Music & Lyrics - Hugh Grant interview
Interview by Rob Carnevale
HUGH Grant talks about singing on film for the first time in romantic comedy Music & Lyrics and generating the right chemistry with his co-star, Drew Barrymore.
He also discusses why he’s becoming increasingly grumpy as time goes by and why he prefers to stick to comedy rather than drama.
How hard is it to generate good chemistry?
Hugh Grant: I think chemistry is a weird one. You have no idea really. Total luck. Quite often you do a film and you think this is marvellous chemistry and the film comes out and everyone says there was zip and conversely there are films – like this one – where you absolutely loathe your co-star and everyone says there was marvellous chemistry [laughs]. I do, of course, love working with Drew and I thought we had marvellous chemistry.
Would you like to enter the Eurovision song contest now that you’ve sung on film? How did you enjoy the singing? Did you ever dry up?
Hugh Grant: I’m keeping my fingers crossed for the Eurovision. The singing thing, generally, has been a miracle and I hereby confess it’s mostly fakery. I couldn’t believe how clever computers are these days – you can literally bark like a dog and after they work on it for a day it comes out like Pavarotti.
Have I ever dried? Yeah, I dry all the time now, it’s one of my major problems. About once every two weeks I’ll be doing a scene and one of my armpits starts to sweat like a wolf and my tongue swells to twice its normal size and I can’t remember any lines at all. The make-up guy brings my brown paper bag which I can breathe into because I’m hyperventilating. It’s a tragic story… and it’s getting worse.
Does this film let you live out your rock star fantasies?
Hugh Grant: I have many fantasies but oddly enough being a rock star is not one of them. I’m always being teased by my friends for being something of a freak for not being madly into music. Puppet on a String, Godspell and when you’ve said that you’ve covered most of my record collection. I’ve never been a big music person and therefore in many ways I’m shockingly miscast.
So how did you go about discovering your own inner pop?
Hugh Grant: I could get the piano and the singing but actually standing there and selling a song was incredibly difficult. We had a choreographer, a brilliant choreographer, and we had these sessions where he’d stand there and say: “OK Hugh, I’m going to play the music really loud and I just want you to express yourself.” Half an hour later I’d still be standing there, stock-still – I have no self to express. There is literally no dance in me. So, for the first time in my life I had to resort to alcohol and had quite a nice day.
Isn’t it true that you had rather an illustrious music teacher at school?
Hugh Grant: By coincidence my music teacher in Hammersmith was Mrs Lloyd Webber but I wasted that opportunity. She made me sit on three telephone directories, I was a tiny child, and I gave up after a week.
You’re starting to sounding like a grumpy old man. What sort of things irritate you?
Hugh Grant: It would be much quicker to tell you what doesn’t, literally everything. If I’m sending a text and I have to wait – you know sometimes there are three letters on the same button and I have to wait – I’m almost in despair with rage. If there’s a very nice elderly person in front of me in the queue at the post office I want to throw them bodily to the floor, and that can’t be healthy.
Do you still enjoying playing playboys and lotharios?
Hugh Grant: I quite like it. That’s not the aspect that attracts me to them particularly. I remember doing Bridget Jones and finding that women were strangely drawn to that character, but then women are inexplicable.
Do you agree that comedy is harder to do than drama? And would you like to do more drama?
Hugh Grant: I have from time to time experimented with serious roles. I don’t mind doing it, it’s just that the film always bombs so you tend to lose heart. And to be absolutely honest, there are a lot of people who do comedy who have this convulsive need every other film to go and do something serious to prove they can act. I don’t feel that same need.
I feel defensive of comedy. I think it’s very difficult. I’ve never really seen the point of me in a serious thing. I’m OK but it’s nothing special. If you want deep and serious get a Fiennes brother or Daniel Day Lewis. It’s more fun doing these things where I bring something to the party that others can’t.
Who are your favourite comedians?
Hugh Grant: It’s difficult not to revere Ricky Gervais and Sacha Baron Cohen, those are two of the funniest things I have ever seen in my life [The Office and Borat]. Every decade throws up another hero for me. Woody Allen, I’ve loved for most of my life and Steve Martin, I don’t think there’s anything much funnier than Bowfinger. John Cleese, Peter Sellers, The Pythons…
Do you ever worry, like your character Alex, that you might find that your career has gone away?
Hugh Grant: My feeling is that there are two kinds of going away. One is where you decline in a rather undignified way with a series of worse and worse films and people say: “Oh, he’s really hit rock bottom.” I would hate that, I’m too vain for that.
On the other hand, I think if you just give up when you’re still doing alright, I think that has some dignity. It’s what Audrey Hepburn did and I’ve pretty much based my whole career on her.