investment Banking Coverage, at JPMorgan Chase in New York.
Grant started his education at Hogarth Primary School in Chiswick. From 1969 to 1978, he attended Latymer Upper School in Hammersmith on a scholarship and played 1st XV rugby, cricket and football for the school. He also represented Latymer on the popular quiz show, Top of the Form, an academic competition between two teams of fourand secondary school students each. Chris Hammond, his form teacher in 1975 and later the assistant head of Latymer, told People magazine that Grant was “a clever boy among clever boys.” In 1979, he won the Galsworthy scholarship to New College, Oxford where he studied English literature and graduated with 2:1 honours. Grant was apparently memorable at Oxford: actress Anna Chancellor has recalled, “I first met Hugh at a party at Oxford Zoo. There was something magical about him. He was a star even then, without having done anything.” Viewing acting as nothing more than a creative outlet, he joined the Oxford University Dramatic Society and starred in a successful touring production of Twelfth Night.
After making his debut as Hughie Grant in the Oxford-financed Privileged (1982), Grant dabbled in a variety of jobs: he wrote book reviews, worked as assistant groundsman at Fulham Football Club, tried his hand at tutoring, wrote comedy sketches for TV shows, and was hired by Talkback Productions to write and produce radio commercials for products such as Mighty White bread and Red Stripe lager. To obtain his Equity (UK) card, he joined the repertory theatre Nottingham Playhouse and lived for a year at Park Terrace in The Park Estate, Nottingham. Bored with small acting parts, he created his own comedy revue called The Jockeys of Norfolk with friends Chris Lang and Andy Taylor. The group toured London pub comedy circuit with stops at The George IV in Chiswick, Canal Cafe Theatre in Little Venice and The King’s Head in Islington. Starting on a low note, The Jockeys of Norfolk eventually proved a hit at the Edinburgh Festival after their sketch on the Nativity, told as an Ealing comedy, garnered them a spot on the BBC2 TV show called Edinburgh Nights. During this time, Grant also appeared in theatre productions of plays such as An Inspector Calls, Lady Windermere’s Fan, and Coriolanus.
Grant’s first leading role came in Merchant-Ivory’s 1987 Edwardian drama, Maurice, adapted from E.M. Forster’s novel of the same name. He and co-star James Wilby shared the Volpi Cup for best actor at the Venice Film Festival for their portrayals of Cantabrigian collegians Clive Durham and Maurice Hall, respectively. 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 a turn as Lord Byron in a Goya Award-winning Spanish production called Remando Al Viento (1988). He also portrayed some another real life figures during in his early career such as Charles Heidsieck in Champagne Charlie and as Hugh Cholmondeley in BAFTA Award-nominated White Mischief.
In 1990, he made 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 an Scottish miner (Neeson) who becomes unemployed during a union strike. In 1991, he played Julie Andrews’ gay son in the ABC made-for-TV movie Our Sons.
In 1992, he appeared in Roman Polanski’s film Bitter Moon, portraying a fastidious and proper British tourist who is married, but finds himself enticed by the sexual hedonism of a seductive French woman and her embittered, paraplegic American husband. 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 The Lair of the White Worm (1988), award-winning Merchant-Ivory drama The Remains of the Day (1993) and (as Frdric Chopin in) Impromptu (1991) was largely unnoticed. He later called this phase of his career “hilarious,” referring to his early movies as “Europuddings, where you would have a French script, a Spanish director, and English actors. The script would usually be written by a foreigner, badly translated into English. And then they’d get English actors in, because they thought that was the way to sell it to America.”
