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Charm­ing big-screen star Hugh Grant, lead in A Very

English Scan­dal, looks back on his sto­ried ca­reer as he makes his mark on TV

Hugh Grant, in the flesh, is still that hand­some, faux awkie fel­low with the witty bon mots we’re used to see­ing on the big screen. Of course, time can bring about change – but with Hugh the more things change, the more they stay the same. The witty Brit re­mains rel­a­tively youth­ful-look­ing but now with strands of salt among the fad­ing brown in his hair and per­haps sports a slightly slower gait than a few years ago.

That all comes in handy, though, for his star turn play­ing 1960s and ‘70s-era English politi­cian Jeremy Thorpe in A Very English Scan­dal, op­po­site Ben Whishaw ( Padding­ton, Padding­ton 2 and Mary Pop­pins Re­turns).

Old pho­tos of the MP re­veal a stern­look­ing man, far re­moved from the charis­matic ac­tor who even­tu­ally ro­manced Andie MacDow­ell in Four Wed­dings and a Fu­neral, Ju­lia Roberts in Not­ting Hill and Renée Zell­weger in the Brid­get Jones flicks. Hugh, 58, mar­ried his girl­friend, the mother of three of his chil­dren, Anna Eber­stein, in May and is happy to joke about all five of his kids (two from pre­vi­ous re­la­tion­ships), say­ing he leads a life of “to­tal chaos” and that com­ing to LA is “bliss just be­cause no-one is throw­ing yo­ghurt at me”.

Here’s what he had to say, in typ­i­cal style, with lots of pauses and witty asides...

On Why He Made A Very English Scan­dal...

“I re­ally have to thank [di­rec­tor] Stephen Frears enor­mously be­cause he was the man who sud­denly said af­ter mak­ing Florence Fos­ter-Jenk­ins, ‘I think, Hugh you’d be per­fect for this role.’ I thought, Re­ally? Work­ing with Stephen Fears… he’s sort of art house and I had done all th­ese fluffy ro­man­tic come­dies, but he be­lieved in me and [ Florence Fos­ter Jenk­ins] turned out pretty well. I was about to go off and do some­thing else and he said, ‘No no, no, I’ve got an­other project.’ Then he sent me this.

“It’s a dream part. It’s been very dif­fi­cult, since I fin­ished this, to sign up for any­thing else be­cause it was so up my al­ley. I loved the story. I loved the tone. I loved the pe­riod. It was a great char­ac­ter. You know… won­der­ful co-stars, great di­rec­tor. This was sort of ‘A+’ for me, in terms of the sort of project I want to do.”

On the Real-Life Jeremy Thorpe...

“Well, the whole fun of him for me was that he was mult-faceted. He was in many ways ap­palling, a ter­ri­ble nar­cis­sist who would do al­most any­thing for his ca­reer, ruth­less. To or­der a mur­der is a pretty big thing! That’s pretty so­cio­pathic. So, in many ways he was a mon­ster – but by re­search­ing him, read­ing books, watch­ing video, talk­ing to a lot of his friends and ex-col­leagues, I re­alised there was deep tragedy there as well. The tragedy, one, of be­ing a gay man at that time and be­ing re­ally un­able to ex­press your love in its nat­u­ral form; and I also think that his nar­cis­sism was so ex­treme that that’s a kind of tragedy as well.

“You can’t re­ally en­gage with other peo­ple if you’re so ob­sessed with your­self. Then he had put an en­tire life­time’s pas­sion into build­ing up his ca­reer and build­ing up the Lib­eral Party... “To have this one man be about to bring all that down just be­cause he’s got is­sues – that’s a sort of Shake­spearean tragedy, too.”

On Fre­quently Co-Star­ring with Ben Whishaw...

“I haven’t quite man­aged to kill him yet, but I will. I will. It is bizarre that we keep work­ing to­gether and that I al­ways seem to want to kill him or some­thing – but I’m lucky. He’s in­cred­i­bly good. He’s the sort of great ge­nius ac­tor of his gen­er­a­tion in our coun­try and keeps me up to the mark.

On Be­ing Happy to do TV Now...

