Q: From your own experience with celebrity and fame, do you think Tweed was ever a nice person?
HG: Laughs. No, I don't actually. I think he was very damaged very early on. I think he was born damaged actually. In the way that the gene that some people are born with that makes them want to be famous, want to be in the limelight, is damaged. It's like being born deformed, actually. Laughs. I think his was incredibly powerful. My theory was that he was determined, whatever happened, to be successful and famous, despite the fact that, as his mother said, he had no talent and no one liked him.
Q: Were you such a person in your beginning that you wanted to be famous? Laughs.
HG: Laughs. I honestly don't think I was. I had ambitions, but they were mainly to do with football. I wanted to play in the World Cup. I still haven’t given up hope completely. I don’t ever think I wanted to be in the massive world of limelight, definitely not. Little bit of local limelight. I quite like being the center of attention, you know, out to lunch with my family or something. But that’s as far as it went.
Q: If you could be hosting some program, TV show, what would it be? Do you have a favorite?
HG: I don't know. I don’t think I want to host a show, but I am quite susceptible to reality television. I’m ashamed of that part of myself, as I'm sure we all are. Laughs. There are some good ones. There’s one in England called Wife Swap, which I particularly like. Laughs. There was a brilliant one recently where they took a lot of delinquent, violent teenagers and put them through a 1950’s education, and another one where they put them through an Army boot camp. It was brilliant, really fascinating. Fascinating.
Q: Do you feel that the whole reality television phenomenon affects in a way the development of bigger stars, that we have a little bit less than we used to have?
HG: I haven't thought about that. But someone made an interesting point yesterday that in a way it's quite nice for people who, for instance, just want to do the acting and leave it at that. If you've got these people coming off celebrity shows, if the paparazzi would chase them instead, it does leave a little bit of peace for other people.
Q: Hi, I'm from Sweden, and I'm have a question about soccer. What do you think about England, come summer, and their chances at the World Cup?
HG: I'm so nervous even now, I can hardly speak. Laughs. Did Sweden qualify?
Q: Hey, yeah, of course. Laughs. We’re going to meet in London. We’re in the same group.
HG: Are we? Okay. I genuinely think we have a good chance actually, don't you? Do any of the Swedish team play in Sweden? Laughs.
Q: Funny. Laughs.
HG: No, that’s a serious question.
Q: How do you mean?
HG: Well, surely a lot of them play in the premiere league.
Q: Yeah, of course. Some still play in Swedish league. What do you think about Sven Goran Erickson that's leading England? He's Swedish.
HG: Yes, I was aware of that. I think he's done a good job, actually, if you look at the results. I think he's done a good job. Considering it probably is the worst job, literally, in the world, I think you'd have to say he's done a good job. I think that the hatchet job done on him recently by the News of the World is one of the most repellent and unpatriotic things that newspaper has ever done. Laughs.
Q: Do you think it's a shame that he's quitting?
HG: Well, no. I think he probably had a good enough run.
Q: Hi. You and Mandy Moore seem to have a really good sort of rapport, like there was a good biting back and forth between the two of you. Was that something you had to work at a lot, or was it just something that came naturally between the two of you?
HG: No, that was scripted. Laughs. I thought she was a nice girl. I didn't really know her before the film started, but she's really nice. Very calm. People keep telling me in these interviews that she said she was nervous. She didn't seem nervous at all to me. She seemed absolutely natural and happy in that environment. I think that's quite good for the role actually.
Q: In the '90s, you were a bit of a svengali with the women, doing a few romantic comedies and the ladies loved you. Now in this decade, you seem to be playing the role of a bit of an ass. Do you think you're going to hold the female fans.
HG: That's not my main consideration in life. Some of the less cuddly characters I've played, like in Bridget Jones' Diary or About A Boy, there are women who do quite like that kind of person actually. I'm not sure you're right about that. Anyway, I start tomorrow in another romantic comedy in which I play an '80’s pop star who's fallen on hard times, and he's relatively likeable. He’s not an ass. Laughs.
Q: Do you think, in entering your 40's, you've changed your outlook on fame, celebrity, and how people see you?
