Hugh Grant visited AOL Live to chat about her new film, 'Two Weeks Notice,' co-starring Sandra Bullock. Hugh answered questions about the movie, his other projects -- past and future -- and much more. See what he had to say below!
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AOL Host: Good evening, everyone, and welcome to AOL's live chat with Hugh Grant, the star of the new film 'Two Weeks Notice' which opens in theaters nationwide, this Friday, December 20. Hugh, welcome to AOL. Great to have you here.
Hugh Grant: Thank you very much. This is a pleasure and an honor.
AOL Host: Before we get to all the questions our members have for you, tell us a little bit about the new movie and who your character is.
Hugh Grant: Well, for those people without television sets, or who haven't been to the cinema in the last three months and seen what we're advertising, the film is a romantic comedy with me and Sandra Bullock, and it's about a rich, shallow, lazy playboy, played by me. And his socially committed, worthy, granola-eating lawyer, played by Bullock. And how these two apparently incredibly opposite people come to realize they are indispensable to each other, and in fact ultimately in love.
AOL Host: We have our first question from an member, who says that Sandra Bullock seems like she's probably a fun person. What was it like working with her?
Hugh Grant: That is her public appearance. The reality is she's a nightmare.
AOL Host: Not fun at all?
Hugh Grant: No, she is absolutely the person she appears to be in her interviews. She's enchanting and funny and extraordinarily childish, it's the thing that appealed to me most.
AOL Host: How so?
Hugh Grant: Just that her sense of humor seemed to stop developing when she was about six. So that even when she tries to act like the big Hollywood producer, that part of her is... I know that really you've only got to say the word "bottom" or "testicles" to make her fall about laughing.
AOL Host: Another member wants to know how long it took to film 'Two Weeks Notice.'
Hugh Grant: Well, the usual kind of thing, about three months.
AOL Host: And you filmed this in New York?
Hugh Grant: In New York, yeah, in the spring.
AOL Host: Was this your first film that you shot in the city?
Hugh Grant: No, I've actually done four films there. And it's always a treat. It feels very filmy. Everywhere you point a camera, it's kind of interesting in New York. And we were treated extraordinarily well by the city, because I think we were one of the first films to shoot there after the events of 9/11. So all kinds of doors were opened to us, and people were extremely nice to us on the street.
AOL Host: What was it like for you to be in the city after that event?
Hugh Grant: Well, I was very impressed by the way New Yorkers just had gone on with their life exactly as before. I think that's always the best answer to terrorism. You know, you don't let the buggers get you down.
AOL Host: We have a member named SherriDee who would like to know where you got your great sense of humor and quick wit from. Do we have your parents to thank for that?
Hugh Grant: Well, such as it is, it largely comes from my mother, probably, who was certainly a very good, very amusing mimic. She could do very good imitations of just about everyone in our lives. And so I may have got something from her.
AOL Host: Was it a fun household to grow up in when were you a child? Was there a lot of laughter?
Hugh Grant: I'd say it was. Yes, yes, yes. There were a lot of characters. My mother had an interesting habit of inventing personalities for our household pets. For instance, we had a perfectly harmless ginger cat. She invented really the most outrageous personality for this poor thing, that he was an overweight, sulky, gay racist who hated her, interestingly enough. A psychologist would have had a field day with this. But the cats loathed my mother. And also was very foul-mouthed. My mother was a good church-going English woman, but the cat swore like a trouper. You know, it's really a case of schizophrenia. You'd say, "Mom, the cat just said the 'f' word." She'd say, "No, darling, he couldn't possibly have." But he had. It was interesting.
AOL Host: A member, Christine, wants to know if you still mainly live in Britain.
Hugh Grant: I do. I live in London. I have, for some reason, four houses very close to each other in one part of west London. It's completely pointless and a terrible waste of money and I intend to weed some out.
AOL Host: Have you ever been tempted to move to Los Angeles or New York?
Hugh Grant: Well, I'm not very good in Los Angeles. I always find that my inner scumbag blossoms here, and within two weeks I'm reading the trade papers and I think if I stayed here three months, I might become an agent, or perhaps not that low. But an executive. And so I'm not good here, sunny and delightful though it is in many ways. But New York -- I must get a place there, because I've done four films there now, always staying in a hotel, and that's just madness. The time has come for me to have a groovy loft.
AOL Host: Speaking of reading the papers, a member would like to know if you read your own reviews.
Hugh Grant: Actors always generally tell you that they don't, but they're lying. They read them avidly. And I am no exception.
AOL Host: Do you care what critics say about your performance, or is it just what the audience thinks that matters?
