Nationality: British. Born: London, England, 9 September 1960. Education: Attended Oxford University, BA in English Literature with honors, 1982. Career: Appeared with the Oxford University Dramatic Society; 1982—film debut in Privileged , student film produced by the Oxford Film Foundation; 1982–85—wrote ad copy for radio commercials; 1985—stage debut at Nottingham Playhouse (repertory work); co-founded comedy troupe Jockeys of Norfolk; in TV mini-series The Last Place on Earth ; 1986—acted in British TV series The Demon Lover and Ladies in Charge ; 1987—first role in major film, Maurice ; formed production company, Simian Films. Awards: Volpi Cup for Best Actor, Venice Film Festival, for Maurice , 1987; Golden Globe Award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture-Comedy/Musical, British Academy Award for Best Actor, for Four Weddings and a Funeral , 1995; Golden Slate for Best Actor in a Leading Role, Csapnivalo Awards (Budapest), 2000. Agent: Creative Artists Agency, 9830 Wilshire Boulevard, Beverly Hills, CA 90212, U.S.A.
Privileged (Hoffman—not released) (as Lord Adrian, billed as Hughie Grant)
Jenny's War (Gethers—for TV) (as Peter Baines)
Maurice (Ivory) (as Clive Durham); Lord Elgin and Some Stones of No Value (for TV) (as William Hamilton); White Mischief (Radford) (as Hugh Dickinson)
The Dawning (Knights—released in U.S. in 1993) (as Harry); Nuit Bengali ( Bengali Night ) (as Allan); The Lair of the White Worm (Russell) (as Lord James D'Ampton); Remando al Viento ( Rowing with the Wind ) (Suarez) (as Lord Byron)
Till We Meet Again (Jarrott—for TV) (as Bruno de Lancel); The Lady and the Highwayman (Hough—for TV) (as Lord Lucius Vyne); Champagne Charlie (Eastman—for TV) (as Charlie Heidseick)
Impromptu (Lapine) (as Frederic Chopin)
The Big Man ( Crossing the Line ) (Leland) (as Gordon); Our Sons ( Too Little, Too Late ) (Erman—for TV) (as James)
Lunes de Fiel ( Bitter Moon ) (Polanski—released in U.S. in 1994) (as Nigel)
The Remains of the Day (Ivory) (as Cardinal); Night Train to Venice (Quinterio) (as Martin)
Sirens (Duigan) (as the Rev. Anthony Campion); Four Weddings and a Funeral (Newell) (as Charles); The Changeling (Simon Curtis—for TV) (as Alsemero)
An Awfully Big Adventure (Newell) (as Meredith Potter); The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill but Came Down a Mountain (Monger) (title role); Nine Months (Columbus) (as Samuel Faulkner); Sense and Sensibility (Ang Lee) (as Edward Ferrars)
Restoration (Michael Hoffman) (cameo as a painter, Elias Finn); Extreme Measures (Apted) (as Dr. Guy Luthan)
Notting Hill (Michell) (as William Thacker); Mickey Blue Eyes (Makin) (as Michael Felgate); Comic Relief: Doctor Who and the Curse of the Fatal Death (Henderson) (as The Handsome 12th Doctor)
Small Time Crooks (Allen) (as David)
Bridget Jones Diary (Maguire) (as Daniel Cleaver)
Interview, in Interview (New York), November 1987.
"Hollywood's Epiphany: Brits Create Hits," interview with Adam Dawltrey, in Variety (New York), May 1994.
"Upper Class Treat," interview with Anita Chaudhuri, in Time Out (London), 4 May 1994.
"I Always Assume I'm Appalling and the Film Will Be a Turkey," interview with Andrew Duncan, in Radio Times (London), 9 July 1994.
"The Older I Get, the More Nervous I Get," interview with Barry Norman, in Radio Times (London), 18 January 1997.
Tresidder, Jody, Hugh Grant , New York, 1996.
Farber, Stephen, "Hugh Grant Makes Them Think of Cary Grant," in New York Times , 27 February 1994.
Matusik, Angela, "A Subtle Hugh," in Harper's Bazaar (New York), April 1994.
Bellafante, Gina, "Not Just Another Pretty Face," in Time (New York), 25 April 1994.
Stivers, Cyndi, "Hugh Romance," in Premiere (New York), May 1994.
Maslin, Janet, "Even Cannes's Fray Can't Chase Away Hugh Grant's Smile," in New York Times , 18 May 1994.
Current Biography 1995 , New York, 1995.
Lane, Anthony, "It Had to Be Hugh: The On-Screen and Off-Screen Adventures of a Young British Actor," in New Yorker , 24 July 1995.
Millea, Holly, "Hughmongous," in Premiere (New York), July 1995.
Roher, T.D., "Working Girl," in Premiere (New York), October 1996.
* * *
In the wake of his big international success with the romantic comedy Four Weddings and a Funeral , the press began evoking comparisons between this young British actor and another cinema Grant, the immortal Cary. Like the latter, Hugh Grant's screen persona is that of the intelligent, but somewhat tongue-tied and befuddled nice guy masquerading as a charming, striving-to-be-incharge sophisticate. And like Cary Grant, Hugh Grant has attracted a large, mostly female following—although Hugh's fans are more apt to describe him as "cute and cuddly" rather than "elegantly handsome."
Stuck (so far) with playing mostly one-note roles as polished but sexually repressed Brits or effete, often homosexual, aristocrats (sometimes both at once), Hugh Grant has yet to demonstrate the dramatic or comic range of Cary Grant, however. He is more akin to Roger Moore—a resemblance the producers of the James Bond series took note of as well when they considered him for the 007 role before settling on the suave but enervating Pierce Brosnan. Another Moore role, that of Simon Templar in a big screen version of The Saint , had at one time also been offered to Hugh Grant, but went to Val Kilmer instead.
