Most Known For: “Love Actually “Notting Hill,” “Four Weddings and a Funeral”
Snubbed For: “Four Weddings and a Funeral,” “About a Boy”
Typecasting is a problem Hollywood has that often bleeds into the collective thought of the general population. If an actor or actress continually plays a certain type of character well, then they should just keep playing that type of character. However, that pigeon hole’s not only what the actor might do in the future, but it dilutes past work that might have been different. This case can certainly be made for the career of Hugh Grant.
Grant is today considered one of the biggest rom-com leads of his generation who often attaches himself to shamefully bad movies. It has led in some cases to his career to be snickered at. But when you look back at some of his work, his charm is always present to be sure, but there are performances that we as a populous have overlooked, and perhaps the academy has as well.
Grant did not start out as the go-to Brit for romantic comedies, in fact the early part of his career is filled with more dramatic/thriller type films than anything. It wasn’t until the early 90s, more specifically 1994 that his status as leading love interest would really start to settle in. Even so, his first big romantic comedy was one of the most highly regarded of the 90s.
“Four Weddings and a Funeral” was not only a romantic comedy that won over audiences and critics alike, it was Grant’s true breakout performance, also with both critics and audiences. Grant would find himself nominated by the Golden Globes for Best Actor and wound up a winner with the London Critics Circle (a special achievement award for his performance), the Chicago Film Critics (for most promising actor) and the BAFTAs for Best Actor – though his homefield advantage might have helped that last one. “Four Weddings and a Funeral” was widely considered a standout in a stacked 1994, earning a Best Picture nomination and Screenplay nomination. Grant missed out in a hell of a field, but his performance should not be slighted for that.
1995 was the actor’s biggest year when he starred in five films, including “The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill and Came Down a Mountain,” “Nine Months” and “Sense and Sensibility.” “Nine Months” is the film that most probably remember him from, but his turn in “Sense and Sensibility” is fun to watch if for nothing else then it is almost the exact opposite of what we think of Hugh Grant doing today.
His love interest label would become his trademark with films like “Notting Hill” and “Bridget Jones’s Diary” – both well respected films in their own right – but perhaps his best brush with Oscar came in 2002 when he starred in “About a Boy.” As an immature adult is taught how to truly be a grown-up by a wise beyond his years little boy, Grant had perhaps his most Oscar friendly role to date. Critics certainly took to him, once again the Globes, Chicago and London Critics rallied around him, with wins in the latter two. He once again faced an all-star lineup and was left off the ballot for a second time.
It’s post “About a Boy” Hugh Grant that people nowadays first associate with. And save for “Love Actually,” until we got out of the oughts Grant’s choices are less than inspiring. Even after 2010, his choices thus far haven’t really connected – “Cloud Atlas” is certainly a mess and “The Rewrite” a forgotten indie – but they are at least more ambitious.
There is no reason, however, to assume that Grant can’t right the ship and perhaps find himself an Oscar nominee one-day. Five years ago would anyone have begged Matthew McConaughey as an Oscar-winner? Before “Brokeback Mountain” was Heath Ledger much more than a teen heartthrob. Those actors were able to break previous stereotypes, so why can’t Grant eventually surprise.
On the horizon, Grant will have a role opposite Meryl Streep in the Stephen Frear’s directed “Florence Foster Jenkins,” and with those two involved you know there will at least be some early speculation about Oscar potential. In the more immediate future, Grant will be providing a helping hand to Guy Ritchie’s “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.,” which hopefully be a fun caper.
The past is often the best indicator of one’s future, but sometimes it can also blind us to the possibility of things. Grant may have been the clichéd love interest in many romantic comedies, but that doesn’t mean he is incapable of more, because, as detailed above, he has shown us he already is.