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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 5)

Kidding? Not quite. There's that old ambivalence at work. As Lawrence observes, "At the end of this film, he told me, 'I didn't enjoy a second of it—and now I really miss it.'"

So why not work in theater? That allows the actor to live in the moment—and to get immediate response from an audience.

"The stage is, in many ways, lovely," Grant allows. "It's lovely to get laughs. Laughs buoy you up and make you better. But I'm not suited to theater. I get bored after the first week. I also have a problem laughing on stage. I get these diabolical cases of the giggles."

Grant professes a fascination with the idea of working on a wholly improvisational movie. He mentions the films of Christopher Guest (Best in Show, Waiting for Guffman) and British director Mike Leigh (Happy Go Lucky, Secrets and Lies).

"What I hate is the old-fashioned way," he says. "You come in, you hit your mark, you shoot a master shot, then a two-shot, then close-ups. It's just not fluid enough."

Costar Sarah Jessica Parker, however, believes that Grant sells himself short. She thinks of Grant as the gold standard for leading men in contemporary romantic comedy.

"It's the ideal situation, doing a romantic comedy with Hugh Grant," Parker says. "If you're about my age and a fan of romantic comedy, it's a dream. He plays an archetype that we want to see on-screen. People think that doing romantic comedy is like playing in the school yard with your friends. But it's hard—and harder if you care as much as Hugh does. Part of it comes very naturally to him but he also gives a lot of thought to the work."

"He's too smart to be a performing monkey, aka an actor," Sandra Bullock writes in an e-mail response to questions about Grant. "But he has a God-given talent that keeps pulling him back in front of the camera. He makes things look effortless, but that ease comes only after hours and days of banging his head against a problem."

Grant has taken a stab at writing screenplays and is halfway through a novel that he's been writing for years: "I feel uneasy describing it because it doesn't sound good," he says. "It's quite twisted and disturbing—in a humorous way, I hope. Getting down to it is incredibly difficult but once I'm there, I enjoy the process of composing prose. But I enjoy style more than content; really, I've got nothing to say."

He's also toyed with the idea of directing a film, something to which others believe he'd be well-suited: "Hugh would make an amazing director," Bullock explains, "because his attention to detail and obsessive drive to make things perfectly natural are what actors strive to find in a director. He would never allow himself to think of himself as a director, but those of us who have worked with him know what an eye he has for cinema."

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