“Yeah, well, I was snobby! I was the last of the snobs to get over that dif­fer­ence be­tween film and TV. I was slightly hor­ri­fied when th­ese scripts turned up from Stephen Frears and I re­alised it was tele­vi­sion! I mean, re­ally. The book upon which it was based was so clev­erly blackly comedic. Then Rus­sell T. Davies who wrote the screen­play for this and rein­vented Doc­tor Who – he’s a proper ge­nius screen­writer and I don’t say that lightly be­cause it’s very dif­fi­cult to please me with writ­ers. But I re­ally think he’s very bril­liant, and there was Stephen, Ben Whishaw and [co-star] Alex Jen­nings. I loved the tone – it’s kind of dra­matic but it’s also ir­rev­er­ent and even slightly camp.”

On Watch­ing Tele­vi­sion

“Well, one of the rea­sons I was snobby about tele­vi­sion is be­cause I was be­hind the times. I didn’t re­ally un­der­stand how it works any­more, as I only watched mo­tor rac­ing or

ten­nis and I hadn’t seen any­thing at all. I’m the man who hasn’t seen The So­pra­nos

– there’s some­thing wrong with me! Any­way, one of my chil­dren has now taught me to work the tele­vi­sion prop­erly. I know how to get Net­flix... I’m rather proud of my­self! And I’ve watched The Crown and thought it was sub­lime. And I just watched Big Lit­tle Lies and thought it was equally good.”

On Get­ting into So­cial Me­dia...

“I dis­ap­prove of so­cial me­dia, re­ally. But when I was do­ing this po­lit­i­cal cam­paign [re­gard­ing the Fleet Street phone-hack­ing scan­dal] in Bri­tain, which I’ve been do­ing for six years, some of the younger peo­ple I’m in­volved with said, “No, no – you ab­so­lutely have to be on Twit­ter.’ So, they shoved me on it. And I haven’t quite been able to get off it since. It’s a weird ex­pe­ri­ence now, be­cause if your TV show is broad­cast, and you don’t know what peo­ple are gonna think of it, you can lit­er­ally watch in real time; peo­ple re­act­ing to it from the first frame. And I must say that was ex­cit­ing in this case [ A Very English Scan­dal] be­cause peo­ple were be­ing… were so into it! And I re­mem­ber im­me­di­ately tex­ting Stephen Frears, and Ben Whishaw, and Alex Jen­nings say­ing, “Christ, I think peo­ple like it!”

“That was very ex­cit­ing.”

On his many Rom-Coms...

“Well, I don’t want to look a gift horse in the mouth in the sense of [turn­ing] down a ro­man­tic com­edy be­cause I’m proud of them and they’re very pop­u­lar, and they are pop­u­lar to this day. If I get home from the pub and switch on the TV, there I am, chat­ting up some girl and I’m sort of grate­ful to them. I’m also very pleased to be through them, I have to say!”

On Brid­get Jones 4...

“I don’t know, de­pends on the story. They had a ver­sion of

Brid­get 3 which had Daniel Cleaver a lot, but I could never make him work in that story. It was such a good set-up: Brid­get gets preg­nant with two men. She’s not sure which it is. That’s bril­liant! It was al­ways great for 10 pages but then I just didn’t know how Daniel Cleaver would re­act to that. I thought he would’ve run away from the sit­u­a­tion.

“So, you’re sort of not in the film and then they in­vented a ver­sion where he stuck around and changed com­pletely and was re­ally into hav­ing a baby. I thought, That’s

just not him. In the end we gave up and they wrote a com­pletely dif­fer­ent ver­sion… which worked rather well, I thought.” “I mean, there was the hor­ror, ob­vi­ously, of hav­ing to do that dance scene, which I al­ways sus­pected would have be the most ex­cru­ci­at­ing scene ever com­mit­ted to cel­lu­loid. There are lots of peo­ple who think it is, to this day… well, some peo­ple love it. But it’s just not easy for an English­man in his for­ties, to – at seven o’clock in the morn­ing, stone-cold sober – when some­one says, ‘OK, Hugh: if you’d just like to freak out now.’ That’s tricky. It was a very dif­fi­cult scene to do, but I don’t know why it’s still so pop­u­lar. Ev­ery­one watches it [on TV] at Christ­mas. That’s very nice.”

On His Per­sonal Favourites...

“Well, there are some movies and shows that I can look more squarely in the face than oth­ers. This one, for sure, I’m proud of. In fact, the last three I’m very proud of: Padding­ton 2. I think it’s kind of weird for a film [to be called] called Padding­ton 2 but I do think it’s a mas­ter­piece, that film. The film with Meryl,

Florence Fos­ter-Jenk­ins, and be­fore that I think About a Boy is an­other film that was good. Yeah.”

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