At 32, Grant claimed to be on the brink of giving up the acting profession but was surprised by the script of Four Weddings and a Funeral (FWAAF). “If you read as many bad scripts as I did, you’d know how grateful you are when you come across one where the guy actually is funny,” he later recalled. Released in 1994, FWAAF became the highest-grossing British film to date with a worldwide box office in excess of $244 million, making Grant an overnight international star. The film was nominated for two Academy Awards, and among numerous awards won by its cast and crew, it earned Grant his first and only Golden Globe Award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical Or Comedy and a BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role. It also temporarily typecast him as the lead character, Charles, a bohemian and debonair bachelor. Grant and Curtis saw it as an inside joke that the star, due to the parts he played, was assumed to have the personality of the screenwriter, who is known for writing about himself and his own life. Grant later expressed:
Grant in his breakthrough performance as Richard Curtis’s alter ego, Charles, in Four Weddings and a Funeral.
Although I owe whatever success I’ve had to ‘Four Weddings and a Funeral,’ it did become frustrating after a bit that people made two assumptions: One was that I was that character – when in fact nothing could be further from the truth, as I’m sure Richard would tell you – and the other frustrating thing was that they thought that’s all I could do. I suppose, because those films happened to be successful, no one, perhaps understandably, … bothered to rent all the other films I’d done.
1995 saw the release of Grant’s first studio-financed Hollywood project, Chris Columbus’s comedy Nine Months. Though a hit at the box office, it was almost universally panned by critics. The Washington Post called it a “grotesquely pandering caper” and singled out Grant’s performance, as a child psychiatrist reacting unfavourably to his girlfriend’s unexpected pregnancy, for his “insufferable muggings.” The same year, he played supporting parts as Emma Thompson’s suitor in Ang Lee Academy Award-winning adaptation of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility and as a cartographer in 1917 Wales in The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill But Came Down a Mountain. In the same year he also performed his talent in Academy Award-winning Restoration.
Grant then reunited with the director of FWAAF, Mike Newell, for the tragicomedy An Awfully Big Adventure that was labeled a “determinedly offbeat film” by the New York Times. Grant portrayed a bitchy, supercilious director of a repertory company in post-World War II Liverpool. Critic Roger Ebert wrote, “It shows that he has range as an actor,” but the San Francisco Chronicle disapproved on grounds that the film “plays like a vanity production for Grant.” Janet Maslin, praising Grant as “superb” and “a dashing cad under any circumstances,” commented, “For him this film represents the road not taken. Made before Four Weddings and a Funeral was released, it captures Mr. Grant as the clever, versatile character actor he was then becoming, rather than the international dreamboat he is today.”
Grant made his debut as a film producer with the 1996 thriller Extreme Measures, a commercial and critical failure. After a three year hiatus, in 1999, he paired with Julia Roberts in Notting Hill, which was brought to theatres by much of the same team that was responsible for FWAAF. This new Working Title production displaced FWAAF as the biggest British hit in the history of cinema, with earnings equalling $363 million worldwide. As it became exemplary of modern romantic comedies in mainstream culture, the film was also received well by critics. CNN reviewer Paul Clinton said, “Notting Hill stands alone as another funny and heartwarming story about love against all odds.” Reactions to Grant’s Golden Globe-nominated performance were varied, with Salon’s Stephanie Zacharek criticizing that, “Grant’s performance stands as an emblem of what’s wrong with Notting Hill. What’s maddening about Grant is that he just never cuts the crap. He’s become one of those actors who’s all shambling self-caricature, from his twinkly crow’s feet to the time-lapsed half century it takes him to actually get one of his lines out.” The movie provided both its stars a chance to satirize the woes of international notoriety, most noted of which was Grant’s turn as a faux-journalist who sits through a dull press junket with, what the New York Times called, “a delightfully funny deadpan.” Grant also released his second production output, a fish-out-of-water mob comedy Mickey Blue Eyes, that year. It was dismissed by critics, performed modestly at the box office, and garnered its actor-producer mixed reviews for his starring role. Roger Ebert thought, “Hugh Grant is wrong for the role [and] strikes one wrong note and then another,” whereas Kenneth Turan, writing in the Los Angeles Times, said, “If he’d been on the Titanic, fewer lives would have been lost. If he’d accompanied Robert Scott to the South Pole, the explorer would have lived to be 100. That’s how good Hugh Grant is at rescuing doomed ventures.”
