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INT: Hugh Grant

11.11.2004

England’s favorite cad is back in theaters this Friday as Hugh Grant returns to role of the charming womanizer Daniel Cleaver in BRIDGET JONES: THE EDGE OF REASON. Just as Bridget seems to have finally nabbed Mr. Right (the fabulous Mark Darcy), Cleaver reappears to throw a monkey wrench into her nearly perfect relationship. Oh, whatever will Bridget do? Will she choose the foppish British Guy, or, ummm, the other foppish British guy? What a wrenching dilemma.

Hugh’s kept a relatively low profile since the first Bridget Jones, appearing in only three feature films (About a Boy, Two Weeks Notice and Love Actually) and opting for, as he says, “semi-retirement.” He stopped by the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills yesterday to share his feelings about acting, plus-size women and the art of crafting a good fight scene.

(Before going on, I must make a correction. In a previous story, I erroneously wrote that Hugh had been once been nabbed for soliciting a transvestite prostitute. An astute joblo.com reader informed me that, although she may look somewhat mannish, Divine Brown is apparently 100% female. My apologies to both Hugh and Ms. Brown for any grief I may have caused.)

That said, here’s Hugh Grant’s press conference for Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason.

HUGH GRANT

Do you think Daniel Cleaver can change?

Can he change? Can he change? No. I think short answer is that he can't. Funnily enough, I think that if he has changed, he's changed for the worse, not the better...

You excel at playing assholes. Where does that come from? Are you ready to give up playing them?

Ummm — it's sweet of you to say that. Now, I quite like it. For years I sat in these interviews and everyone said, “You're always Mister Nice Guy, why don't you ever play someone nasty?” So in fact it's been a relief to be — for the real me to come out more on camera. I don't have any particular burning desire to go back to being cuddly. Not really.

How many days take to film your fight scene with Colin Firth?

It was one day about this time last year, and it was the same approach as the first one, which was just to make sure that it was as crap as we wanted it to be. The key is to stop the stunt coordinator from coming in to make it look like a film fight. We just wanted it to be two pathetic Englishmen scared of each other, throwing their handbags at each other basically.

In both these films and Love Actually you’re attracted to women with a few extra pounds on them. Is that just a coincidence?

I remember saying to my agent that the next job I want to do, the next three jobs I do, I want them to be about slightly overweight women. And they did a wonderful…no – I don't know what to say to you. I agree that it's nice that these stories feature that. Because you've heard this before – any man will tell you that we don't necessarily want what we see in Vogue or whatever.

How do you feel about sequels and their value?

I don't think they're automatically to be despised. I've seen sequels that are – The Godfather, he throws out nervously, racking his brains for another…

Lord Of The Rings?

I've never seen Lord Of The Rings unfortunately, but I gather — I've heard from some children about Part 2. But, I think it's all right, I think it's all right. Don't you? You look like you're furious at the idea.

Did you have much of an input into this Bridget Jones? Would you have come back, no matter what?

No, no. I was very difficult. I'm always quite difficult, but I was really impossible on this one. And there was a lot of coming and going about the script and my part. To begin with, I was not convinced that Daniel Cleaver could ever go into television, a medium he despises. But I got my head around that and did a lot of work on just sort of trying to keep the cleverness of Daniel. I always thought one of the mitigating factors for him in the first film that he wasn't just an asshole, he was actually quite a clever asshole. I wanted to try and maintain that. So in things like his presentations to the camera in doing the smooth guide, I just tried to make them relatively clever.

The Weitz brothers referred to you as the “high-performance vehicle of romantic comedic actors.”

(laughs) That's incredibly nice of them. I love the Weitzes. What were they making? What have they just done? Is it about cooking? They always had a crazy cooking film up their sleeves. Is it about vampires? Because they once gave me the worst pitch I ever heard. I couldn't get through it. I said, "Stop, Paul," halfway through it. "This is ghastly." And he still laughs about it. Whenever he e-mails me now, he always says at the end, "Keep thinking about that vampire thing."

What is it that you do with comedy that other actors don't?

I don't know what other actors do. I think in a way there is an upside to me being very difficult, and the thing I'm really difficult about is the script. I won't do it unless I think the script has got there or at the very least that my part has got there. And then even when I come to shoot it, I will try 16 different things. But it has become a form of madness, it really has, to the point of sort of meltdown. And on this film, the second day, I had a meltdown. Suddenly there was all this sort of neurosis got to me and I had my first ever full-scale attack of stage fright. It was very alarming for ever one concerned. I had to get to about Take 30 before I could even remember my lines.  It was the scene when Colin comes in at the end and challenges me to come out and fight him.

What was it like working with Rene again?

Rene is always – what's the big thing about Rene? She's just very redoubtable. She's just never –  I think film acting's just a miserable experience. It's so long and so boring and so difficult to get right so that what you need above all is incredible willpower and strength of mind. And she has that. I don't know where it comes from. She's definitely got that. And big pants – they're back. You're always slightly nervous when jokes are revisited. It's one thing to revisit a film but entire jokes — but I think we've moved forward a bit.

How are you as a traveler? Are you into touristy spots or out-of-the-way places?

I like a bit of both. I'm ashamed to say I was in Marrakech earlier this year and I had a guide taking me and my father around the tourist spots and I kept saying, “No, no, no, I want to see poverty. I wanted to see people in rags, you know.”

We were told to ask you about Rene's reaction to the sun in Thailand.

Oh Christ! She's got this thing that she believes the sun will make her skin come up in boils and peel off her bones. So she's dressed up like Julie Andrews at the beginning of The Sound Of Music, like a nun – umbrellas and gloves and everything. And it's a nightmare.

Did you give her a hard time there?

No because oddly enough, she was really sensible on the subject because I think she almost felt she was being assaulted just being in Thailand, being so close to the sun. But it does make one slightly want to ask her, “Why live in Los Angeles?” (laughter).

Are you giving up acting?

Well, I haven't done very much for about three years. I think I've just done that smallish part in Love Actually and the smallish part in this film. So I'm sort of semi-retired.

Is there anything else that you want to do?

I'm sure I've said to you a billion times that I keep thinking I'm about to write a brilliant script.

Have you written one?

No, I've done bugger all year. I feel ashamed of myself.

But when Richard Curtis calls, you seem to be ready to go to work.

Yeah, old friends and things and this one – that seems fine. But I'm not in a hurry to go and sit in big development meetings and make great big commercial films. I do have a touch of apathy about that.

What about the stage?

Well it's true that the stage is fun, but I can never justify it completely in my head because although I think it's really fun for the performers, my experience as an audience member is 19 times out of 20 it's purgatory to sit watching a play. I think. I don't know. People keep going more, I think, out of a sense of duty, sort of churchgoing, than out of clever.

Rene mentioned that women often approach her with stories about relationships. Do men ever come up to you with stories?

No, emphatically not.

Questions? Comments? Manifestos? Send them to me at thomasleupp@joblo.com

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Source: JoBlo.com

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