Hugh Grant: It's a very interesting question. On the whole, one of the benefits of the Internet is that you now can really read what the ordinary filmgoer thinks of your film, because there are so many discussion groups and so on. To any person involved in making a film that, I'm afraid, that is much more interesting than what some guy working for the Syracuse Bugle is saying. But I read them all. And I'm, you know, pathetically thrilled if they're nice and insanely enraged when they're not.
AOL Host: Speaking of the Internet, there are many Web sites and message boards dedicated to you and your films. Do you look at them?
Hugh Grant: I tried one once, but it seemed to have a lot of pictures of me without my clothes on, which I don't remember having been taken. On the whole, not. To be honest, I'm not very good with my computer. It's just slightly passed me by.
AOL Host: We have a comment and a question from a member named OilArtisan. The comment is: I've enjoyed your films. You're a terrific, unbelievable actor. The question is: Of all the co-stars, which is your all-time favorite to work with?
Hugh Grant: This may sound like a lie, but it's genuinely Bullock. I've been watching her for years, thinking she's doing the female equivalent of the sort of things I do, and I've also always found her genuinely funny, and frankly genuinely attractive. So she was the girl I ultimately wanted to make a romantic comedy with, and having done that now it was in no way disappointing.
AOL Host: A member wants to know what's the funniest thing that happened on the set of 'Two Weeks Notice.'
Hugh Grant: Well, I don't... I very much enjoyed the clotted cream incident.
AOL Host: What was that about?
Hugh Grant: I went to England in the middle of the shoot for a weekend, and I asked Sandy if she'd like anything from England. She said, "Yes, please, some clotted cream," which as you know is a specialty for the West Country of England. I brought her back two pots. And I told her one was pure English clotted cream, the other was pure English clotted cream mixed with a bit of my sperm. I asked her to see which she preferred.
AOL Host: We're all eager to know which one, Hugh.
Hugh Grant: Well, needless to say, she preferred the spermy one.
AOL Host: Needless to say, indeed. We have a member named SwimBee who wants to know which performance you are more proud of, 'About a Boy,' 'Notting Hill,' or one of your other films.
Hugh Grant: I am very proud of 'About a Boy,' there's no question that the way that film came out gave me some pride, which is unusual for me. But I'm also extremely happy with the way this one turned out. It's a performance that everyone will say is me just doing my thing with no acting required. But I assure you, that's not the case. I manage to make very heavy weather of these things and there's certainly a lot of blood, sweat and tears went into this one.
AOL Host: Is it liberating to play characters like George in 'Two Weeks Notice' or Will in 'About a Boy,' where you can be so open and honest about being shallow?
Hugh Grant: Yes. I mean, the trick of those parts is to be as despicable as you possibly can and yet, not have people hate you. And actually, as you say, the honesty is the best device for that. People always forgive honesty and are actually quite attracted to it.
AOL Host: We have a personal question for you from one of your many admirers in our audience, a member named MissNatti wants to know if you are seeing someone currently, and if not, what your ideal woman is like.
Hugh Grant: Well, does natty mean well-dressed in America?
AOL Host: Yes, it does.
Hugh Grant: That's ironic. I like well dressed. I like those girls in Paris, and the Upper East Side of New York with their nails, their hair, and their expensive shoes. So tell Miss Natty that I like the sound of her.
AOL Host: What was it like working with Woody Allen on 'Small Time Crooks'? Was it intimidating?
Hugh Grant: Extremely intimidating. To receive a telephone call from Woody Allen was like receiving a telephone call from Jesus. He's a completely mythical character in my life. I was terrified of the experience and although he's a perfectly nice guy, he's... he doesn't go out of his way to put you at ease. There's no chatting. There's no going out for dinner. He's as introspective as he appears in his interviews.
AOL Host: In your film 'Two Weeks Notice,' you have a relationship with your co-worker, played by Sandra Bullock. We have a member named SunSprite who wants to know if you had to choose between dating someone in your business or someone who was not in the limelight or in Hollywood, what would be your preference, if you have one -- or does that even matter?
Hugh Grant: Well, I have a sort of split personality, and half of me is drawn to the non-show biz type. That's probably the better half of me. But there's also the shallow half who's always gone for showgirls.
AOL Host: A member would like to know if you got to meet any of the people in the borough of Brooklyn, where I guess you filmed part of 'Two Weeks Notice.'
Hugh Grant: Certainly. We were in various locations in Brooklyn, and made to feel extremely welcome, particularly out in Coney Island, where we shot a lot of stuff amongst the Russian community there, and where my fluent Russian came in helpful.
AOL Host: Are you actually fluent in Russian or no?
Hugh Grant: [Speaking Russian] which means, "Oh, my God." That's actually as far as it goes, but they're all very impressed by it.
