Hugh Grant

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Hugh Grant
Hugh Grant '11.jpg
Hugh Grant in March 2011
Born Hugh John Mungo Grant
(1960-09-09) 9 September 1960 (age 53)
Hammersmith, London, England
Alma mater New College, Oxford
Occupation Actor, film producer
Years active 1982–present
Partner(s) Elizabeth Hurley (1987–2000)
Jemima Khan (2004–2007)
Children 3

Hugh John Mungo Grant1 (born 9 September 1960)2 is a British actor and film producer. He has received a Golden Globe, a BAFTA, and a Honorary César. His films have earned more than US$2.4 billion from 25 theatrical releases worldwide.3 Grant achieved international success after appearing in the Richard Curtis-scripted Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994).4 He used this breakthrough role as a frequent cinematic persona during the 1990s, delivering comic performances in mainstream films like Mickey Blue Eyes (1999) and Notting Hill (1999). By the turn of the 21st century, he had established himself as a leading man skilled with a satirical comic talent.5 Grant has expanded his oeuvre with critically acclaimed turns as a cad in Bridget Jones's Diary (2001), About a Boy (2002), and American Dreamz (2006).6 He later played against type with multiple cameo roles in the epic drama film Cloud Atlas (2012).

Within the film industry, Grant is cited as an anti-film star who approaches his roles like a character actor, and attempts to make his acting appear spontaneous.7 Hallmarks of his comic skills include a nonchalant touch of irony/sarcasm and studied physical mannerisms as well as his precisely-timed dialogue delivery and facial expressions. The entertainment media's coverage of Grant's life off the big screen has often overshadowed his work as a thespian.89 He has been vocal about his disrespect for the profession of acting, and in his disdain towards the culture of celebrity and hostility towards the media.1011 In a career spanning 30 years, Grant has repeatedly claimed that acting is not a true calling but just a job he fell into.12

Early life and ancestry

Grant was born at Charing Cross Hospital in Hammersmith, London, the second son of Fynvola Susan MacLean (b. Wickham, Hampshire, 11 October 1933; d. Hounslow, London, July 2001)13 and Captain James Murray Grant (b. 1929). Genealogist Antony Adolph has described Grant's family history as "a colourful Anglo-Scottish tapestry of warriors, empire-builders and aristocracy,"14 including William Drummond, 4th Viscount Strathallan and Dr. James Stewart.141516 John Murray, 1st Marquess of Atholl, Heneage Finch, 1st Earl of Nottingham, Rt. Hon. Sir Evan Nepean, and a sister of former British Prime Minister Spencer Perceval, are a few of his notable maternal ancestors.17 Grant's grandfather, Major James Murray Grant, DSO, a native of Inverness in Scotland, was decorated for bravery and leadership at Saint-Valery-en-Caux during World War II.18

Grant's father was trained at Sandhurst and served with the Seaforth Highlanders for eight years in Malaya, Germany and Scotland.19 He ran a carpet firm, pursued hobbies such as golf and painting watercolours, and raised his family in Chiswick, west London, where the Grants lived next to Arlington Park Mansions on Sutton Lane.2021 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."22 His mother worked as a schoolteacher and taught Latin, French and music for more than 30 years in the state schools of west London.23 She died at the age of 65,13 18 months after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.24

Grant's 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."21 Both his parents were children of military families,25 but, despite his parents' backgrounds, Grant has stated that his family was not always affluent while he was growing up.26 Grant spent his childhood summers shooting and hunting with his grandfather in Scotland.20 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.27

Education

Grant started his education at Hogarth Primary School in Chiswick but then moved to St Peter's Primary School in Hammersmith. 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.2829 He also represented Latymer on the popular quiz show, Top of the Form, an academic competition between two teams of four secondary school students each.30 In 1979, he won the Galsworthy scholarship to New College, Oxford where he starred in his first film, Privileged, produced by the Oxford University Film Foundation, OUFF. He studied English literature and graduated with 2:1 honours.31 Actress Anna Chancellor, who met Grant while she was still at school, has recalled, "I first met Hugh at a party at Oxford. There was something magical about him. He was a star even then, without having done anything."32 He received an offer from the Courtauld Institute of Art, University of London to pursue a PhD in the history of art, but decided not to take the offer because he failed to secure a grant. Viewing acting as nothing more than a creative outlet,33 he joined the Oxford University Dramatic Society and starred in a successful touring production of Twelfth Night.34 Hugh Grant funds The Fynvola Grant Scholarship at Latymer Upper School in memory of his mother who was a teacher in West London.

