In Praise of Hugh Grant

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From Four Weddings & A Funeral to his latest performance as Jeremy Thorpe in the hugely popular series A very English Scandal, Hugh Grant has been entertaining audiences for the last four decades. 

Before I start I need to come clean. There is something about me I don’t talk about very much. It’s not that I keep it hidden and it’s certainly not that I’m ashamed of it, it’s just something that has been a part of my life since the summer of 1994 when I was 16 years old that I don’t talk about very often.

I had just left school and was at a loose end, so feeling a little lost I wandered into my local cinema alone, where I met a guy who then proceeded to make me laugh constantly for the next 2 hrs. The guy’s name was Hugh Grant and the film was Four Weddings and A Funeral. So there it is, I admit it, I think Hugh Grant is brilliant and I did so before it was hip.four weddings poster 200x300 In Praise of Hugh Grant

Hugh Grant is back in the news now because of his leading role in the excellent BBC miniseries ‘A Very English Scandal’ which sees him star as one of Britain’s most infamous politicians Jeremy Thorpe. Thorpe who was an MP for The Liberal Party in the 60’s and then became their leader in the 70’s was a closeted gay man. He began a tumultuous affair with a young stable boy but once their relationship broke down and he got closer to becoming Britain’s next PM, Thorpe needed to silence his former lover forever and began an intricate plot within the walls of parliament to have him murdered.

The drama is gripping and horrific but it is also consistently funny and Grant along with co-star Ben Whishaw as his ex-boyfriend, have never been better. Mark my words if ‘A Very English Scandal’ gets released on US TV then next years awards season will see Grant waltz away with some major prizes it could be an Emmy, a Golden Globe, it could even be both. Although why people are surprised by his performance is a complete mystery to me, in my opinion, Grant has been consistently excellent in everything he has done and that even includes the garbage. If took bets on Hugh Grant being great in each new movie, I’d surely have a flutter.

It’s easy to forget that Hugh Grant has been one of Britain’s biggest film stars for well over 25 years now. When adjusted for inflation his movies have raked in more than $1.5 billion dollars at the worldwide box office and we are not talking Marvel or Star Wars ensemble pieces, sequels or franchises here. The majority of these movies are Hugh Grant in the lead role and he is carrying each film good or bad, all by himself. For example, while you may not be surprised to learn that ‘Notting Hill’ tops the list of his highest grossing movies, ‘Nine Months’ comes in at 2 and when you think that was at the time he had some Divine intervention in a car on Sunset Boulevard that in itself is very, very impressive.

notting hill poster In Praise of Hugh GrantMany people will argue he has no range or he’s always the same but look closely and you will see slight nuances that differentiate his characters. Take for instance the floppy-haired stuttering Charles from Four Weddings. Yes, the film is a bunch of posh people traipsing around different parties glamorising decadence and excess but I have no qualms in saying Charles is one of Britain’s greatest comedy creations and while the writing of Richard Curtis is sublime it still needs the right actor to make it work and Grant delivers a comedic master class. His timing, his reactions, his puzzlement, all hugely entertaining. Who can forget him telling his friend that his girlfriend hadn’t stopped bonking Toby de Lisle “she is now my wife!” the look of abject horror on his face as he taps his empty pocket after John Hannah’s character says to him ‘as long as you haven’t forgotten the rings?’ or that moment he introduces himself as Charles to the elderly guest who barks back ‘Don’t be ridiculous Charles died 20 years ago!’ Cary Grant was always the comparison, but I don’t think there are many British actors who could deliver such a pitch-perfect performance and still remain likeable. In fact, there aren’t many English actors around today who could carry a breezy romantic comedy all on their own.

Jump to Notting Hill, Grant as bookseller William Thacker another script by Curtis. Its 4 weddings Charles in all but name right? Wrong it’s a completely different characterisation. Charles was a rascal, a cheeky chappie, smug, out of sync with his class but William is much more reserved, he’s shy, smart and sensitive. Whereas Charles would put his foot in it and just keep digging, William is simply a victim of circumstance. The press junket a case in point, left without warning by Anna Scott, William has to think fast and Horse and Hounds is the only publication he sees. He isn’t performing this fake journalist rouse to protect himself or to impress people. He is doing it out of necessity in order to protect the ‘girl next door’ image of the movie actress he loves and William makes many selfless sacrifices like this for Anna throughout Notting Hill.

Grant nails the comedy as he always does in the movie and the humour of him suffering outside his comfort zone is hilarious at times. However, Grant also has a gift of being able to elicit the sympathy of the audience for the characters he plays especially this sweet, lovely guy who works in a bookshop but just happens to be madly in love with the biggest star in the world.

hugh grant 200x300 In Praise of Hugh GrantWe need to cherish Hugh because he’s one of Britain’s biggest and best talents who are a throwback to old Hollywood glamour, a time when British movie stars ruled our cinema screens and were recognisable all over the world. Sadly we only have a few bona fide mega stars left today but Hugh Grant is certainly one of them, he’s up there with the legends of the silver screen, the Nivens, Bogardes, Connerys and Caines.

So let’s hear it for Hugh Grant, A Very English Mega Star who thankfully is showing no signs of resting on his laurels.

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