AOL Host: I'm sure it comes in handy in many situations over there.
Hugh Grant: Particularly on a film set.
AOL Host: A member named SassyFrass would like to know if there are any scripts that you read and rejected that were hits for other stars.
Hugh Grant: Thankfully not, actually. Well, I was offered... I think I was offered the baddie part in the 'Titanic' but I never thought that was a particularly rewarding role, although Billy Zane was excellent in it. Though I think one of the few things I feel proud of, in terms of the last nine years of my career, is I've been quite good at rejecting things. Many of my agents have come near to suicide over my rejection level.
AOL Host: Have there been things you haven't rejected that you later wish you did?
Hugh Grant: That I haven't rejected? Oh, you mean... well, I've certainly gone ahead and shot a couple of films that I felt at the time I probably shouldn't, but for various political reasons I did. The absolute golden rule is to only shoot the films when you totally believe in the script. If you don't, you're dead.
AOL Host: Will there be a sequel to 'Bridget Jones' Diary,' and if so, would you want to be in it?
Hugh Grant: Oddly enough, the producer of that film is trying to get through on the other line as we speak. He's still trying to set it all up. But he has many difficult balls to juggle. Myself, Zellweger being two of them.
AOL Host: Another comment and question from the member named SunSprite who says: "You coming out of the water in 'Bridget Jones' Diary' is the equivalent of Ursula Andress coming out of the water in her bikini, in my opinion. Do you realize how much of a sex symbol you are?" That was her saying that, not me, just to be clear.
Hugh Grant: You don't have to cover. It's pathetic calling yourself SunSprite. I'm thrilled to hear that, and delighted, and I did, of course, model the shot on Ursula Andress, and was planning to wear the same bikini, but they told me it was inappropriate for the role.
AOL Host: Do you think of yourself as a sex symbol? Do you find that people react to you in that way?
Hugh Grant: I find it very hard to think that way. But then I've seen myself naked, and... I don't know. I had this conversation yesterday with a bunch of women, including Bullock, and I... my theory is it's impossible to find oneself sexy in any way. Or if you do, you're slightly mad.
AOL Host: We have a question from a member who wants to know if you ever yearned to play a really nasty villain.
Hugh Grant: Well, the last three or four characters I've played have not been very nice. I suppose they've had redeeming characteristics. But in terms of an out-and-out villain, certainly I'd be delighted. I have no objection to being unpleasant, and no objection to being violent. In fact, I very much like the idea of shedding some blood.
AOL Host: Is doing comedy what makes you happiest, or do you wish you could do more serious dramatic roles?
Hugh Grant: Well, I always find that the implication of that question is: don't you want to do something more demanding? But I can assure you that comedy acting is about as demanding as acting gets. And anyone who's done both drama and comedy will tell you that comedy is way, way harder. So in terms of challenging myself, I don't feel I need to do that by doing drama. Nor am I particularly interested in drama, really. I don't really come alive unless there are a few jokes knocking about.
AOL Host: How would you compare the British sense of humor with the American style? Is there really a difference in the sensibility?
Hugh Grant: People always say that there is, but I'm not sure that that's true. People, for instance, often point to irony and say we're more ironic in England than Americans are. But I have my doubts about that -- and particularly in terms of the dryness of humor. If you watch 'Seinfeld' or Larry David's new show --
AOL Host: 'Curb Your Enthusiasm.'
Hugh Grant: Right, 'Curb Your Enthusiasm.' You can't get drier or more ironic than that. Especially in the case of 'Seinfeld' -- the number-one comedy in America for years and years. I'm not sure there's a difference as people say.
AOL Host: A member named Melissa would like to know who your favorite director to work with has been.
Hugh Grant: I wonder if this is the Melissa who is the personal assistant to Marc Lawrence, who directed 'Two Weeks Notice.' If it is, my answer is definitely Marc. If it's another Melissa, my answer would be... well, it might be Marc, actually. I have to say, I've never liked a director more, and I very much like working with directors who are also the writers. You know, you really get one voice, the whole thing seems to have more unity. But I suppose if I had to point to other directors in the past, well, for various reasons, I liked Mike Newell, who directed 'Four Weddings and a Funeral' and a film I did called 'An Awfully Big Adventure,' which only six people have ever seen. He was very good with me, at making me not revert to my old tricks. So I would point to him.
AOL Host: Marc Lawrence, I believe, makes his directorial debut in this film?
Hugh Grant: Correct, correct. Which is the second time I've worked with a director doing that this year, because I also made a film called 'Love Actually' in London a couple of months ago, written and directed for the first time by Richard Curtis, the man who wrote 'Notting Hill' and 'Four Weddings and a Funeral'and 'Bridget Jones' Diary.'