While promoting Woody Allen Small Time Crooks on NBC The Today Show in 2000, Grant told host Matt Lauer, t’s my millennium of bastards.61]
Giving his most critically acclaimed performance to date, Grant plays Snooker as Will Freeman in About a Boy.
Small Time Crooks starred Grant, in the words of film critic Andrew Sarris, as “a petty, petulant, faux-Pygmalion art dealer, David, [who] is one of the sleaziest and most unsympathetic characters Mr. Allen has ever created.” In a role devoid of his comic attributes, the New York Times wrote: “Mr. Grant deftly imbues his character with exactly a perfect blend of charm and nasty calculation.” A year later, his turn as a charming but womanising book publisher Daniel Cleaver in Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001) was proclaimed by Variety to be “as sly an overthrow of a star’s polished posh – and nice – poster image as any comic turn in memory.” The movie, adapted from Helen Fielding’s novel of the same name, was an international hit, earning $281 million worldwide. Grant was, according to the Washington Post, fitting as “a cruel, manipulative cad, hiding behind the male god’s countenance that he knows all too well.”
Grant’s “immaculate comic performance” (BBC) as the trust-funded womaniser, Will Freeman, in the film adaptation of Nick Hornby’s best-selling novel About a Boy received raves from critics. Almost universally praised, with an Academy Award-nominated screenplay, About a Boy (2002) was determined by the Washington Post to be “that rare romantic comedy that dares to choose messiness over closure, prickly independence over fetishized coupledom, and honesty over typical Hollywood endings.” Rolling Stone wrote, “The acid comedy of Grant’s performance carries the film [and he] gives this pleasing heartbreaker the touch of gravity it needs,” while Roger Ebert observed that “the Cary Grant department is understaffed, and Hugh Grant shows here that he is more than a star, he is a resource.” Released a day after the blockbuster Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones, About a Boy was a more modest box office grosser than other successful Grant films, making all of $129 million globally. The film earned Grant his third Golden-Globe nomination, while the London Film Critics Circle named Grant its Best British Actor and GQ honoured him as one of the magazine’s men of the year 2002. “His performance can only be described as revelatory,” wrote critic Ann Hornaday, adding that “Grant lends the shoals layer upon layer of desire, terror, ambivalence and self-awareness.” The New York Observer concluded: “[The film] gets most of its laughs from the evolved expertise of Hugh Grant in playing characters that audiences enjoy seeing taken down a peg or two as a punishment for philandering and womanizing and simply being too handsome for words-and with an English accent besides. In the end, the film comes over as a messy delight, thanks to the skill, generosity and good-sport, punching-bag panache of Mr. Grant’s performance.” About a Boy also marked a notable change in Grant’s boyish look. Gone were the floppy locks that had become his trademark, with Grant now sporting a cropped haircut. He has retained this look since.
Billy Bob Thornton (right) and Grant hold a press conference in Love Actually.
Grant was also paired with Sandra Bullock in Warner Bros.’s Two Weeks Notice, which made $199 million internationally but was judged poorly by professional reviewers. The Village Voice concluded that Grant’s creation of a spoiled billionaire fronting a real estate business was “little more than a Britishism machine.”
Two Weeks Notice was followed by the 2003 ensemble comedy, Love Actually, headlined by Grant as the British Prime Minister. A Christmas release by Working Title Films, the movie was promoted as “the ultimate romantic comedy” and accumulated $246 million at the international box office. It marked the directorial debut of Richard Curtis, who told the New York Times that Grant adamantly tempered the characterization of the role to make his character more authoritative and less haplessly charming than earlier Curtis incarnations. Roger Ebert claimed that “Grant has flowered into an absolutely splendid romantic comedian” and has “so much self-confidence that he plays the British prime minister as if he took the role to be a good sport.” Film critic Rex Reed, on the contrary, called Grant’s performance “an oversexed bachelor spin on Tony Blair” as the star “flirted with himself in the paroxysm of self-love that has become his acting style.”
