It’s impossible for some people to admit that they like Hugh Grant. In fact, when you ask someone about Hugh’s Films, they’ll have only ever caught it on late night television, and then more often than not laugh in derision at his efforts.
He’s seen as somebody who embodies everything that there is to dislike about our nation. Handsome, Upper Class, Rich, Nervous, Bumbling, a ‘Toff’. Hugh is often dismissed as a one trick pony, one who’s rode the crest of a wave playing the same character continuously for the last two decades.
This is an easy assumption to make, as Hugh does actually possess most of these attributes. However, rather than chastising him, we should embrace Hugh for what he is, because this is exactly what makes him such an engaging and charming screen presence; one who’s in his pomp evoked the effortlessly cool aura of Cary Grant.
Alongside Colin Firth, Hugh is the last example of the classic English Gentleman. Chivalry personified. Lovably lost in this scary world, just looking for someone who’ll love him. But unlike the much sterner Firth, Grant’s characters appear to enjoy their alienation and revel in the high jinx that they have often thrust themselves into.
Yet Grant was once on the brink of abandoning his acting career. For almost a decade, Hugh had starred in one forgettable film after another and baffled by the quality of scripts being offered to him, Hugh believed he was at the end of his acting tether.
And despite his apparent life of luxury, Grant did actually work several remedial jobs as he looked to figure out his role in life, which included working as a tutor, writing book reviews and, strangely enough, being the assistant groundsman at Fulham Football Club.
This all changed when a Richard Curtis script landed in his lap. By playing Charles in the behemoth that was ‘Four Weddings and a Funeral’, Hugh became a worldwide symbol of Englishness.
Grant's lack of respect for the acting profession and hatred of all things celebrity is breath of fresh air from the new brand of PR trained thespians.
His winsome performance was globally relatable and an easy sell to a worldwide audience who found him simply adorable. The film would go to on gross almost $250 million worldwide and Hugh was seen as the main reason for the films success.
Of course, due to his newfound fame Hugh decided to flirt with Hollywood. He set up his own Production Company, Simian Films Limited and even became embroiled in a sex scandal. ‘Nine Months’ was his first studio financed Hollywood project, and although a financial success, was universally panned by the critics. Yet it still possesses some genuinely funny moments and Grant is, as always, watchable.
However, Hugh had now become “uncool”, and even though his films remained profitable, the kind of characters he was portraying, were beginning to grate on the general public.
Then, in 1999, Hugh decided to reunite with his old gang of British Cohorts to make Notting Hill. For me this is the quintessential Hugh Grant performance. Once again this delightful and decadent Richard Curtis script surrounded him with the best acting talent our country has to offer - Hugh became the everyman, pinning after the unattainable Julia Roberts.
Managing to turn himself into a bumbling, nervous wreck, Hugh is somehow able to keep it together enough to slowly seduce the biggest Movie Star in the world. Hugh is part of a charismatic gang, and his friends played by Gina McKee, Rhys Ifans and Hugh Bonneville are lovable and engaging characters who you wouldn’t mind sitting down and having a pint with, even though they’d probably order the house wine.
The film went on to gross close to $300 million, but Hugh would now never be able to detach his public persona from that of the characters he played, no matter how many Photographers he attempted to hospitalize.
This is something that Hugh had learned to live with. Of course it’s often negated that this is an industry that Hugh fell into and his lack of respect for the acting profession and hatred of all things celebrity is breath of fresh air from the new brand of PR trained thespians.
Of course, almost all of his films are now seen as forgettable pieces of Popcorn cinema that are of little relevance to our modern society. Which, once again is true, however, Hugh Grant was at one time the funniest actor in the world, and is someone that we should look at as, not only the greatest actor to never play Doctor Who, but as a National Bloody Treasure.
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