first_imgEithne Bradley defends Hugh Grant’s acting talentPretty much any block-busting British film of the last decade will have featured one man: the wonderful, fluttery-eyed Hugh John Mungo Grant. Many people, the majority of them male, have some kind of in-built allergy to Hugh. A friend pointed out his undeniable slight squint. Huge swathes of the population cannot successfully identify any differences between his film roles. His stammer causes violent reactions in a few unlucky souls. However, he still manages to get work and, crucially, people go and watch his films. Who hasn’t seen Notting Hill? Who didn’t lie, overstuffed with mince pies, in front of Love Actually on Christmas Day? In spite of all this supposed antipathy towards him, thousands of people, every year, flock to his films. Therefore, there must exist a deep undercurrent of ashamed devotion to the quintessential floppy-haired Englishman, because he is, in fact, a gifted actor.Take, for example, his performance in Bridget Jones. How does he manage to be so unpleasant and yet so alluring at the same time? His shaded blue eyes pin Bridget to the spot, and his endlessly entertaining personality utterly eclipses that of stolid Mark Darcy. Nobody lies awake dreaming of the worthy human rights lawyer. They fantasise about the thoroughly immoral ravishing of a very bad man. Julia Roberts didn’t stand a chance in Notting Hill, as his lovable loser character exudes all the charm of a fairytale prince.It may be true that he hasn’t taken on many serious roles. But comedy is arguably a finer art than ‘serious’ acting: if jokes fall flat, so does the actor’s career. It is a credit to Hugh that he has played to his own strengths for so long. And what British film would be complete without him? As soon as his features appear on screen, the viewer settles into his or her comfort zone: it’s reassuring. You won’t be frightened senseless. People’s feelings may be hurt, but only temporarily. And you’ll watch most of it with a little smile on your face, happy and safe in the gentle glow of a British romantic comedy.Perhaps the man himself puts it best: ‘I’ve never been tempted to do the part where I cry or get AIDS or save some people from a concentration camp just to get good reviews. I genuinely believe that comedy acting, light comedy acting, is as hard, if not harder, than serious acting, and it genuinely doesn’t bother me that all the prizes and the good reviews automatically by knee-jerk reaction go to the deepest, darkest, most serious performances and parts. It makes me laugh.’last_img

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