There was a time when Hugh Grant dominated the rom-com genre, with a string of hits from Four Weddings and a Funeral, to Notting Hill. Critics are traditionally not very warm towards rom-coms in general, and Grant was often dismissed as a pretty-boy actor who essentially played himself in every romantic movie. But Grant has always viewed himself first and foremost as a character actor, who just happened to be best known as a romantic lead. In an interview with the L.A. Times, the actor explained how he always took every role equally seriously.
“I did try. Whatever it might be, Four Weddings and a Funeral or Two Weeks Notice, my process was always the same as it is now. I do a ridiculous amount of homework and granular analysis of every moment in the film. I build up these vast biographies of the character. Hiding behind the mask of someone else seems to loosen me up and make me better. And in the end, one thing I have discovered over the years is all you really want in film acting is to be loose. [The criticism that I just play myself in romantic comedies] always made me grind my teeth a bit. Because that character in the Richard Curtis films was a bit repetitious. But it wasn’t me. It’s really kind of Richard.”
In the last decade, Grant has proven he is more than just a pretty face, with a string of roles that went against his established image, and had critics rubbing their eyes in disbelief. In 2006’s American Dreamz, Grant played the role of a Simon Cowell- like talent show host who was equal parts self-loathing and self-aggrandizing. In 2012’s Cloud Atlas, he played not just one but six different dark characters, while Grant’s 2014 dramedy The Rewrite had Quentin Tarantino declare him “the perfect leading man”.
While it is unlikely that Grant will ever again reach the heights of commercial success as he did when he was known as the face of the entire rom-com genre, the actor appears to be in a much more tranquil state of mind now, creatively speaking. According to Grant, the profession of acting was one that he sort of fell into, with no concrete plan in place. And now, decades later, he is ready to explore other avenues of creative expression, especially writing.
“I was drifting, like most people do when they come out of university. I thought acting would last about a year. Here we are, 35 years [later]. There was a sort of excursion in those early years where I was also writing my own material with a couple of writing partners. Those were very happy days. I remember feeling the most satisfied and like a human being at the end of those days, more than any day on any film set ever. You know this: Any kind of primary creativity where you actually turn a blank page into something hits a very profound spot and one that is deeply satisfying… From time to time I sit down with a computer and tap away. I have been telling myself recently, “This is how you should be spending your 60s. Otherwise you’ll be dead and it will be too late.” I have half a novel that I need to finish. I think that is what I’m best at, really. I’m quite good at use of language. I’m not sure I’m really good at story and movies need story. Plot’s a bastard.”
This latest insight into the acting of Hugh Grant was first revealed at The Los Angeles Times.