hugh grant

Hugh Grant at the London Hotel in NYC. (Brad Balfour photo)

*With badly written cartoon like characters in S&M movies doing boffo business at the box office, Hugh Grant is safe to say the romantic comedies might be waning. Grant has appeared in some of the best written romantic comedies (“Love Actually,” “About a Boy,” “Notting Hill,” “Bridget Jones Diary”) to hit the screens. His current release, “The Rewrite,” not only aims at the heart but also draws attention to life’s second chances.

Grant, who now divides his time between acting and politics, was at the London Hotel in New York City to promote “The Rewrite,” in which he plays an Award winning Hollywood screenwriter (Keith Michaels) down on his luck. With bad debts and writer’s block, he takes a job as a guest screenwriting professor at a remote university in upstate New York. He has no problem finding sex and love because the female students are enamored with him. But more importantly, he finds himself.

In the following interview, Grant’s honesty is key to making him just as hilarious off the screen as on.

Hugh, since there are a lot of actors and directors teaching master classes, was that an idea for this?

I was persuaded by a pretty girl to give a master class in college. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I liked the power trip, and I liked exploiting the students.

What do you think of this technologically obsessed generation and the future of romantic comedies?

I always wondered if one could anymore make a romantic comedy because people under 25 or 30 maybe don’t talk much. I mean, how would you do it? Every shot would be a close-up of the phone. When I meet young people they frequently say, ‘Can I get a picture, get a selfie?’ Sometimes I’m not in the mood and say, ‘Well, I don’t really want to do a selfie, but do I have a chance with you?’ It’s a strange set of priorities.

This is a comedy but there is a somewhat more serious subtext, however satirical, about creative freedom versus creative control in Hollywood and meaningful art. Did you relate to that personally?

I’ve never had any standards in particular. I Just think, ‘does this thing make me laugh, did I get bored reading the script,’ and if I didn’t get bored and I did laugh and I thought it came into that narrow little area where I might be able to perform it. I’ll tell you what I am quite proud of; since ‘Four Weddings and a Funeral, I’ve never done a job just for the money. Whereas before I did ‘Four Weddings and a Funeral,’ I only did jobs for the money.

You’ve spoken about not confusing celebrity with self-worth in the past. Was that also a draw for you?

Well I suppose. I mean, I like the way that my character learns that there are other metrics by which to judge yourself than money and how much you’re wanted in one particular trade. Keith is wanted by his students, valued by them and by the university. I think that’s rather touching. It’s been a huge surprise to me with my children, they value me despite the fact that I don’t make many films anymore, doing politics and stuff. It’s like what happens to Keith.

How was it working with Marisa Tomei?

I’m frightened of her. I’m still frightened of her, because she’s so good, and so much the opposite of me in terms of how she comes to a roll. She’s a proper New York Method Actress, and so she knew exactly why she said every line. I haven’t the faintest idea why I said any line, except they sounded right. I’m probably not quite that bad, but I mean she’s really, really into all that stuff. And one does sometimes roll one’s eyes when it’s four in the morning and you’re very cold and she’s saying, ‘But why do I say this line?’ ‘Oh, because then we can all go home.’ But it does pay off for her; she is brilliant.

Some of the funniest scenes are with Marisa showing up in different places doing different jobs. What were some of your survival jobs?

Well I’ve cleaned a lot of lavatories. Yes I have. And, I was rather good at it. But I did hate it. I remember I was cleaning lavatories at IBM in London and I was on my way to work one day and I thought, ‘I really can’t stand this another day, I wish the place would just burn down.’ As I turned the corner, it was burning down. And I didn’t know I had that power. I’ve tried not to use it too much since. [Laughs]

What did you do after that?

Well, I delivered new cars. In those days it was very important that you had to run them in slowly so you were told to drive them at twenty miles an hour. We drove them at 120 miles an hour, and I crashed one. I was fired from that job. I was a very good waiter in a gay restaurant, the Kings Road. I got a lot of tips because I was very flirty. It had a large gay clientele and I wiggled my bottom.

Syndicated Entertainment journalist Marie Moore reports on film and TV from her New York City base. Contact her at [email protected]