A speech delivered by Grant in Love Actually – where he extols the virtues of Great Britain and refuses to cave to the pressure of its longstanding ally, the United States – was etched in the transatlantic memory as a satirical, wishful statement on the concurrent Bush-Blair relationship. Tony Blair responded by saying, “I know there’s a bit of us that would like me to do a Hugh Grant in Love Actually and tell America where to get off. But the difference between a good film and real life is that in real life there’s the next day, the next year, the next lifetime to contemplate the ruinous consequences of easy applause.”
Grant as the gratuitously nasty TV personality, Martin Tweed, in American Dreamz.
In 2004, Grant reprised his role as Daniel Cleaver for a small part in Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, which, like its predecessor, made more than $262 million commercially. Gone from the screen for two years, Grant next reteamed with Paul Weitz (About a Boy) for the black comedy American Dreamz (2006). Grant starred as the acerbic host of an American Idol-like reality show where, according to Caryn James of the New York Times, “nothing is real … except the black hole at the centre of the host’s heart, as Mr. Grant takes Mr. Cowell’s villainous act to its limit.” American Dreamz failed financially but Grant was generously praised. He played his self-aggrandizing character, an amalgam of Simon Cowell and Ryan Seacrest, with smarmy self-loathing. The Boston Globe proposed that this “just may be the great comic role that has always eluded Hugh Grant,” and critic Carina Chocano said, “He is twice as enjoyable as the preening bad guy as he was as the bumbling good guy.”
In 2007, Grant starred opposite Drew Barrymore in a parody of pop culture and the music industry called Music and Lyrics. The Associated Press described it as “a weird little hybrid of a romantic comedy that’s simultaneously too fluffy and not whimsical enough.” Though he neither listens to music nor owns any CDs, Grant learned to sing, play the piano, dance (a few mannered steps) and studied the mannerisms of prominent musicians to prepare for his role as a has-been pop singer, based loosely on Andrew Ridgeley. The Star-Ledger dismissed the performance, writing that “paper dolls have more depth.” The movie, with its revenues totalling $145 million, allowed Grant to mock disposable pop stardom and fleeting celebrity through its washed-up lead character. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, “Grant strikes precisely the right note with regard to Alex’s career: He’s too intelligent not to be a little embarrassed, but he’s far too brazen to feel anything like shame.” In 2009, Grant starred opposite Sarah Jessica Parker in the romantic comedy Did You Hear About the Morgans?, which was a commercial as well as a critical failure.
In July 1994, Grant signed a two-year production deal with Castle Rock Entertainment and by October, he became founder and director of the UK-based Simian Films Limited. He appointed his then-girlfriend, Elizabeth Hurley, as the head of development to look for prospective projects. Simian Films produced two Grant vehicles in the 1990s and lost a bid to produce About a Boy to Robert De Niro’s TriBeCa Productions. The company closed its U.S. office in 2002 and Grant resigned as director in December 2005. He has since said that his primary interest remains in filmmaking because: “Acting is at best an interpretative thing. It’s like being a musician and playing someone else’s music. I’ve always wanted to write the music.” In 2000, Grant joined the Supervisory Board of IM Internationalmedia AG, the powerful Munich-based film and media company. He has also served on the advisory board of Mark Milln and Kami Naghdi’s U.K. Production company, Hogarth Pictures.
Attitude toward acting
Grant has called being a successful actor a mistake and has repeatedly talked of his hope that film stardom would just be “a phase” in his life, lasting no more than ten years. A self-confessed “committed and passionate” perfectionist on a film set, Grant has constantly opted to describe himself as a reluctant actor, who chooses to be neutral about his career and works mostly with friends from previous collaborations. Telling the New York Times that he must truly love something before he can do it, he revealed that he chooses projects based on how well they are written and whether the character he is being asked to play constitutes a comic angle to his personality.