Hugh Grant made his screen debut in the student film Privileged (1982) filmed at Oxford, where he attended school and was referred to by friends as Hughie Grant, the cute and cuddly name under which he is billed in the unreleased movie. After graduation, he worked in advertising, writing comic radio commercials for which he occasionally supplied the voices as well. He joined the Nottingham Playhouse in 1985 for a season in repertory, but grew dissatisfied with the nondescript roles he was assigned and formed his own comedy troupe shortly thereafter.
Grant left the troupe in 1987 when he won his first role in a major film, the Merchant-Ivory production of E. M. Forster's once-scandalous novel of homosexual awakening among the student upper crust at Cambridge, Maurice . As the aristocratic Clive Durham who forsakes his homosexuality for the straight life in order to pursue a career in politics, Grant earned critical raves and a best actor award at the Venice Film Festival (which he shared with actor James Whilby, who played Maurice).
A slew of roles followed in British television and barely released, independently-made movies—the most memorable of which was Ken Russell's horror spoof The Lair of the White Worm , based on the last published novel of Dracula author Bram Stoker, who was dying of "brain disease" when he wrote the feverish piece. Grant again played a somewhat tongue-tied aristocrat: Lord James D'Ampton, whose ancestor dispatched the legendary D'Ampton Worm, a snake god worshiped by the once-pagan Brits of the shire. History repeats itself when the Worm returns thanks to snake goddess Amanda Donohoe, whose beguiling charms Grant almost succumbs to before dispatching both her and the Worm at the film's high-camp conclusion.
Grant segued from the Russell scream and laugh fest to the more serious Rowing with the Wind , an Italian-made biopic about the tempestuous relationship between Lord Byron (Grant), Percy and Mary Shelley, and Dr. John Polidori that led to Mary's writing Frankenstein . Ironically, the same subject was dealt with by director Ken Russell in the 1986 film Gothic with Gabriel Byrne as Byron. Subsequently Grant played in several more biopics and docudramas, including White Mischief , a true tale of murder among the British upper crust in Kenya during World War II; the PBS mini-series The Last Place on Earth about the ill-fated Scott expedition to beat Amundsen to the Pole; and Impromptu , James Lapine's Ken Russell-like chronicle of the love affair between writer George Sand (Judy Davis) and the consumptive composer Chopin (Grant).
The turning point year for Grant was 1994. Three of his films were released concurrently in the United States: Bitter Moon, Sirens , and Four Weddings and a Funeral . The most potent, but least well received commercially and critically, of the trio was Polanski's Bitter Moon , which had actually been made in 1992 but did not make its way to U.S. shores until two years later. Grant again played a tongue-tied, sexually repressed Brit, Nigel, whose shipboard encounter with a kinky couple (Peter Coyote and Emmanuelle Seigner) spells trouble for his own marriage. Duigan's erotically charged Sirens (with Grant as tongue-tied, sexually repressed cleric) fell in between in terms of popular success, though the critics liked it. But Newell's Four Weddings and a Funeral (with Grant as cynical, upscale bachelor turned tongue-tied bumbler when he falls for Andie MacDowell) was an unexpected smash hit with everyone. It catapulted Grant to stardom; he had two other small British films virtually in the can to take advantage of his newfound fame—including a follow-up with Newell, An Awfully Big Adventure (Grant as manipulative, gay stage manager) and the lengthily titled The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill but Came Down a Mountain (Grant as tongue-tied, befuddled, sexually repressed Brit). The big time beckoned and Grant made his major Hollywood film debut in the Chris Columbus comedy Nine Months , playing a befuddled, soon-to-be-parent, his most Cary Grant-like role (and performance) to date.
Then scandal struck. Grant was pinched in a compromising position with a Sunset Strip hooker by the Los Angeles cops. Many believed the tabloid controversy that ensued would finish him with female fans and destroy Nine Months , then on the eve of release, at the box office. The embarrassed Grant countered by making the rounds of the late night television talk shows in public apology, and succeeded in defusing the situation with his ingratiatingly self-deprecating humor. Nine Months gained from this and was a minor hit, something studio executives no doubt appreciated and will likely remember. Once the "Hugh-and-cry" simmered down, Grant was back on the screen in the kind of small British film that made him, actress Emma Thompson's adaptation of Jane Austin's comedy of sexual manners, Sense and Sensibility (Grant as shy, sexually repressed aristocrat).
Notting Hill reunited Grant with the writer (now turned writer-director) of the surprise hit Four Weddings and a Funeral . The film was an obvious attempt to make box office lightning strike twice. It did, although Notting Hill is by no means the charmer the earlier film was. Grant plays a London book store owner who "cute-meets" a Hollywood superstar played by Julia Roberts when she drops into his shop one day while in town shooting a movie. The duo clicks, but because of a host of emotional and other differences ("I'm from Notting Hill, and you're from Beverly Hills," he tells her), the film takes 90-plus minutes of boy-meets-girl-boy-loses-girl-boy-gets-girl plot complications for them to finally get together. Grant uses his persona as the befuddled, tongue-tied, can't-seem-to-commit Lothario to welcome effect in order to maker this romantic comedy work—since Roberts' character is (for much of the film anyway) quite off-putting, even obnoxious. Grant followed it up with another romantic comedy, Mickey Blue Eyes , which uses his screen persona as the foundation for its one-joke premise: A reserved Englishmen falls for the daughter of an American mobster; in order to be accepted by her Family, he must undergo a crash course in how to act like a hood by, among other things, losing his (tongue-tied) British accent.