Easier? Why? Grant slips into a "DeNiro-esque”
street twang for this answer. "Well, you know Americans are
kinda looser, you know. ‘Hey- you’ fuck my wife?’ It’s a more physical,
a kind of easier thing. Rather than ‘would you like a cup of tea?’
That’s not very relaxed. It’s difficult for us Brits to get that
relaxed. And relaxation is the key, I think, to good film acting."
We both pause, and look at each other. Is there more to this theory?
After a moment, Grant breaks into laughter. "That answer may
be complete bullocks, actually."
How did he get started then? "We made this student
film, Privileged, for twenty thousand pounds or something
and we didn’t think much of it. But when it was previewed, it got
this terrific response. And suddenly we were all professionals.
I assumed I would automatically be a film star, which is of course
not how it really works. Especially in England; to even do it professionally
you have to get a union card, to get a union card you have to do
theater for ages and ages. So, I spent months in Nottingham Playhouse
playing trees blowing in wind, and fourth angry peasant and stuff
like that. Four years later, my agent said go and meet James Ivory,
for Maurice. I said oh well, he won’t want me. I met him for Room
With a View and he didn’t want me then, he won’t want me now.
But he did. After that, I made a lot of appalling choices. I did
just what you’re not supposed to do and took every offer that came.
I thought ‘crikey yes, if it’s that much money and got those girls
in it and it’s in northern Spain… absolutely I’ll do it. I mean
the script’s a piece of shit, but definitely.’ So I did four or
five Euro-puddings, and some American mini-series of dubious quality.
Then, when my career was completely finished, rather barren actually,
I began to rebuild it.
The few people I talked to before interviewing Hugh
Grant said they had always wanted to ask a star (rising or otherwise)
if acting was all they had expected it to be. Grant doesn’t hold
back. "Oh no! It’s a miserable profession, really. My mother
calls it prostitution, and I think she’s got it about right. I know
darling Tony Hopkins, and darling Emma (Thompson) and it’s hard
to describe them as happy. Well, actually, Emma’s quite happy. But
they’re all screwed up. I don’t think it’s a good job for anyone."
Uh, Hugh? This isn’t exactly a job you’re running
away from? "Only because it’s going well at the moment. If
I have another slough in my career," Grant stops and looks
confused. "Do you say slough here? If I have another slough
I might well get out, because it’s rather a brainless job. Especially
film work. You’re really sitting in a mobile home all day, waiting
to be wheeled on. Then you say your lines, and you’re wheeled off
again. Someone else cuts you about, someone else lights you, and
someone else has written a script. I feel powerless. I’d like more
power. I’d just have to jolly well get up, find some drive and go
back to writing my own stuff. I’d only direct or produce my own
stuff I’m not into anyone else’s. I just think it’s an odd thing
to do, to direct someone else’s text. I think you should always
try to keep the vision as singular as you can." MM