HG: Maybe a bit. You get a bit weary and a bit wary, yes.
Q: Any run-ins with Simon Cowell? Do you think he will be angry with you for portraying a similar character on the silver screen?
HG: I don't think so, to be honest. I did meet him at some dinner a couple of months ago in London, and he knew all about it and he seemed very calm. If you're that rich you're calm, I think you know. Laughs. He invented the show and it's an incredible success. Did you know there was Pop Idol in Ethiopia now? It's true. Laughs.
Q: I would like to know your first reaction when you read the script. The director mentioned that maybe you were upset.
HG: No, I was only upset because he told me that he based my character on me, and that he'd written a character that was full of self-loathing and despair and pessimism. Laughs. And that it was me. I always thought the script was excellent, funny, and went to all the places that I like best about Paul Weitz. You know, the sort of black humor - twisted and warped.
Q: Apparently you said the darker part Paul Weitz wrote was in tune with your dark side. Could you describe a little bit of your dark side for us, please.
HG: I would find that hard to do, actually. I’m sorry. Like a lot of people, I do like black humor. I quite like the comedy of honesty, brutal honesty. Paul likes that as well. I used to play a game called Taboo with my friends where you’d say the most repulsive thing you possibly could, preferably about one of their nearest and dearest, and whoever was the first one to beg the other one to stop was the loser. I like that, and that's very Paul.
Q: Can you talk about the political aspect of this film? Was that something that interested you?
HG: Yes. I’ve certainly never done anything particularly like that before. There was a political element to Love Actually, but you couldn’t call it hardcore. Although I liked that - I'm not a very political animal myself. I'm really not. But you don't have to be very political to see that perhaps the Bush administration isn’t quite the administration you'd want to be leading the most powerful country in the world. I had no qualms about coming in on what is I suppose you call a relatively lefty film.
Q: Lately we see you playing more of these men, like Martin or in About A Boy or Bridget Jones, but are you intentionally selecting these parts, and if so, why?
HG: I'm not sure I'm intentionally selecting parts exactly like that, but I'm probably intentionally not selecting cuddly parts. I think maybe I have had my fill of that.
Q: How do you find it to be different between working in the U.S. and the U.K. in the movie industry?
HG: It’s not that much different. Well, there’s a lot more food around on an American film set. I got fatter than I've ever been in my life on American Dreamz. Laughs. And the irony is I was trying to get thin. I thought I’d just eat health bars, because I couldn't find any food I liked in L.A. I got these health bars, and I didn’t realize they had six billion calories each, and that's why I'm so jowly in the film. What else? They work very long hours, I'll say that. They work bloody long hours. My brother complains of the same thing. He works here as a banker and looks like a broken man.
Q: Going back to the political aspect, why do you think until now there has not been a lot of films talking about this administration and the Iraq War? Also, were you ever worried about the your last scene?
HG: I'm sure there will be people who will find that objectionable. But, I think it's all right. I think humor should go everywhere and deal with everything, especially perhaps in the darkest and blackest places. I think that's a good thing and I really admire Universal for taking it on. It wouldn’t be surprising if this was an independent film, but it's very surprising that it's a studio film, and that they've backed it and never said ‘no, let's have the ending where everyone comes back to life.’
Q: I wonder, why do you think it has been six years of Bush administration and no comedies have approached issues like this one with this president, who is such a good outlet for comedy?
HG: That is a good point. Didn’t Team America deal with it a little bit?
Q: It was animation, it was not real.
HG: I don't know the answer to that. I always got the impression that to be anti-Bush here anytime after September the 11th was perhaps considered unpatriotic. Maybe that's worn off now.
Q: Do you think your character gets what he deserves at the end of the movie?
HG: Laughs. Yes, definitely. We actually shot a version where I'm pushing the camera in towards Chris Klein's character, and set the bomb off by pressing the bomb against my camera, because I wanted to die and I knew it would be fantastic television.
Q: The situation in the U.K. with President Blair is practically the same in this moment as President Bush here in United States. Would you do the same movie, but criticizing the British administration and also the British society that until now didn't move very hard against the war and all the events?
