Oral History: Hugh Grant on Richard Curtis - Nasty or Nice?

by Elisa Leonelli October 26, 2020
Hugh Grant

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Hugh Grant played the romantic leading man in several movies scripted by Richard Curtis, Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994) with Andie MacDowell directed by Mike Newell, Notting Hill (1999) with Julia Roberts directed by Roger Michell, and Love Actually (2003) that he also directed.

But in real life, he may not be as nice as he seems in those movies.  He said to HFPA journalists in various interviews:

“I have moments or days when Mr. Nasty Hugh appears, and there's nothing I can do about it. All actors are a bit selfish and I'm very guilty of that sin, so, occasionally, I’m a bit cruel with my tongue, if I'm in a bad mood. And I don't know where all that comes from, possibly I've been overly influenced by certain characters from books that I thought were funny. Evelyn Waugh might have had a pernicious influence on my life because he's such a great writer, but there's so much bile in his novels. I seem to like my literature nasty.”

“As an actor, it’s a relief to get Mr. Nasty out sometimes. Everyone likes being a villain and it’s fun for me to play somebody nearer to myself for once. That was the attraction of Bridget Jones’s Diary, where I play someone superficially attractive but deep down shallow.  I am not very nice and I do that with relish. I had been looking to break out of a Mr. Nice Guy mode, I’d been stuck in that so long that I was sick of it, the whole world was sick of it. So, it was ideal when this part came along.”

“Richard Curtis, who is one of Helen Fielding’s best friends, had done a rewrite on that script that was completely brilliant. He was particularly enjoying the fact that people would see the real me because he’s always known that it’s a big joke that everyone thinks that I am that nice person from Four Weddings and Funeral and Notting Hill.”

“I hold exactly the diametrically opposite world view to Richard Curtis. He thinks the world is full of love and I think it’s full of hatred and greed. He sees people being quite nice to each other, loving their family and falling in love, or whatever, he sees that as the reality and doesn’t understand why it’s not celebrated more. He’s always been very positivist and I have always been the reverse of that, I’m very much a glass half empty person, he’s a glass half full.”

“It has always been a source of hilarity to him that people have associated me with the characters I play in his films, these nice, positive human beings because he knows the ugly truth. Mainly at my age, I find that most of my conversations are about bitching and being unpleasant about other people behind their backs. That’s really what makes me happiest.”