Young earner

After making his debut as Hughie Grant in the Oxford-financed Privileged (1982), Grant dabbled in a variety of jobs: he wrote book reviews,citation needed worked as assistant groundsman at Fulham Football Club,35 tried his hand at tutoring, wrote comedy sketches for TV shows,36 and was hired by Talkback Productions to write and produce radio commercials for products such as Mighty White bread and Red Stripe lager.37 To obtain his Equity card, he joined the Nottingham Playhouse, a regional theatre, and lived for a year at Park Terrace in The Park Estate, Nottingham.38 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's pub comedy circuit with stops at The George IV in Chiswick, Canal Cafe Theatre in Little Venice and The King's Head in Islington.citation needed 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, gained them a spot on the BBC2 TV show called Edinburgh Nights.citation needed During this time, Grant also appeared in theatre productions of plays such as An Inspector Calls, Lady Windermere's Fan, and Coriolanus.

Career

Grant at the Cannes film festival, 1997

Grant's first leading film role came in Merchant-Ivory's Edwardian drama, Maurice (1987), adapted from E. M. Forster's novel. He and co-star James Wilby shared the Volpi Cup for best actor at the Venice Film Festival for their portrayals of lovers 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 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. In 1991, he played Julie Andrews' gay son in the ABC made-for-television film 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.39 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. He later called this phase of his career "hilarious," referring to his early films 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."40

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).5 "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.4 Released in 1994, FWAAF became the highest-grossing British film to date with a worldwide box office in excess of $244 million,41 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 Actor - 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.4042 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.5

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.43 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.44 The company closed its US office in 2002 and Grant resigned as director in December 2005.45 Grant was one of the choices to play James Bond in 1995's GoldenEye, but eventually lost out to Pierce Brosnan.

Grant's first studio-financed Hollywood project was 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."46 The same year, he played leading roles as Emma Thompson's suitor in Ang Lee’s 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 performed in the Academy Award-winning Restoration.

Before the release of Four Weddings and a Funeral, Grant reunited with its director, Mike Newell, for the tragicomedy An Awfully Big Adventure that was labelled a "determinedly off-beat film" by The New York Times.47 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,"48 but the San Francisco Chronicle disapproved on grounds that the film "plays like a vanity production for Grant."49 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."47 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 Four Weddings and a Funeral. This new Working Title production displaced Four Weddings and a Funeral as the biggest British hit in the history of cinema, with earnings equalling $363 million worldwide.41 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."50 Reactions to Grant's Golden Globe-nominated performance were varied, with Salon.com's Stephanie Zacharek criticising 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."51 The film provided both its stars a chance to satirise 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."52 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,"53 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."54

While promoting Woody Allen's Small Time Crooks on NBC's The Today Show in 2000, Grant told host Matt Lauer, "It's my millennium of bastards".55 In 2000, Grant also joined the Supervisory Board of IM Internationalmedia AG, the powerful Munich-based film and media company.56

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."57 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."58 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".59 The film, adapted from Helen Fielding's novel of the same name, was an international hit, earning $281 million worldwide.41 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".60

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.61 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 fetishised coupledom, and honesty over typical Hollywood endings."62 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,"63 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."64 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.41 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 2006.65 "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."62 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 womanising 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."66 About a Boy also marked a notable change in Grant's boyish look. Now 41, he had lost weight and also abandoned his trademark floppy hair. Entertainment Weekly's Owen Gleiberman took note of Grant's maturation in his review, saying he looked noticeably older and that it "looked good on him."67 He added that Grant's "pillowy cheeks are flatter and a bit drawn, and the eyes that used to peer with 'love me' cuteness now betray a shark's casual cunning. Everything about him is leaner and spikier (including his hair, which has been shorn and moussed into a Eurochic bed-head mess), but it's not just his surface that's more virile; the nervousness is gone, too. Hugh Grant has grown up, holding on to his lightness and witty cynicism but losing the stuttering sherry-club mannerisms that were once his signature. In doing so, he has blossomed into the rare actor who can play a silver-tongued sleaze with a hidden inner decency."67

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.41 The Village Voice concluded that Grant's creation of a spoiled billionaire fronting a real estate business was "little more than a Britishism machine."68

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 film was promoted as "the ultimate romantic comedy" and accumulated $246 million at the international box office.41 It marked the directorial debut of Richard Curtis, who told the New York Times that Grant adamantly tempered the characterisation of the role to make his character more authoritative and less haplessly charming than earlier Curtis incarnations.69 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."70 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."71

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.72 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."73

Grant in Brussels, October 2008

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.41 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."74 American Dreamz failed financially but Grant was generously praised. He played his self-aggrandising 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,"75 and critic Carina Chocano said, "He is twice as enjoyable as the preening bad guy as he was as the bumbling good guy."76

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."77 Though he neither listens to music nor owns any CDs,25 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.10 The Star-Ledger dismissed the performance, writing that "paper dolls have more depth."78 The film, 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."79 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.80

