Actor Hugh Grant, who became the poster boy for the charming British fop in romantic comedies such as Four Weddings and a Funeral and Notting Hill, is delighted not to be part of Hollywood anymore.
Grant channels his feelings in his latest film, The Rewrite, as Keith, a washed-up screenwriter who moves to a small New York town to give a college course on the sometimes cynical and occasionally realistic perils of Hollywood.
Grant, 54, has also been active since 2011 in the Hacked Off campaign, which is dedicated to raising awareness about the victims of press abuse. He gave evidence at the Leveson inquiry into the culture and ethics of the British media and accused several British tabloid newspapers of intruding into his personal life and hacking his telephone.
The actor talked to Reuters about shedding the rom-com tag, leaving Hollywood and his involvement in Hacked Off.
How do you feel about The Rewrite marketed as a romantic comedy? Do you think that’s acceptable in your eyes?
I did have that fight with Lionsgate, who are brilliant and marvelous distributors, and in the end they convinced me that the marketplace is so crowded with stuff now that you have to give a simple message to the public. You can’t say, “Oh it’s a little bit of a romantic comedy with other genres mixed in”. It becomes too confusing. So they wore me down, except I did manage to get “romantic” taken off the comedy.
Do you empathise with Keith’s views on Hollywood, and how has your perception changed after the experience with the film?
This character still actually loves Hollywood and wants to be part of it, and he’s just sad that he’s not and that he can’t get a job. I’m not quite like that, in that I’m delighted not to be a part of it anymore, apart from occasional dippings of my toe. That doesn’t make me a better person. That’s just my taste.
Why do you not want to be part of it?
I never really was crazy to be out there acting, performing, promoting, all that kind of stuff. It’s fun once in a while, but for some people, it’s their lifeblood… I’ve never felt like that. I’ve felt that there were other things in life that were equally or more interesting.
You’ve taken on the hacking trial. There are certain celebrities that sell themselves to the press and there are also celebrity bloggers who are untrained journalists. What’s your take on that, because people’s personal lives are still invaded?
I think there’s a very common misconception in the campaign that I’ve been part of, in that it’s to do with protecting celebrities from intrusion. It has actually nothing to do with that. That’s the way The Daily Mail will portray it, to belittle it and make it look ludicrous. But it’s completely a non-priority for me and the campaign.
It’s about who really runs the country, the fact that prime ministers have to call newspaper owners before they go to war to make sure it’s OK with the newspaper owner. And it’s about that incredible abuse of power by a few newspaper owners… They live above the law and above any code of ethics because politicians are too afraid to take them on and that’s what we have changed.
You’ve had difficulty with the press in the past. How would you cope if you were a new celebrity in today’s world?
I don’t know. I don’t really know how it works anymore except that I can say that, in 1994, you didn’t really have a voice except from some rather grand PR statements through some PR person. People now with giant Twitter followers, millions more than people who read newspapers, at least they have a voice.
But as I keep saying, what I campaign about has nothing to do with celebrities. I think there’s always going to be a tension between the amount of intrusion that a person in show business wants and the amount that they get, and that’s never been different throughout this time shift.
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