Hugh Grant

Also Credited As:

Hughie Grant, Hugh John Mungo Grant
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Biography

Though he made his name playing the easygoing and somewhat befuddled Brit in several winning romantic comedies, actor Hugh Grant was a meticulous and often exacting performer, wary of celebrity while making sure to exercise full control over the roles he chose. After breaking through with the Merchant-Ivory adaptation of "The Remains of the Day" (1993), Grant became a star with his turn as a charming, but stammering Brit unlucky in love in …
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Job Title

Actor, Producer, Music

Born

Hugh John Mungo Grant on September 9, 1960 in London, England, GB

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About

Though he made his name playing the easygoing and somewhat befuddled Brit in several winning romantic comedies, actor Hugh Grant was a meticulous and often exacting performer, wary of celebrity while making sure to exercise full control over the roles he chose. After breaking through with the Merchant-Ivory adaptation of "The Remains of the Day" (1993), Grant became a star with his turn as a charming, but stammering Brit unlucky in love in "Four Weddings and a Funeral" (1994). But he became a household name not for any role he played, but because of one particularly embarrassing moment with a Hollywood prostitute that eradicated his somewhat wholesome image. A quickly forgiving public helped keep Grant in the spotlight, however, thanks to his performances in "Nine Months" (1995), "Sense and Sensibility" (1995) and "Notting Hill" (1999). While his high-profile and long-term relationship with actress and model Elizabeth Hurley may have ended in disappointment in 2000, Grant's career hit new highs with "Bridget Jones's Diary" (2001) and "About a Boy" (2002) - the latter of which being widely regarded as the best performance of his career. Though he seemingly went on autopilot for the sequel "Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason" (2004) and the whimsical "Music and Lyrics" (2007), Grant managed to cement himself as the go-to leading man for interesting and amusing romantic comedies.

Born on Sept. 9, 1960 in London, England, Grant was raised by his father, James, a British Army officer who served with the Seaforth Highlanders who became a carpet salesman and successful artist, and his mother, Fynvola, a teacher of French, Latin and music. As a descendant of British royalty that included the 4th Viscount of Strathallan and the 1st Earl of Nottingham, Grant was afforded a rather comfortable upbringing, though he later admitted it was far from affluent. After beginning his education at the Hogarth Primary School, he attended the Latymer Upper School on scholarship, where he excelled in his studies and played rugby, soccer and cricket. Continuing his education, Grant earned a scholarship to attend the New College, Oxford, where he studied English literature while seeking a creative outlet in acting by joining the Oxford University Dramatic Society. Grant made his feature debut in "Privileged" (1982), a drama about a group of young undergraduates that was financed by the Oxford Film Foundation. After graduating Oxford with honors, he bounced around from odd job to odd job, working as a groundsman, tutor, sketch comedy writer and advertising copywriter.

Turning his creative outlet into a potential career, Grant joined the Nottingham Playhouse in order to obtain his Equity card, though he soon became bored playing small parts. To alleviate his ennui, Grant formed a comedy revue called The Jockeys of Norfolk and toured the local pub circuit. The troupe eventually became something of a hit after performing at the annual Edinburgh Festival. Meanwhile, he made his American television debut with a small role in "Jenny's War" (syndicated, 1985), a two-part miniseries set during World War II about an American mother (Dyan Cannon) to a British pilot missing in Germany who sets off to find her son. He returned to features with a starring role in the Merchant-Ivory drama, "Maurice" (1987), playing the aristocratic and sexually ambiguous Clive Durham, who shocks his closer friend (James Wilby) by declaring his love for him. The part earned Grant considerable recognition, leading to roles in "Bengali Nights" (1988) and Ken Russell's vampire thriller "The Lair of the White Worm" (1988). That same year, he was featured in "The Dawning" with Anthony Hopkins and portrayed Lord Byron in "Rowing with the Wind," which marked the only film Grant made opposite longtime companion, actress and model Elizabeth Hurley.