AOL Host: Is it easier or tougher working with a first-time director?
Hugh Grant: Well, there will always be problems. You know, sometimes they might not be quite as experienced in terms of the sheer practicalities of how to get everything done in a day, so things get a little behind and you might have to shoot the last bits of the day a little fast. That can be irritating. Or in the case of Richard Curtis, he certainly gave a lot of direction, which is not my particular cup of tea as an actor. I really like directors just to say, "You're wonderful, darling," then stand well back. But he got the hang of that in the end.
AOL Host: Who were your main influences when you were starting out, or role models, as an actor?
Hugh Grant: I'm ashamed to say I had absolutely none because it was really a business I drifted into kind of by mistake. So I didn't have any role models then, and I don't now. Having said that, there are certainly actors who I kind of revere -- people like Peter Sellers, John Cleese, Gene Wilder, Cary Grant, I suppose, David Niven. But I've never had any models.
AOL Host: Who haven't you worked with yet that you would really like to work with?
Hugh Grant: Well of course, there are some girls, one's always intrigued by the possibility of, you know, getting together with them and seeing what happens. I've always admired Cameron Diaz and I find myself at an award ceremony the other day eyeing up some incredibly attractive dark-haired girl the other side of the aisle, because I'm so ignorant about celebrities, I didn't realize it was Jennifer Lopez, which it would be fun to do something with her, I suppose.
AOL Host: On film, we add.
Hugh Grant: On film.
AOL Host: A member named Ashley would like to know if you have any advice for young actors.
Hugh Grant: Flirt. I really flirted my way into the business. And I can't recommend it highly enough.
AOL Host: What was your first big break or big role?
Hugh Grant: Well, obviously, 'Four Weddings and a Funeral,' I suppose, was the breakthrough. But before that, I mean about five years before that, I did a film called 'Maurice,' a Merchant-Ivory film, and I definitely flirted my way into that part. And two or three years before that, my first professional job as an actor, the one that got me my union card in England, was in the theater, a place called Nottingham. The part I got was "tree waving in wind." Believe it or not, I actually flirted my way into that part as well. I was a very flirty sapling.
AOL Host: We have time for a few more questions from our members. One wants to know more about your golfing. How long have you been golfing, and how good a golfer are you?
Hugh Grant: I am embarrassed to talk about my golf problem, because it seems so middle aged and so unsexy. But someone took me to play golf about three, four years ago, and I went along more to sneer than to enjoy the experience. And I came back totally obsessed, and have thought about little else for the last three or four years. There are 12 books by my bed, 11 of them are about golf. So one of the questions I ask myself about the year 2003 is whether I should throw out the clubs, the books, the whole thing, and try and regain my humanity.
AOL Host: A member would like to know how you're planning on spending the Christmas holiday, and what gifts did you ask for, if any.
Hugh Grant: I'll spend Christmas with my family, probably in New York, and because my brother lives there. What did I ask for? I don't really need to ask anymore. People either give me golf equipment or alcohol. They know I'll be delighted with either.
AOL Host: Hopefully not in combination.
Hugh Grant: Well, it can work.
AOL Host: That doesn't affect the handicap?
Hugh Grant: Well, actually, it is in a way a handicap in itself.
AOL Host: Right. What about any New Year's resolutions yet, besides perhaps doing less golfing?
Hugh Grant: I'm not sure that I really... I must buy some new shoes. I've worn the same pair of shoes for the whole of 2002, so I must do that.
AOL Host: Finally, what projects can your fans in our audience look forward to? You mentioned 'Love Actually.' Do you know when that is coming out?
Hugh Grant: I'm not entirely sure. I've got a feeling it's in the spring or summer, and otherwise, I have an entirely clean slate for the rest of my life. And I have to confront the question whether I would, in fact, do any more films or whether I'll go and do something different.
AOL Host: Seriously, is there anything different you would want to do with your life, besides films?
Hugh Grant: Well, instead of just acting, yes, I mean, I would like to... I fantasize about writing and directing a film, or just writing the book I've been meaning to write for 15 years. But it's very difficult to say whether I'll ever get down to it. I have both a laziness and a kind of fear problem.
AOL Host: Well, unfortunately, we have a problem of running out of time tonight, but let's remind our audience that your new movie 'Two Weeks Notice' opens this Friday, December 20, in theaters nationwide. And Hugh, it was a real pleasure to have you on AOL. I hope we can get you back in the future.
Hugh Grant: Well, I'll be delighted to come back anytime. And it was very nice of people to take an interest.
AOL Host: Thank you to you, Hugh, and thank you to all our members for their great questions and comments. Good night, everybody.
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