For Hugh Grant, Natural Does It
By DAVE KEHR
With any kind of acting on film," said Hugh Grant, "freshness is
everything, but particularly with comedy. You know what it's like: a
funny moment happens or you do a funny voice or tell a funny story,
and someone says to you, `Tell that funny story again,' and it's
about as funny as a road accident."
In New York to shoot the romantic comedy "Two Weeks Notice" ("I spent
all day yesterday on a rooftop in Brooklyn, kissing Sandra Bullock,"
he said with a mock sigh of self-pity), Mr. Grant was taking some
time out to help promote "About a Boy." Directed by Paul and Chris
Weitz, the film is an adaptation of Nick Hornby's novel about a rich,
idle Londoner (Mr. Grant, of course) who finds redemption through his
friendship with a shy 12-year-old (Nicholas Hoult). It opens
Mr. Grant is known in the film industry as a meticulous performer who
takes his time to prepare a role — someone who works hard to make it
look easy — though that isn't a trait he admires in
himself. "Sometimes I think I'm over-prepared," Mr. Grant said, "and
that's a huge mistake. You can be really darn good in rehearsal and
then never quite reach that point again. It's better to be a bit lost
in rehearsal and then suddenly it happens in the take, and there it
is on celluloid."
"I tell myself to be spontaneous on every film, but I never really
do," he said. "I pass on to panic about two weeks before filming, and
I start going through the script with a fine- tooth comb. Even on the
one I'm doing now with Sandy, when you're suddenly given a scene that
was written the night before or you can fill in a bit and make up
some dialogue, that's always the best stuff — fresh as a daisy. The
biggest laughs that my characters get in films tend to be improvised
Like that other Grant, Cary, Mr. Grant is often accused of simply
playing himself. "I could be playing an Eskimo rapist," Mr. Grant
said, "and the British journalists, in particular, will always say,
`Oh, that's just Hugh being Hugh.'
He added: "I do certainly look for the connecting points, but I think
any actor does. Particularly in a leading part you try to marry up as
much of that character with stuff in your own life as you possibly
can to minimize the amount you actually have to act because acting
looks ghastly on a big screen."