A majority of Grant’s popular movies follow a similar plot that captures an optimistic, cocky bachelor experiencing a series of embarrassing incidences to find true love, often with an American woman. In earlier films, Grant was adept at plugging into the stereotype of a repressed Englishman for humorous effects, allowing him to gently satirize his characters as he summed them up and played against the type simultaneously. His screen persona of later films gradually developed into a cynical, self-loathing cad. Using his facial contortions and an affected stammer for varied comic purposes, Grant once admitted his inability to cry on cue, even with the help of menthol. His preference for levity over dramatic range has been a controversial topic in establishment circles, prompting him to say:
I’ve never been tempted to do the part where I cry or get AIDS or save some people from a concentration camp just to get good reviews. I genuinely believe that comedy acting, light comedy acting, is as hard as, if not harder than serious acting, and it genuinely doesn bother me that all the prizes and the good reviews automatically by knee-jerk reaction go to the deepest, darkest, most serious performances and parts. It makes me laugh.
In interviews, Grant has pinned his extensively published lack of interest in acting on two different thoughts: first, that he drifted into the job as a temporary joke at age 23 and finds it an immature way for a grown man to spend his time; and secondly, because he believes to have already given the one remarkable comic performance he had hoped to create on screen. Calling most scripts lame, Grant has stated that, unlike him, most actors really love acting and that blinds them to the fact that the rest of it is pretentious nonsense, which, he says, it very often is. He told Vanity Fair in 2003 that being an actor at a certain age is akin to being a “char-lady,” making it unworthy of an adult time.
Critical and peer review
Grant is recognized as a divisive movie star in both critical reviews and popular media profiles. He has stuck to the genre of comedy, especially the romantic comedy, for the entirety of his mainstream movie career and never ventures to play characters who are not British. While some film critics, such as the respected Roger Ebert, have defended the limited variety of his performances, others have dismissed him as a one-trick pony. Eric Fellner, co-owner of Working Title Films and a long-time collaborator of Grant said, “His range hasn’t been fully tested, but each performance is unique.” A majority, though, tend to change their opinion of Grant from film to film, especially differentiating between his roles as Richard Curtis’ alter ego and the cynical, smart and sometimes sleazy rogue of several films released in the new millennium.
In the 1990s, Grant’s performances were deemed overbearing, in the words of Washington Post’s Rita Kempley, due to his “comic overreactionshe mugging, the stuttering, the fluttering eyelids.” She added: “He’s got more tics than Benny Hill.” Grant’s penchant for conveying his characters’ feelings with mannerisms, rather than direct emotions, has been one of the foremost objections raised against his acting style. Stephen Hunter of the Washington Post once stated that, to be effective as a comic performer, he must get “his jiving and shucking under control.” Film historian David Thompson wrote in The New Biographical Dictionary of Film about how it is merely itchy mannerisms that Grant equates with screen acting. In the new millennium, Claudia Puig of USA Today celebrated the observation that finally “gone [were] the self-conscious ‘Aren’t I adorable’ mannerisms that seemed endearing at the start of [Grant’s] film career but have grown cloying in more recent movies.”
Repeated accusations, which have only subsided in recent years, have targeted what the critics contend is Grant’s inclination to make his characters likable rather than complex. In 1999, Stephanie Zacharek stated that “by the time of Four Weddings and a Funeral, he’d switched to a more straightforward, dull, crumpled-corduroy acting style,” perhaps because, she chided, “Why bother to play a character when you can just ape a stereotype?” According to Carina Chocano, amongst film critics, the two tropes most commonly associated with Grant are that he reinvented his screen persona in Bridget Jones’s Diary and About a Boy and dreads the possibility of becoming a parody of himself. Echoing a widely-accepted assessment that Grant plays the same part over and again since he came to international fame in 1994, The Observer’s Philip French has said: “His range is as narrow as a cigarette paper.”
Grant’s colleagues, though, have often defended his skills. Emma Thompson, working with him in Sense and Sensibility, wrote in The Sense and Sensibility Screenplay and Diaries that Grant “is as great an actor as I’ve always thought. So light and yet very much felt.” Colin Firth, who worked with him on more than one occasion, has suggested that very few can create Grant’s relaxed sense of irony on screen. Scottish actress Sharon Small, a co-star of Grant in About a Boy, discovered that “he is … a really versatile actor. People tend to put him in a box and say, ‘That’s all he does’, but when we were filming I watched him closely and he was very subtle and very different in every single take.”
