Saturday, 27 June 2015

27th June 1995: A Field Day For Journos and a Good Year for Grant

June 27th marks twenty years since Hugh Grant's Los Angeles arrest for lewd conduct and the press storm surrounding it. Even now, his mug shot can easily be googled, there is merchandise to be bought featuring the so famous (or infamous?) picture and the subject has been brought up against him multiple times since he became a campaigner and frontman for HackedOff, an organisation that, in its own words, campaigns for a free and accountable press.

The actor survived the media frenzy by charming his way through it, much like any of his onscreen characters would have done. He appeared on talk shows to openly apologise for doing “a bad thing”, most notably on Jay Leno’s The Tonight Show, in an episode that drew such an audience so as to shoot the show straight to the top of the ratings.

I will not go into the merits of whether he did a bad thing or not, whether then-girlfriend Elizabeth Hurley should have forgiven him or not (many sources state that she left him at that point but that is incorrect - their relationship lasted into the year 2000 when they split amicably).

His public persona was advertised by the press for all the wrong reasons, causing speculation as to how the film he was meant to be promoting at the time - Nine Months - would fare after such news. It seems that he escaped the episode untarnished and said he got even more film offers than ever afterwards. However, even two decades later, upon uttering his name I have come across many who are quick to remind me of that one incident in his life.

Rather than finishing off his career, the incident made him more widely known and 1995 spelt one of the most productive years of his career. He starred in four films that were released that year, as well as taking part in a fifth but only in a minor role whilst leaving the spotlight to Robert Downey Jr. His performances that year might have been numerous, but so were the nominations and awards for his stellar performance in the 1994 Four Weddings and A Funeral, which included a Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Comedy/Musical as well as a BAFTA for Best Actor.

These are Grant’s films from that year in order of release:

An Awfully Big Adventure (released 7th April) - Fantastic performance by Hugh as a disgusting villain in this dark comedy. Director Mike Newell had praise aplenty for Hugh's performance as the erring Meredith Potter. This is, according to myself, the one character he ever played which will get no sympathy, not even from hardcore fans! (read my review here: http://vintagehew.blogspot.com/2014/09/an-awfully-big-adventure-1995.html)

The Englishman Who Went Up A Hill But Came Down A Mountain (released 12th May) -  here he co-stars for a second time with Tara Fitzgerald, who played his partner also in Sirens. He plays his usual soft persona and is once again an Englishman out of his depth, this time in rural Wales.

Nine Months (released 12th July) - Hugh was in America to promote this film when he got caught by police on Sunset Boulevard. Hugh's and Julianne Moore's performances are the one good thing about this film. The direction, by Chris Columbus who later went on to direct the first two instalments in the Harry Potter film series, is very pitiful indeed. The scenes connect jaggedly at best and the comedy elements have all been used before.

Sense and Sensibility (released 13th December) - Hugh makes a much more interesting Edward Ferrars to the one in the book, in this adaptation of Jane Austen's classic novel. Starring Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet as the impoverished Dashwood girls, it features heroes (Alan Rickman, Hugh Grant) and a loser (Greg Wise) with quite a few twists along the way to love. Some describe Hugh as too stiff and boring in this film however it is the character in the book that is like that and he is merely being a good actor.

Hugh and Emma were both present on The Graham Norton Show last October, reminiscing about this film, and Hugh pointed out that in addition to being grumpy on set, he got arrested half-way through the filming. When he was once asked by Oprah whether he liked himself in the film, he said no because of the unflattering costumes, whilst gesturing at his neck and pretending he was wearing a high buttoned up collar.

Restoration (released 29th December) - Grant plays a minor part whilst leaving the leading role to Robert Downey Jr in this historical drama. In an unauthorised biography, Dan Whitehead suggests Hugh was happy to “ease himself back into acting without drawing too much attention.” (page 101) He is here reunited with director Michael Hoffman, who directed him also in his first ever role (Privileged 1982). (read my review here: http://vintagehew.blogspot.com/2014/12/a-michael-hoffman-film-restoration-1995.html)

NB - The above picture was kindly provided by Christopher Cilia and was taken at the Prostitution Museum in Amsterdam.




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