Hugh Grant chats about playing the lead role, his leading ladies, working with kids and the making of our Must See Movie for April, ‘About A Boy’. Read on to find out more…
Congratulations on your new film 'About A Boy'. We're huge fans…
That's incredibly nice of you. Thank you very much. Brilliant, I love you!
Are you a big fan of the book?
Yeah, it was sent to me in proof form before it was published. I was reading it, if a bit too slowly, and loving it! I wanted to buy it, but by then it had been snapped up by Robert De Niro's company. I like all Hornby's stuff, and I think this is his masterwork.
Is there a bit of Will in you do you think?
I think there's Will in all of us, especially English men of my kind of generation. That whole slack thing of a guy who watches an inordinate amount of television, sits around in the afternoon watching Countdown and is in love with his gadgets, living an easy where he doesn't really have to connect to anyone in particular. He's self-contained and supposedly very content, but of course there's a kind of tragedy to it as well, and therein lies our tale.
Do you think he's somebody that British men secretly aspire to be?
Well I think they do. That's why magazines like GQ, Esquire and Maxim and all those cater for that particular fantasy. They're the ones that are selling 'Gadget Of The Week' and the coolest, hippest clothes and the babes and all that. It is highly tempting, and I'm not immune to all that myself. But I think part of the point of this book, and the film, is that that's all very well for a few years but what happens when you get to your late thirties – is there something faintly pathetic about that?
They always say, 'never work with children'. But seeing the on-screen chemistry between you and Nicholas, I take that that's not something you believe in?
I can't speak for every child actor but we got very lucky with Nicholas Hoult. He managed to be a brilliant actor and not annoying! Some of the kids that came in to audition, and I was very fierce about the auditions, were a little bit annoying, a little bit stage-school. And that's what you really have to watch out for, the ones with the scary mums, and the ones who are out to be cute all the time. Luckily that's not Nicholas. He's quite a regular bloke.
And what about your leading ladies. Two brilliant actresses there...
Yes, Rachael Weiz and Toni Collette, you couldn't ask for fairer than that. They were both our first choices and we were really lucky to get them. Toni's very funny as the loony mum of the disturbed boy - deeply vegetarian and dressed in Yashmak type stuff! And Rachael Weiz, who had a very difficult part as the girl who my character very suddenly falls in love with over dinner one night. She had to be instantly enchanting and loveable and Rachael brought that off, which is very tricky.
It is a very London film isn't it?
It is extremely London, and I personally was very keen to keep it that way. When De Niro's company first brought the book, they set it up as set in London but with an American playing the part, along with a different director and a different script. But I thought that was a big mistake and quietly watched it collapse, as it duly did two years later. It never really took off. And then I said to them "Look, I really think that the whole charm is to make it as North London and indigenous as it really is in the book." it's all so well observed. The more accurate you are about that, the more charming it becomes, even to a foreign audience, even to Americans. They agreed with that approach, and so we did the whole thing as it should be - British. Although we had two American directors, one of them was educated in England and is very British, and they were both keener than any British director I've known, not to compromise on the British-ness of the whole thing.
Would you ever consider going to a single mums' club to pick up women?
Yeah, I suppose there's no depth to which I wouldn't stoop.
Sally in Highgate asks: Is it true you're thinking about giving up acting sooner rather than later?
I'm boring about that. I've been saying it for as long as I've been acting really. I always feel slightly frustrated by the process. Film making just happens to be a very old-fashioned technology and it's incredibly long and tedious to do. And you do sometimes think, in the third month of filming, "What in God's name am I doing here, I could be doing something more important with my brain or something!" But it keeps being worth it. You go through the agony - I've been in on the development of 'About A Boy' for years - and then you show the film for the first time and people really like it and that propels you in to the next one. If I kept making turkey's I would probably be out of it by now, but luckily successful one's happen every now and then and they're the ones that keep you going.
Peter in FinsburyPark says: What are the best and worst things about being famous?
Exactly what you'd expect. I never used to have any money and I like having money. I like a bit of attention and I like girls liking me more - all that stuff. I can buy a nice car - pathetic, shallow things like that. Getting good tables in a restaurant, a private plane occasionally, that sort of thing. I'm a sucker for it. The downside also speaks for itself. It would be that there's no real off-switch to being well-known, and you do miss that.
Does all the rumour and the gossip that you read about yourself bother you?
The standard answer to that is "No, no, it's water off a ducks back", but of course that's rubbish. If you come across this stuff when you're reading a paper it always does make you grind your teeth for 24 hours. It does wear you down.
Tell us about the haircut? Is it the new Hugh Grant, or is it just Will?
Well, it's sort of a bit of both. My hair now is a bit like it was in the film, which was after all filmed a year ago, and I'm using it for the film I'm making at the moment in New York. I'd always wanted to have shorter hair, but I'd never found a haircut that didn't make me look like a lesbian! And now I think I have.
You're working with Sandra Bullock at the moment aren't you?
Yes I am and it's a laugh. It's a romantic comedy and I feel good about it. It's now called 'Two Week's Notice'. We didn't have a title, embarrassingly, for a very long time, in fact we offered a prize for anyone who could think of one!
Who do you play?
I am 'billionaire property guy' - irresponsible, carefree and charming, but hopeless at my job. And she's my lawyer.
'Irresponsible and carefree' sounds like Will...
Yes, I suppose there is that connection, but this guy is seriously rich and sillier than Will. It's written by a very talented guy who's written a lot of America's top sitcoms, and it's quippy.
The soundtrack from 'About A Boy' is very cool. Is it your sort of music?
I'm bad on music, I always have been. There's something wrong with my ears! If someone plays me good music I'm happy to listen to it, but I've never been the sort of person who gets home and puts on a record. I don't know who anyone is, but what I do think is that this music works incredibly well with the film.