IT'S a strange thought, given the sheer popularity of Four Weddings and a Funeral, and the extent to which many people still see it as Hugh Grant's signature role, that he was the 72nd actor to audition for the role of Charles, the guy who tries to win Andie MacDowell by shyly quoting a line from an old Partridge Family hit.
Richard Curtis, who wrote the screenplay, recalls: "Hugh Grant was, I think, the 72nd person we auditioned for the lead in Four Weddings, and was the first one to make it seem funny at all."
You'd be hard-pressed to think of 71 other actors who could have filled the role back then, in 1994. Nevertheless, Grant did a perfect job in the role, and it made his name.
I've had a soft spot for Grant ever since - or despite - an embarrassing encounter with him, a couple of years before Four Weddings.
He had acted in a film called Bitter Moon, which had been directed by Roman Polanski and which co-starred Kristin Scott Thomas, Peter Coyote and Emmanuelle Seigner. It's an interesting film, one worth checking out - especially (and I can't recommend this too highly) if it's your intention to interview Grant about it.
I made my way to an Edinburgh hotel to interview him, conscious that (for reasons long since forgotten) I hadn't seen a single frame of Bitter Moon. The idea on such occasions is that you watch the film then, armed with lots of insightful questions, talk to the star about his role.
Inside the room, Grant and I shook hands. And then I heard myself explain, falteringly, self-consciously, that I didn't have a clue what Bitter Moon was about, and could he fill me in?
He looked nonplussed, but he is nothing if not professional, and he discussed the film in some detail. I tried to keep my end up by asking some questions. We were probably both quietly relieved when the interview was over. I feared I'd come across as nothing so much as an amateur who had stumbled into a professional's job.
I haven't been able to watch Grant's later film, Notting Hill, without thinking of that interview. In it, he plays a bookshop owner who finds himself in a hotel suite interviewing a major star (Julia Roberts) without having seen her film and being forced to desperately think of some questions, as a journalist from, of all publications, Horse and Hound magazine. The embarrassment he feels is something I once knew well.
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