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Trash Talker?

Between his roles in mostly romantic comedies, the witty, urbane British actor Hugh Grant loves a testy game of golf.
Marshall Fine
From the Print Edition:
Hugh Grant, November/December 2009

(continued from page 3)

Grant's own perfectionism contributes to his love/hate relationship with performing before a movie camera.

"The closer the camera gets, the worse I get. I don't bear close scrutiny," he says. "I find light comedy easy in rehearsal. Then I have a problem when it comes time for the camera, in terms of freezing up. It's like when you're a little boy and you do imitations or funny voices—and then your mother has friends around and says, 'Oh, do that funny voice.' It's agony."

Did You Hear About the Morgans? is only his second film as a male lead since he costarred with Bullock in Two Weeks Notice in 2002, the other being Music and Lyrics; during that period, he was also part of the ensemble of Love Actually (2003), Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason (2004) and American Dreamz (2006).

Says Lawrence, "I like to think of myself as the most neurotic, insecure person on the set. But I lost my title to Hugh. I find myself calming him down. It was the only time I felt like the stable partner in a relationship. When I discovered the depth of his anxiety, I found it strangely comforting."

Grant's discomfort in front of the camera is palpable while he's working, Lawrence explains, but the audience only sees the seeming ease, not the anxiety. "The process he goes through is obviously agonizing," Lawrence says. "His experience of doing it colors how he views it. He doesn't enjoy the experience, but it doesn't come across that way on film."

Or in person, for that matter. As he talks, Grant is casually elegant in an untucked dark-brown dress shirt, jeans and a tan pair of brushed suede loafers. He's sitting in New York's famous Brill Building, a former music-industry beehive that's now a Midtown film center honeycombed with production offices, screening rooms and editing facilities.

Grant has flown to New York to see Lawrence's assemblage of Did You Hear About the Morgans? for the first time and will hop on another plane to return to his London home the next day.

"I feel as though I spend my whole life on airplanes," he muses, adding with a straight face, "I cry a lot on planes. I cried at Finding Nemo on an airplane once."

The film, he says, "looks a lot better than the others did at this stage. Normally, when I see the first cut, I'm suicidal. I want to go to that clinic, Dignitas, in Switzerland and have myself put down. But this one is quite funny; it looks beautiful."

While he's played opposite a raft of high-profile actresses—Andie MacDowell, Julianne Moore, Sandra Bullock, Renee Zellweger, Rachel Weisz, Julia Roberts —he's never been confronted with a performer as demanding as in his newest film. No, not Sarah Jessica Parker, who plays his soon-to-be-ex-wife ("She was wonderful," Grant says).

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