A 2007 Vogue profile of Grant referred to him as a man with a “professionally misanthropic mystique.” The observation followed published facts such as that Grant picks his own movies, conducts his interviews alone (without any publicists), is known for politically incorrect and outrageous riffs in public, and derides focus groups, market research and overriding emphasis on the opening weekend. Grant decided to let go of his agent in 2006, ending a 10-year relationship with CAA. Besides proudly proclaiming in interviews to have never listened to external views on his career, he stated that he does not require the hand-holding an agent provides. A few months before firing his agent, he said, “They’ve known for years that I have total control. I’ve never taken any advice on anything.”
It has been reported that Grant has a reputation for not always bonding with his fellow cast and crew members. Being a “stern, edgy and intense” presence on film sets, the method behind his performances has been described as the exact reverse of the ease and simplicity he brings to his characters. According to the New York Times, Grant is known in the film industry as a meticulous performer who takes his time to prepare for a role. Having said that the only thing he “fears is fear itself,” his working style is apparently predicated on a tendency to take control. Richard Curtis, a frequent collaborator, revealed that Grant is not fluid about the filmmaking process and tends to be unrelaxed while filming because he doesn’t feel as though he’s in the director’s hands and prefers instead to take responsibility of giving a definitive performance.
Grant is noted by co-workers for demanding endless takes until he achieves the desired shot according to his own standard. Though known for being inventive on film sets (“The biggest laughs that my characters get in films tend to be improvised lines,” he has said), he has talked of finding the work of an actor restrictive because “saying other peoples’ lines all the time is – it’s always been – diminishing.” Media accounts of Grant on film sets present him as an actor who does not abdicate responsibility to his production team but is, instead, usually involved with various aspects of his projects, including script development, choosing the director of photography, the acting, and then the editing and the marketing. Journalist David Chater, reviewing a Channel 4 production entitled Brits go to Hollywood, remarked that the Hugh Grant “of popular image is wholly inaccurate. He won a scholarship to Oxford, he is highly articulate, he works non-stop and beats himself up with relentless self-criticism.”
Celebrity and media relations
According to The Boston Globe, Grant has repeatedly spoken about his boredom with playing the celebrity in the press. About the culture of celebrity, he told Vogue, “My theory is that it’s like bodybuilders who inject testosterone, which means that their own powers to generate testosterone shut down forever. The fake esteem you get from being in the public eye feels like self-worth, but actually your own powers to produce it shut down. The stuff that really counts is your own. And that’s, I think, why people go bonkers.”
Having labelled himself “neither a keen actor, nor a keen celebrity,” Grant’s prickliness and disdain toward the fourth estate is widely observed and documented. While promoting Mickey Blue Eyes in 1999, Grant exclaimed, “I’m even talking to the British press, which is astounding.” Said to be “unwilling to play the game” with the media, he is often described as appearing uninterested and brusque at press junkets to promote his movies. He has injured many Paparazzi including hitting one with his car in America.
Journalists interviewing him have expressed exasperation at Grant’s habit of stonewalling personal questions. Grant’s nonchalance and sarcasm are blamed for interviewers’ inability to discriminate between whether he is being serious or playful at any given time. On probing, he has remained incredibly steadfast in “offering a dead bat to any question he feels is not general enough.” Jessica Callan, a former gossip columnist for the Daily Mirror, explained to The Times that if you are nice to gossip columnists, they’ll generally be nice back, but she said, “Hugh Grant is such a grumpy bugger: you think, God, let wind him up.”
Another entertainment media figure, Kiki King, who claimed to have met Grant, described him as “the least friendly and most unappealing celebrity I’ve ever met.” Showbiz media personalities in his homeland use him as a referential model for the epitome of a reluctant, unobliging celebrity. Former editor of British tabloid newspapers the News of the World and the Daily Mirror, Piers Morgan, has written about his advice for Grant to stop making movies if he does not appreciate the spotlight.
