Fed up once and for all with his nice guy persona, Hugh Grant is relishing the distaste audiences will have for him as the scoundrel boss who breaks Renée Zellweger's heart in bridget Jones's Diary (2001). The man oncereluctantly crowned by Empire Magazine as among the one hundred Sexiest Stars in film history, Grant teased with fragments of information during this interview, about the current state of his alleged intermittent relationship with old flame Elizabeth Hurley. Grant also surprised with his equally ambivalent commitment to acting, which he confessed drives him so far up the wall at times, that he is ready to commit bodily harm to himself.
How do you feel about a movie where the audience is not rooting for you?
HUGH GRANT: Well, yeah. I mean, I'm sick to death of Mister Nice Guy, I've done way too much of it recently. And I think it has made the rest of the world start to vomit slightly as well. So, Bridget Jones was a really blessed relief.
Is your character Daniel Cleaver evil, or just a confused guy?
HG: That would be the modern take, wouldn't it? I don't know that he's evil. I think he just had it too easy, that was always my theory about Daniel. For too long, I think he was the clever, attractive and quite funny one in school, the university and the early years of his career. You know, it was very easy for him to pick up girls, and he just enjoyed himself. And now, the honeymoon is starting to get a little sour. I think he's reached the sort of September of that phase of his life. But I don't feel Daniel is that shallow. I always thought he was quite deep, and really cared about literature, for instance
What about that all natural looking fight scene in the movie?
HG: I've been trying to do something like that for years. You know, when the script says 'they fight,' to ban the stunt coordinator from the set. Because they always try to make it look so Hollywood. You know, we fight the way two middle class educated Englishmen would fight. Which I've always maintained would be sort of girlie and cowardly, you know? With squealing!
But in a real life brawl between you and Colin Firth, who do you think would really win?
HG: Well, obviously I'd win!
HG: Because I've been trained. You know, I was trained to kill! But Colin did marvellously, for someone who's not very, well, sporty.
Do you know women like Bridget Jones?
HG: Yes! Very much so. I live in that world. That was one of the reasons that I loved the book in the first place. Because half my friends are like that.
HG: We live in a world of Chardonnays and cigarettes. And sort of hopelessness
Are you one of the hopeless?
HG: Well, certainly elements of it, yeah. I think that's the whole point of Bridget Jones. It's all about that it's okay to fail. You know, set yourself a target of "x" calories a day, and then fail. And it's all fine. Like what Colin says to Bridget at the end, you know, I like you just the way you are. I think that if there is a moral to this film, that's it.
I heard it was a hard sell, trying to interest you in this movie.
HG: The only reason for that, was because I didn't feel they had the script quite right for a long time. And I kept saying, it's not working. Just get Richard Curtis to come in and help rewrite it. Eventually they did, and as soon as Richard came on board, I signed on the dotted line. So that's all it was.
What did you think of Renée for this role, and her accent?
HG: A lot of the British press were sniffy on that subject. And I can't pretend that I didn't slightly raise an eyebrow myself when her name was brought up. I knew she was a brilliant actress, and I knew she had all those lovable, slightly victimy qualities that you need. But I just know from experience that accent wise, even if you're an accent genius, crossing the Atlantic is the hardest thing in the world either way. So I was a little scared for her.
Was it stressful for Renée too?
HG: After Renée came abroad, accent wise she had a very brief Princess Margaret phase, which was alarming! She was soon through that, and then there was a brief phase where Renée sounded very slight as though she...had a stroke! You know, everything was rather slur-r-red. But then Renée knocked that on the head. And two weeks before we started shooting, her accent came perfectly into focus. It's the best American doing English that I've ever heard in my life. And not once did she stop speaking with that accent, until the rap party. When suddenly this weird.....Texan appeared. I wanted to call security, I didn't know who the ---- she was!
That was quite a fascinating look at office life in Bridget Jones.
HG: Disgusting! Yeah.
Renée said she went to actually work in an office to play the role. How did you get into character for that kind of environment?
HG: Well, you know I have an office, my film offices. So I know that syndrome. I fancy offices, so there must be something wrong with me. Even the window cleaner intrigues me. It's a very sexy environment. And I particularly like the whole thing of being boss. Boss and employee....It's the slave quality that I find very alluring.