With his career on the rise, Grant became choosier with his roles; eventually becoming downright notorious for his reluctance to embrace celebrity. After playing legendary composer Frederic Chopin opposite Judy Davis' George Sand in James Lapine's feature debut, "Impromptu" (1991), he was a prim and proper Brit married to a classically English woman (Kristen Scott-Thomas), both of whom become seduced into the debauched and sadistic lifestyle of a crippled American writer (Peter Coyote) and his French wife (Emmanuelle Seigner) in Roman Polanski's erotic thriller "Bitter Moon" (1992). Grant had his breakthrough role in "The Remains of the Day" (1993) opposite Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson, playing the son of the dead Lord Darlington (James Fox). He next delivered an impressive turn as a somewhat repressed British minister at once disapproving of and besotted by the lifestyle of freethinking Australian artist Norman Lindsay (Sam Neill) and his beautiful nude models in the droll period comedy "Sirens" (1994). But it was the surprise comedy hit, "Four Weddings and a Funeral" (1994), that would turn Grant into a star. With an acclaimed performance as the most unlikely of romantic heroes, Grant exuded charm as the stammering, unlucky in love Brit who finally finds his match in Carrie (Andie MacDowell), an aloof but passionate American woman. Grant's performance in the Mike Newell film enchanted audiences and critics; many of whom likened him to past witty and dashing cinematic leads like David Niven and Cary Grant.

"Four Weddings and a Funeral" flung open the doors to Hollywood, cementing Grant's image as an occasionally caddish, but imminently likeable screen personality. But as soon as he was enjoying his newfound success, the notoriously guarded actor faced scandalous public embarrassment just months before the release of his next film, "Nine Months" (1995). In June of that year, Grant was arrested along with Hollywood prostitute, Divine Brown, after a police officer became suspicious of him repeatedly applying the brakes of his BMW while parked on a side street off Sunset Boulevard. The officer discovered Brown performing oral sex on Grant and promptly arrested both, charging the actor with a misdemeanor for lewd conduct in a public place. After pleading no contest, he was fined a small amount, placed on two years' probation and required to complete an AIDS education program. He even escaped serious damage from the public, though his mug shot was displayed on virtually every media outlet for several months. Grant emerged virtually unscathed, reportedly getting even more movie offers following the scandal. However, his beautiful model-turned-actress girlfriend Hurley was a different matter. British tabloid photographers caught the couple in a backyard screaming match over the humiliation. Meanwhile, the actor continued to win over many stateside with the heartfelt public apology given to Hurley and his family in a particularly uncomfortable, but courageous "Tonight Show" appearance, even squirming when host Jay Leno famously asked the question on everyone's mind" "What were you thinking?"

Despite being a moderately crude and uneven romantic comedy about a single man dealing with sudden fatherhood, "Nine Months" benefited at the box office from Grant's sudden notoriety. But the scandal did little to appease his critics, most of whom found the film formulaic and uninspired, but certainly interesting for its ironic arrest scene, which was trimmed following Grant's real life run-in with the law. More well received was his turn in the endearing comedy released just prior to his arrest, "The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill but Came Down a Mountain" (1995), in which he played a map surveyor who deems a Welsh village's legendary mountain no more than a hill and is entwined in the town's ploys to build it up and have it remeasured. After reuniting with Mike Newell for "An Awfully Big Adventure" (1995), Grant closed out a busy year with a featured role in Ang Lee's superior take on Jane Austen's "Sense and Sensibility" (1995), co-starring as the unwitting heartbreaker Edward opposite Emma Thompson's refined Elinor. Though noted more for Thompson's Oscar-winning adaptation and the emergence of Kate Winslet as a bona fide star, Grant nonetheless held his own. Though if there was a weak link in the film, critics pointed figures in his directions, saying he looked the least comfortable in the starched period clothing; as if he might stutter and stammer his way through a scene.

Taking on a rare Hollywood-style role, Grant starred opposite Gene Hackman as doctors on opposite sides of a mortal ethical battle in the ho-hum psychological thriller, "Extreme Measures" (1996), the maiden outing of Simian Films, Grant and Hurley's joint production company. The film proved to be an unsuccessful venture, with audiences responding poorly to his dramatic role in the dark and disturbing film. Meanwhile, Grant disappeared from the screen for a time, but reemerged with the charming romantic comedy "Notting Hill" (1999), in which he played a failed bookshop owner who enters a relationship with world famous film star Anna Scott (Julia Roberts). The film, written and produced by the team behind "Four Weddings and a Funeral," was a well-reviewed early summer hit and proved a victorious comeback for Grant who was back working his romantic comedy bread and butter. Next up was Simian Films' sophomore effort, the Mafia-themed comedy "Mickey Blue Eyes" (1999), starring Grant as an art dealer who finds that the father of his fiancée (Jeanne Tripplehorn) wants to use his auction house to launder money for her Mafia father (James Caan). Grant then segued to a leading role in Woody Allen's "Small Time Crooks" (2000), playing a posh art dealer who helps a former stripper (Tracy Ullman) married to a down-and-out con man (Allen) make the switch from low class to high society.

