Hugh Grant is a very silly little man. I’m not being disrespectful, I’m referencing possibly my all-time favourite HG moment when, as Daniel Cleaver in Bridget Jones’s Diary, he demonstrates the art of laughing a woman into bed: “Now these are very silly little boots, Jones. And this is a very silly little dress. And, um, these are, *bleep* me, absolutely enormous pants.”
Grant recently said the pants bits and the following “Hello, Mummy” came off-the-cuff, while messing around, but I think we could tell that. The film was made in 2001 when he was 41, and the most adorable romantic leading man seen on screen since another of his roles, the irresistibly cute, floppy-haired, lovelorn Charles in 1994’s Four Weddings and a Funeral.
There’s been Notting Hill, About A Boy, Two Weeks’ Notice, Music & Lyrics (playing a faded pop star who finds love and new songs to sing with a woman who comes to water his house plants. It’s my third favourite HG role after being PM in Love, Actually – he’s the best thing in that).
Hugh Grant has done lots of romantic comedy, and a great deal for romantic comedy. No leading man has done it better. Tom Hanks, Ben Stiller, Cary Grant, Billy Crystal, Adam Sandler, Michael Cera – brilliant all, but no one has ever been able, on screen, to combine such effortless laugh-out-loud comic delivery with being so darned handsome and fanciable. That’s not a trivial skill; that’s pure genius. Serious acting? Lots of people can do that, darling.
Anyway, you can imagine how unhappy I am that Grant, all of 57, said this week in the Radio Times that he will no longer be taking on romcom roles. “That bird has flown,” he said. “Getting older and uglier has made the parts, you know, more varied.”
He’s playing Jeremy Thorpe, disgraced former Liberal leader, in BBC1 series A Very English Scandal, on TV this Sunday. Yes, it will be good to see Grant playing a serious, historical, politically pivotal role – and on the small screen (all the rage among big movie stars, apparently; De Niro’s at it).
But romcoms have their place too, and it’s not just the romantic stories of the young and the beautiful that are worth telling. Grant is exactly the right actor to show this by getting maddeningly cute and funny again, preferably in a film recalling, but not necessarily reprising, his Four Weddings role, this time with Kristin Scott Thomas. (I’ve been thinking a lot about this. A lot).
Admittedly, I’ll watch Hugh Grant in pretty much anything. Even so, I hope he revises his view that he is too old and ugly for romantic comedy, because no one is too old or too ugly for romance or comedy… and it’s very silly to say so.