Grant’s attitude at the London premiere of Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason (2004), with him reportedly “refusing to chat to journalists or pose with his girlfriend Jemima Khan, and choosing instead to stand around scowling,” was subject to much criticism by the press who had waited long to talk to him. He decided to ban all British press from the New York launch of his film American Dreamz in 2006. The movie was also denied a London premiere and Grant gave only “a handful of newspaper interviews in connection with Dreamz,” a move that was held responsible by exhibitors for the movie’s poor box office showing. In February 2007, Grant had a controversial interview on BBC Breakfast where he was irked by the interviewer’s inquiry about the status of his relationship with his girlfriend. His response to the host, “I thought this was a classy show. I am ashamed of you,” resulted in increased editorial disapproval of his gruff behaviour in England.
In 1996, Grant won substantial damages from News (UK) Ltd over what his lawyers called a “highly defamatory” article published in January 1995. The company’s now-defunct newspaper, Today, had falsely claimed that Grant verbally abused a young extra with a “foul-mouthed tongue lashing” on the set of The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill But Came Down a Mountain.
On 27 April 2007, Grant accepted undisclosed damages from the Associated Newspapers over claims made about his relationships with his former girlfriends in three separate tabloid articles, which were published in the Daily Mail and The Mail on Sunday on 18, 21 and 24 February. His lawyer stated that all of the articles’ “allegations and factual assertions are false.” Grant said, in a written statement, that he took the action because: “I was tired of the Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday papers publishing almost entirely fictional articles about my private life for their own financial gain.” He went on to take the opportunity to stress, “I’m also hoping that this statement in court might remind people that the so-called ‘close friends’ or ‘close sources’ on which these stories claim to be based almost never exist.”
Deriding British newspapers for having become a “little tittle-tattle industry,” Grant has, on various occasions, claimed that the tabloids are keen to fabricate scandal on the slightest pretext and his own words are filtered through various media outlets before being misquoted numerous times.
Grant, once called the “unofficial mayor of London,” is frequently referred in the press with phrases that describe him as a “human straight line” who is “bursting with charisma.” He has been portrayed by acquaintances as a complicated man with an anarchic and sharp constitution. Grant is noted for his tendency of teasingly insulting everyone, which has earned him the public reputation of someone who can “put you down, put you on and put you off in the same sentence.” “There is at least as much of Hugh that is charismatic, intellectual, and whose tongue,” according to Mike Newell, “is maybe too clever for its own good as there is of him that’s gorgeous and kind of woolly and flubsy.”
Grant’s interview with Oprah Winfrey on 22 October 2004, was highly discussed in the media for his outspoken wit, which produced extemporaneous quips that included his description of Julia Roberts as “very big-mouthed.” He said: “Literally, physically, she has a very big mouth. … when I was kissing her, I was aware of a faint echo.” When Winfrey defended Roberts as “one of the nicest people I ever met,” Grant deadpanned, “No, well, I wouldn’t go that far.” Such incidents have been accompanied by stories of Grant’s purported insensitivity. Filmmaker Paul Weitz, calling Grant truly funny, observed that “he perceives flaws in himself and other people, and then he cares about their humanity nonetheless.”
It is frequently written that Grant employs an impulsive habit of ocky self-deprecation in public relations. Grant has also been presented in the press as occasionally being “very disengaged” at social events, with British newspapers regularly referring to him as bad-tempered, arrogant, rude, and grumpy. According to his colleagues and public appearances, Grant is not worried about how his grumpiness is publicly perceived, with his moodiness unabashedly on display in televised and published interviews.
Grant is known in popular media for his guarded privacy, as he rarely discusses his life in public and chooses instead to fend off personal questions with humour. Grant is a supporter of Marie Curie Cancer Care, whose Great Daffodil Appeal he promoted in March 2008.