Work ethic

Grant is well known for having a very strong work ethic. He 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.40 He pins his 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;81 and secondly, because he believes to have already given the one remarkable comic performance he had hoped to create on screen.82 A self-confessed "committed and passionate" perfectionist on a film set,12 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.783 Richard Curtis, a frequent collaborator, revealed that Grant is not fluid about the filmmaking process and tends to be unrelaxed while filming because he does not feel as though he's in the director's hands and prefers instead to take responsibility for giving a definitive performance.10 Grant is noted by co-workers for demanding endless takes until he achieves the desired shot according to his own standard.8485

A 2007 Vogue profile of Grant referred to him as a man with a "professionally misanthropic mystique."10 The observation followed published facts such as that Grant conducts his interviews alone (without any publicists),86 and has derided focus groups, market research and over-riding emphasis on the opening weekend.87 Grant decided to let go of his agent in 2006, ending a 10-year relationship with CAA.88 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.10 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."82

He has stuck to the genre of comedy, especially the romantic comedy, for almost all of his mainstream film career. He also never ventures to play characters who are not British. While some film critics, such as 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."89 A majority of Grant's popular films in the 1990s followed a similar plot that captured an optimistic bachelor experiencing a series of embarrassing incidents 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 satirise his characters as he summed them up and played against the type simultaneously.38 These performances were sometimes deemed overbearing, in the words of Washington Post's Rita Kempley, due to his "comic overreactions—the mugging, the stuttering, the fluttering eyelids." She added: "He's got more tics than Benny Hill."90 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."91 Film historian David Thomson wrote in The New Biographical Dictionary of Film about how it is merely "itchy mannerisms" that Grant equates with screen acting.92

Nonetheless, Grant has shown versatility in some of his more low-profile efforts. He received nearly unanimous critical acclaim as a sleazy, snide community theatre director with a penchant for adolescent boys in the drama film An Awfully Big Adventure and for "a very quiet, dignified" performance as Frédéric Chopin in James Lapine's biopic film Impromptu.9394


Grant's screen persona of later films, in the new millennium, gradually developed into a cynical, self-loathing cad.95 Claudia Puig of USA Today celebrated this transformation with 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."96 Using his facial contortions and an affected stammer for varied comic purposes,97 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.98

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’t 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.82

However, in 2012, Grant played several non-comedic cameo roles in the epic drama film Cloud Atlas, an experience he has spoken about positively. He plays six characters in the film, all of which he said are "incredibly evil". Of his decision to appear in the film and of how difficult it was for him to play one of the more violent characters in the movie, he said:

I do a lot of killing and raping [in the film]... But it was a laugh. I thought before I read it that I'd turn it down, which I normally do, but I was interested in meeting Cloud Atlas co-directors] the Wachowskis because I have always admired them enormously. And they are so charming and fascinating.... I slightly called my own bluff. In one of the parts I am a cannibal, about 2,000 years in the future, and I thought, "I can do that. It's easy." And then I am suddenly standing in a cannibal skirt on a mountaintop in Germany and they are saying, "You know, hungry! We must have that flesh-eating, like a leopard who is so hungry," and I am thinking, "I can't do that! Just give me a witty line!"99

In the media

Grant has repeatedly spoken about his boredom with playing the celebrity in the press100 and is known in popular media for his guarded privacy.101 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."10 On probing of his personal life, he has remained incredibly steadfast in "offering a dead bat to any question he feels is not general enough."102 Meanwhile, acquaintances portray him as a complicated man with an anarchic and sharp constitution.1038 "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."103 Filmmaker Paul Weitz, calling Grant funny, observed that "he perceives flaws in himself and other people, and then he cares about their humanity nonetheless."104 British newspapers regularly refer to him as grumpy.105

Libel lawsuits

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.106

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."107 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."108

Legal troubles

Hugh Grant mugshot, 1995

On 27 June 1995, Grant was arrested in a Los Angeles, California, police vice operation not far from Sunset Boulevard for misdemeanour lewd conduct in a public place with Hollywood prostitute Divine Brown.109 He pleaded no contest and was fined $1,180, placed on two years' summary probation, and was ordered to complete an AIDS education program by Robert J. Sandoval.110111

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.112 In the much-watched interview, Grant was noted for not making excuses for the incident after Leno asked him, "What the hell were you thinking?"113114 Grant answered, "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."115

On Larry King Live, Grant declined 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."116 He told the host: "I don't have excuses."117 Grant was appreciated for "his refreshing honesty" as he "faced the music and handled it with tongue [in] cheek."118

In April 2007, Grant was arrested on allegations of assault made by paparazzo Ian Whittaker.119 Grant made no official statement and did not comment on the incident.120 Charges were dropped on 1 June by the Crown Prosecution Service on the grounds of "insufficient evidence."121

