Hugh Grant delights in playing the villain in HBO’s ‘The Undoing’

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These days, Hugh Grant wants to play the bad guy. Before taking the role in HBO’s “The Undoing,” he says, “The only thing I needed to check was that I was the murderer.” Photo by Niko Tavernise/HBO

Starting in the mid 1990s, Hugh Grant was famous as the charming, slightly awkward but still witty heart throb in a string of romantic comedies including “Four Weddings and a Funeral,” “Notting Hill” and “Love Actually.”

Now at 60, Grant has been embracing his dark side. In last year’s HBO series “The Undoing,” Grant plays a fabulously wealthy doctor and doting father and husband … who actually may not  be any of those things. He’s also played the bad guy in “Paddington 2” and the Amazon series “A Very English Scandal.” 

Off-screen, Grant sits on the board of Hacked Off, a group founded in 2011 in response to revelations of phone hacking that had been rampant in the UK, specifically at Rupert Murdoch’s “News of the World.” 

Grant was among the celebrities and politicians who were targets of the hacking — as were non-famous people, including victims of the 2005 London bombings and even 13-year-old murder victim Milly Dowler. Before her body was discovered, reporters from “News of the World” got into her voicemail and deleted messages, leading her family to think that she might still be alive.  

A decade ago, Grant turned the tables and secretly recorded a former “News of the World” reporter and photographer who confirmed Grant had been a victim of the paper’s phone hacking. 

Because of Rupert Murdoch’s connection to “News of the World,” Grant has refused to appear in any Fox movies while the Murdochs owned the studio (Fox has since been sold to Disney). He says he doesn’t like “preaching actors” and that other performers are “entitled to do whatever they want. I just personally wouldn't want to work for him.” 

Grant also discusses his “mature career renaissance” (as Wikipedia calls it). His delight in taking on the role of the villain came after a period of crippling anxiety. 

“I got this thing about 20 years ago where I suddenly, for no reason at all in the middle of shooting a film, was doing a perfectly easy straightforward scene, and I just started panicking,” Grant says.  

“And the problem is, it’s just embarrassing. Because there you are, and suddenly you can’t time a joke, you can’t remember your lines, your armpits are pouring sweat, they have to keep coming in and mopping you down. You can’t breathe properly. And I thought, ‘What the devil’s going on here?’”

Now that Grant has his groove back, he says he asks himself two questions before taking on any job: “Is this an interesting role? And is this whole project going to entertain anyone? Because for me it just seems utterly pointless to do anything in terms of filmmaking if you’re not going to create an entertainment that people actually get to enjoy.”

Credits

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Host:

Kim Masters

Producer:

Kaitlin Parker