You better be careful. This will be going into print, and it may result in your office being deluged with employment applications! Speaking of offices, are you more comfortable with Hollywood or the British film industry, or do you like to keep a foot on both shores?
HG: Yeah, I try to bestride the ocean. I think I'm happier like that, but basically living in England. I don't know why, it just seems to be where I fit. But it's very good being here, the whole American Influence is excellent.
In what way?
HG: It's like a shot of adrenaline. Otherwise, there's a danger that you may become....too drowned in Chardonais and hopelessness, you know? You need a little competitive edge occasionally
What's next on your plate?
HG: I'm about to be in another film, called About A Boy (2002). It's from a book written by Nick Hornby, who also wrote High Fidelity (2000). I play London, hip, slacker, late thirties....That is, if I can play late thirties. We're going to try. It's sort of a life of semi debauchery, really. And his latest phase, is that he really fancies single mums. But it's quite touching, as well as hopefully funny.
How come we don't see you in movies too often?
HG: You know, I'm not as profligate...Wait, do I mean that? I don't mean profligate, do I? Please help me here, with my vocabulary!
How about 'prolific?'
HG: Thank you! Yeah, I'm not as prolific as I'd like to be. But I think a lot of that comes from being so queeny about material. I just can't commit to things which are lame.
Does that mean you're seeing more and more lame material?
HG: Everything is lame! Lame, lame lame, that's the name of the game.
Whew! Glad I got you on a good day! How comes other actors aren't so discriminating?
HG: Well, they love acting, that's the difference. Most actors really love it, that's what they want to do. They burn to do it. And so they'll read a script and think, that's an interesting part. And because they love acting, that blinds them to the fact that the rest of it is pretentious nonsense, which it very often is. Or commercial schlock. And because I rather hate acting, my eyes are seeing something different. I'm looking for reasons not to do it!
Then why would you choose acting?
HG: I didn't. I fell into it. And I keep meaning to fall out of it. I can't say I'm not committed and passionate when I do it, but I think it was a kind of wrong turn.
What would you rather be doing?
HG: I don't know. I cling to the fantasy that I could have done something more creative. Like actually writing a script, or writing a book. But the awful truth is that I...probably can't! And I don't have the discipline, unless there's a huge, imperative deadline hanging over me.
And film acting is incredibly tedious, just by its nature. It's incredibly, mind numbingly slow. And it's also frustrating, particularly in comedy, because you can make the scene work and get a great laugh in rehearsal. But then you've got to go and film it. And by the time you've gotten to the location and it's all set up, I often find that I can't make it as funny as it was in rehearsal. And that makes me want to slit my wrists. In exasperation. Okay, on that happy note...!
Wait, how does somebody who doesn't like acting, get good at it? Can anybody do that?
HG: It's not exactly that I hate acting. But yeah, a lot of people end up in jobs that aren't perhaps their absolute, true calling. But they still commit all their energies to it, and become quite adept. My father was in carpets for years. He didn't really love carpets, but he became pretty good at....flogging them!
Okay....A lot has been made about your hair in the press, and the way it tends to flip one way or the other.
HG: Ah, yes....
Well your hair is quite different today. Is this a new image?
HG: No, it's for About A Boy (2002). You know, where I've got to be quite London, and now. And that seems to mean short and spiky. So that's the idea. But I think I look a bit like a female tennis player!
Are you getting fed up with the hair questions by now?
HG: Hmm...Just slightly!
HG: No, that's just fine.
HG: Well, I'm afraid that's true. It's crazy, how we have become horribly co-dependent over the years. Even the tiniest things. She has to make a little speech at some charity thing tonight, and I've already had her on the phone saying, what do I say? Or, how is this joke? And that is the case with us.
Do you feel like you two are attached at the hip emotionally?
HG: Yeah, I think that may be true. I'm not an expert. But Elizabeth has become an expert on that. Somebody gave her a book on co-dependency, and she says we fall into every single category!
Are there any other romances brewing in your life right now? The rumours are flying in every direction.
HG: No comment.
Just like we root for the couple to get together at the end of Bridget Jones, lots of people are rooting for you and Liz to get back together. Is that an idea that intrigues you?
HG: Well, I think it comes from a nice place. Yeah, I think it does. Ha! Cheery O !!