By the time the new millennium rolled around, Grant had formerly split with longtime girlfriend, Hurley, who had surprisingly stuck with him following his arrest five years earlier with Divine Brown. Both fans and tabloid editors mourned the loss of one of the most glamorous couples of the nineties, but the two remained close friends. When Hurley would go through very public battles with her ex-boyfriend, billionaire Stephen Bing, who refused to acknowledge his paternity of Hurley's new son, Damien, Grant stood by her side and became one of several godfathers to the boy. Meanwhile, he took on the role of Daniel Cleaver, the sleazy but irresistible boss whose antics fill up many pages in "Bridget Jones's Diary" (2001), a role that may have been his ultimate charming scoundrel performance. The following year, Grant delivered both the comedic and dramatic performance of his career in "About a Boy" (2002). He played a wealthy, child-free, irresponsible Londoner who, in search of available women, invents an imaginary son and starts attending single parent meetings, only to meet Marcus, an odd 12-year-old with problems at school and a depressed mother at home. Gradually, Will teaches the boy how to be cool at school, while Marcus helps Will to finally grow up. With the role, Grant perfected all the callow characters he had played in the past, but also invested the part with more warmth, wit and sensitivity than he had previously displayed. Later that same year, he returned to the romantic comedy genre, teaming with Sandra Bullock in "Two Weeks Notice" (2002), in which he further displayed his crackerjack comedic timing playing another self-centered wastrel who is forced to open his heart to romance. Unfortunately, the third time was not a charm, as "Two Weeks Notice" broke Grant's hot streak, due in part to the material and the fact that his co-star simply failed to reach his level when it came to comic timing.

Joining "Four Weddings," "Notting Hill" and "Bridget Jones" screenwriter Richard Curtis when he made his directorial debut, Grant was part of the all-star ensemble cast for the winning "Love Actually" (2003), which comprised a series of intertwining romantic comedy plotlines. Grant's story had him in his most affable form as the new Prime Minister of England, who falls inescapably in love with the woman who brings him his tea (Martine McCutcheon). Despite mixed reviews in the states, the film went on to do exceptionally well at the box office, taking in almost $250 million worldwide. Grant reprised Daniel Cleaver for the sequel, "Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason" (2004), which paled in comparison to its more clever and endearing predecessor. In "American Dreamz" (2006), a rather disappointing satire on "American Idol" and the then presidency of George W. Bush, he played the smarmy, self-aggrandizing host of a popular singing competition looking for the next wannabe star. He next starred in "Music and Lyrics" (2007), a romantic comedy that focused on the romance between a lyricist (Drew Barrymore) and a washed-up musician (Grant). Around the time of the film's release, Grant's publicist announced his split with socialite Jemima Khan after three years of companionship. Grant continued to be the go-to British actor for American romantic comedies with "Did You Hear About the Morgans?" (2009), which paired him with Sarah Jessica Parker as a divorcing couple brought back together after they witness a murder and become targets of a contract killer.

After a decades-long combative, and sometimes litigious, relationship with the British tabloid press, Grant enjoyed a bit of payback with an article he penned for the U.K.'s New Statesman in April 2011. The article, entitled "The Bugger, Bugged" essayed a conversation between Grant and Paul McMullen, a former editor and investigative journalist at the Rupert Murdoch-owned News of the World. Unbeknownst to McMullen, the actor surreptitiously recorded their entire conversation, in which Grant extracted several incriminating admissions by the journalist about long-standing ethical violations committed by the newspaper, one of England's oldest. Although the article and its revelations gained considerable exposure in Grant's home country, after the News of the World wire tapping scandal broke in the summer of 2011, Grant suddenly found himself as the unofficial spokesman for the universal outrage directed at News of the World in particular, and the practices of tabloid journalism in general. In July of that year, Murdoch announced that the newspaper - plagued by phone-hacking and corruption allegations - would be shut down after a more than 160-year run as a Sunday weekly.