HG: Well, I'm not sure that's true that they haven't moved very hard against the Iraq war. You’re Spanish?
Q: Yes, Spanish. I meant, here after the elections, there was a start of the movement against Bush. I think maybe the same thing happened in the U.K. after the bombing in London. We had practically the same situation in Spain after the 11th of March.
Q: I don't know if you would criticize your administration that has participated in the Iraqi war on the same level that you are criticizing in the movie the Bush administration, because at the end, you are both on the same side.
HG: Yes, that’s right. Well, there’s a lot of criticism against the Iraqi war and you'd be very hard pressed to find anyone now who would admit to having agreed with it. But you're right, I don’t remember seeing a film about it. However, there’s been a lot of TV satire criticizing the war.
Q: You said that between the worthless reality TV star and the big Hollywood megastar, you would rather spend time with the worthless reality TV star because you think they're more interesting. I’d like to know what you mean by that. Why do you find them so much more interesting?
HG: Yes. I suppose that is what I really mean. Yeah. I can't remember who asked me that ridiculous question, but someone said which would you rather spend time with, and I'd rather have a real person or even a sort of freakish person you get on a Pop Idol than an actor. Yes.
Q: You find the real person more interesting?
HG: I think definitely more interesting. Also, I love to have a good sneer, and they may be easy to sneer at. Wait, that’s not true. It's very easy to sneer at anyone from Hollywood. I don’t know, I'm doing very badly with this answer. I'm sorry. Laughs.
Q: Martin from American Dreamz will do anything to keep his show on the top. What would Hugh Grant do to keep himself on top?
HG: I'm not trying hard enough. I mean, that’s what people tell me. I should be doing a lot more films. I turn down everything. I don’t do the things my agents want me to do or my publicists want me to do. I'm not doing enough.
Q: Does it mean that they think you have too much control in your acting life?
HG: Well, they've known for years that I have total control. I've never taken any advice on anything. I haven’t spoken to my agent for six months.
Q: In your 40's, how do you imagine your midlife crisis to be?
HG: I don’t know. I think I've had it actually. I think I've had it. Look at that Aston Martin. If that's not a midlife crisis, I don’t know what is. Laugh.
Q: Anything else?
HG: Yes, do you know, there was about six months where I wasn’t quite myself, and I wore dodgy shirts that were just a bit too tight. But that was about five years ago. Laughs. I think I'm through it. I did burst into tears watching Finding Nemo the other day, so maybe that's a midlife crisis. Laughs.
Q: It was very weird to see you immediately pulling off this different accent, it's been quite a while since we've seen you speaking in anything other than your own voice. Was that a conscious decision on your part and how weird was it?
HG: I just thought he fancies himself as a bit rock and roll. Even though he's pathetically not, you know.
Q: Do you fancy yourself as a bit rock and roll?
HG: Christ, no. I’m hopeless with music, always have been, and that's the irony of me playing this pop star right now in New York, I'm incredibly miscast.
Q: Have you examined Simon's success? Is there a secret to that? One of the lines in the film is ‘I envy myself deeply.’ But is that true? Because he also has this self-loathing going on at the same time.
HG: Yeah, that’s a cover, I think. He's saying that and what he really means is ‘I hate myself with a deep passion.’ Laughs.
Q: Simon is one of the strange people in the world. What is the secret to his success and popularity, other than money?
HG: You know, I don't really know very much about him, but I do think it's a clever stunt. This is my guess, and I know nothing about him at all. I think he worked out that this talent show would be much more interesting if someone was cruel on the judging panel and that would be great for ratings. I think once that started, and once it was great for ratings, he had to stick with it. He probably has to stick with it to a certain extent in real life as well, you know. It must be fascinating to live like that because you immediately bring with you an incredible danger and charisma, despite the fact that your trousers are pulled up to your breasts. You actually become a really charismatic fellow.
Q: But what's strange about him being a judge is he's a non-talented judge. Is Tweed talented? Does he have any talents?