In 1987, while playing Lord Byron in a Spanish production called Remando Al Viento (1988), Grant met little-known actress Elizabeth Hurley, who was cast in a supporting role as Byron’s former lover Claire Clairmont. Grant started dating the aspiring model while shooting, and due to his rising fame, the latter half of their relationship was spent in the global media spotlight. After 13 years together, the two made “a mutual and amicable decision” to split in May 2000. With Grant a single man, according to Vogue, “by all accounts the women of London were practically stabbing one another with forks at social events to get close to him.” In 2004, he began dating socialite Jemima Khan under the intense scrutiny of British tabloids. Three years later, in February 2007, Grant’s publicist announced that the couple had “decided to split amicably.” The spokesman added, “Hugh has nothing but positive things to say about Jemima.”
On 27 June 1995, Grant was arrested in an L.A. Vice sting operation not far from Sunset Boulevard for misdemeanour lewd conduct in a public place with Hollywood prostitute Divine Brown. He pleaded no contest and was fined $1,180, placed on two years’ summary probation, and was ordered to complete an AIDS education program.
The arrest occurred about two weeks before the release of Grant’s first major studio film, Nine Months, which he was scheduled to promote on several American television shows. The Tonight Show with Jay Leno had him booked for the same week and, as recalled in former employee Don Sweeney’s memoirs, “despite his arrest, Hugh Grant kept his appointment to appear on Jay’s show.” The interview was a career-making hit for Leno and Grant was singled out for not making excuses for the incident. He famously said:
I think you know in life what’s a good thing to do and what’s a bad thing, and I did a bad thing. And there you have it.
On Larry King Live, Grant declined the host Larry King’s repeated invitations to probe his psyche, saying that psychoanalysis was “more of an American syndrome” and he himself was “a bit old fashioned.” He told the host: “I don’t have excuses.” Grant’s management of the scandal was deemed unusual for a celebrity. He was appreciated for “his refreshing honesty” as he “faced the music and handled it with tongue [in] cheek.” The incident registered strongly in the global cultural conscience and tarnished Grant’s wholesome image. In the 2006 CBS TV series Love Monkey, the character called Shooter (Larenz Tate) explained the phenomenon of male discontent as “Grant’s Law.” Referring to Hugh Grant, he said that the star “had the hottest, sexiest and most beautiful woman waiting for him at home. And what does Hugh do? He picks up a cut-rate whore on Hollywood Boulevard.” This, he believed, showed that, “We, as men, can never be satisfied.”
In April 2007, Grant was arrested on allegations of assault made by paparazzo Ian Whittaker. Grant made no official statement and did not comment on the incident. Charges were dropped on 1 June by the Crown Prosecution Service on the grounds of “insufficient evidence.”
Grant’s athletic passions have often been profiled by newspapers and television media. A famous “golfing addict”, Grant is a scratch golfer and is a regular at pro-am tournaments with membership at the Sunningdale Golf Club. He is also frequently pictured by the paparazzi at the famed Scottish golf courses in St Andrews, Kingsbarns and Carnoustie. Highly competitive, he reportedly plays with a lot of money at stake. As a young boy, Grant was known as “a real killer, very fast, very competitive” on the sports field; he played rugby union on his school’s first XV team at centre and played football as an avid fan of Fulham F.C.. He is also a fan of Scottish side Rangers FC thanks to his grandfather who was Scottish. He continued to play in a Sunday-morning football league in south-west London after college and remains an “impassioned Fulham supporter.” On the set of About a Boy, Nicholas Hoult recalled being taught cricket and snooker by Grant. Hoult said, “when we weren’t acting we’d all play cricket. … We had a big match at the end of filming and Hugh was pretty good.” Actress Alicia Witt (Two Weeks Notice) has also described Grant as “a really good tennis player, shockingly good.” He used to play football as a child with John Isaacs, Jeremy Isaac’s son.
Main article: Hugh Grant filmography
Awards and honours
Main article: Honours of Hugh Grant
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^ Deaths England and Wales 1984-2006
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