Phone hacking exposé

In April 2011 Grant published an article in the New Statesman entitled "The Bugger, Bugged"122 about a conversation (following an earlier encounter) with Paul McMullan, former journalist and paparazzo for News of the World. In unguarded comments which were secretly taped by Grant, McMullan alleged that editors at the Daily Mail and News of the World, particularly Andy Coulson, had ordered journalists to engage in illegal phone tapping and had done so with the full knowledge of senior British politicians. McMullan also said that every British Prime Minister from Margaret Thatcher onwards had cultivated a close relationship with Rupert Murdoch and his senior executives. He stressed the friendship between David Cameron and Rebekah Brooks (née Wade), agreeing when asked that both of them must have been aware of illegal phone tapping, and asserting that Cameron's inaction could be explained by self-interest: "Cameron is very much in debt to Rebekah Wade for helping him not quite win the election ... So that was my submission to parliament – that Cameron's either a liar or an idiot."122

When asked by Grant whether Cameron had encouraged the Metropolitan Police to "drag their feet" on investigating illegal phone tapping by Murdoch's journalists, McMullan agreed this had happened, and stated that police themselves had taken bribes from tabloid journalists: "20 per cent of the Met has taken backhanders from tabloid hacks. So why would they want to open up that can of worms?... And what's wrong with that, anyway? It doesn't hurt anyone particularly."122

Grant's article attracted considerable interest, due to both the revelatory content of the taped conversation, and the novelty of Grant himself "turning the tables" on a tabloid journalist.123

Whilst the allegations regarding the News of the World continued to receive coverage in the broadsheets and similar media (Grant appeared for example on BBC Radio 4) it was only with the revelation that the voicemail of the by then murdered Millie Dowler had been hacked, and evidence for her murder enquiry had been deleted, that the coverage turned from media interest to widespread public (and eventually political) outrage. Grant became something of a spokesman against Murdoch's News Corporation, culminating in a bravura performance on BBC television's Question Time in July 2011.124

Grant said, "It's been fascinating to have a little excursion into another world. I really needed that and also to be dealing with real life instead of creating synthetic life, which is what I've been doing for the last 25 years."125

Personal life

Grant during the second round of Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, October 2007

In 1987, while playing Lord Byron in a Spanish production called Remando Al Viento (1988), Grant met actress Elizabeth Hurley, who was cast in a supporting role as Byron's former lover Claire Clairmont.40 Grant started dating the aspiring model while shooting and their relationship was subsequently the subject of much media attention. After 13 years together, Grant and Hurley made "a mutual and amicable decision" to split in May 2000.126 Grant is godfather to Hurley's son Damian, born in 2002.127

He subsequently began dating Jemima Khan under the intense scrutiny of British tabloids.10 Three years later, in February 2007, Grant's publicist announced that the couple had "decided to split amicably".128

In November 2011, it was announced that Grant had become a father to a baby girl, Tabitha, earlier that autumn.129 The identity of the mother, with whom Grant had a "fleeting affair" according to his publicist, was not at first announced; however, it was later revealed to be a Chinese woman, Tinglan Hong.130 In an interview on The Ellen DeGeneres Show in April 2012, Grant revealed that his daughter's Chinese name is Xiao Xi, meaning "happy surprise".131 Grant and Hong reportedly briefly reunited in 2012. In February 2013, Grant announced that they had recently welcomed a son named Felix Chang.132133

Grant has claimed that Hong has been "badly treated" by the media, saying that press intrusion prevented him from attending the birth of his daughter in September 2011. Grant said, "I was at one of the party conferences, about to give a speech, and was pacing about on the end of the phone. I shouldn’t have gone to the hospital at all, because it brought all this attention down on the mother's head. But I couldn't really resist it, so I went on the second day". Hong later obtained an injunction which allowed Hugh Grant to visit her and baby Tabitha in peace.129

In January 2014, conflicting reports revealed Hugh Grant fathered a child with Swedish television producer Anna Elisabet Eberstein in either September 2012134 or September 2013.135

As a young boy, 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 continued to play in a Sunday-morning football league in south-west London after college and remains an "impassioned Fulham supporter."28 Grant's other interests include tennis136 and snooker.137

In 2011, the BBC apologised after Grant made a remark about gay rugby players when he was invited into the commentary box during coverage of an England V Scotland game at Twickenham Stadium. Talking about playing rugby during his school days, Grant said: "I discovered it hurt less if you tackled hard than if you tackled like a queen."138

Charity work

Grant is a Patron of The DIPEx Charity,139 founded by Ann McPherson, a charity that publishes the websites Healthtalkonline and Youthhealthtalk; and a Patron of the Fynvola Foundation, named after his late mother, a charity which provides nursing and care for older learning-disabled people.140 He is also a supporter of Marie Curie Cancer Care, whose Great Daffodil Appeal he promoted in March 2008.141

Grant is patron of Pancreatic Cancer Action, a charity focussed on raising awareness of the disease that killed his mother.142

Filmography

Awards and honours

References

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