HG: No, zip. Laughs. I think he is a brilliant, brilliant media creature. I can think of many others who've risen to the top in the media or even in politics, and really their main skill is working out how the media works, and how you get ratings. You don’t really need talent. I think that's the weird dichotomy. Although you think someone who speaks the truth is honest and authentic. I’m not even sure it is. I think it's just a trick. I think it’s a ratings trick. If you’d worked out that cutting people's ears off was going to get high ratings, then he would have done that.
Q: Was Sally the first person Tweed struck with?
HG: Well, that’s an interesting thought. Laughs. No, I think there have been others, but I think he's a very troubled individual. I think he was abused by his, what should we go with? Uncle? Father? Laughs.
Q: Did you base the character on anyone in particular?
HG: No. It was just a conflation; what I do is look at a part of one self and think, ‘well let's extrapolate that. Let’s just drop everything else away and take that bleak part of myself, the pessimistic part, the cruel part and just see what would happen if I became completely that.’ Try and minimize the acting. I had to act the accent I suppose, and a bit of body language.
Q: You make a lot of us laugh. What actually makes you laugh?
HG: Tons of things, you know, tons. Where do I begin? I don't know. TV shows. The Office, Faulty Towers.
Q: Did you watch American Idol or Pop Idol ?
HG: No. I watched a few tapes before this film, but I'd never seen it before.
Q: What do you think about the Bush administration, and Tony Blair getting involved with Bush so much as he has during his last years?
HG: Well, I'm just debating in my head whether to get involved with this question because it'll come back and haunt me. And also because, there used to be a thing where people said, ‘well, if you don't mind I'm going to keep my politics to myself,’ and I quite like to do that in a way. Not because they're so precious, but because I haven't really got any that I believe in consistently enough. I'm very malleable. You know, if I see a political broadcast for the Conservative Party I think, ‘yeah, yeah, good point.’ And then I see one for the Labor Party and I think, ‘no, no, you're right.’ I've always been like that. I wish I had some firmer opinions. But, I suppose I've always been deeply suspicious of Tony Blair. I kind of admire him, but I think he is a total media creation. Just looking at him from an actor's point of view. I always thought, that's acting, that's acting, that's acting. But I think he's the most interesting kind of actor where it's all phony but he believes every word he says. You know, delusional. That’s my opinion.
Q: In this movie, Paul Weitz, the scriptwriter, satirizes almost anybody who works in media and politics. About the only dimension that wasn't in the movie was the press, and I would imagine that you would really like to get into that, satirizing the press. Didn't you miss that?
HG: Laughs. In the film?
HG: No, I think there are enough targets in the film. I don't miss that. I’m okay with that.
Q: Would you like to make a movie where the press is being satirized?
HG: I have often thought about that. I think it’s quite a difficult thing to do, funny enough. You never get any sympathy on this front. I sort of see why, you know, whenever you see actors moaning about the press, people's reaction is just ‘oh, but you get paid so much and you love it anyway.’ And blah, blah, blah. It's such a losing yicket. You’re never going to win with that I don’t think.
Q: I have a follow-up question to what you mentioned earlier about turning down a lot of roles. Why is it that you're not working that hard anymore on the career? Is it that the role offers are simply that bad or is it that your interests in life have changed to any other creative things?
HG: Well, they’ve just changed a bit. A lot of excitement had gone out of it. I sort of slightly felt been there, done that. One of the things that used to propel me from film to film, I'm sure I've said this before a billion times, is I could be better than that. I wasn’t as good as I could. But I just wanted to do one where I was as good as I thought I could be. And then I got to the stage where I thought, ‘actually, that's all right. I'm all right now.’ So I didn’t have the same compunction to go and prove to anyone I'm not really that crap. That was one thing. Then you just get bored of it. I’ve said this before, it's a very old-fashioned medium. It hasn't changed since the '20s. It’s really, really slow when you’re filming. Laughs. Being on a film set, it's mind numbing. It's like torture. So, that was another factor.
Q: And what do you still like about it?
HG: What do I still like about it? Laughs. I can't think of anything offhand. Laughs. I do quite like feeling that I'm working. I think a man has to work, otherwise you just implode. It's a bit like sheepdogs, you end up miserable. Except they’re chasing sheep rather than doing films. I don’t know why I brought up sheepdogs. Laughs. I think you've got to work. You have to challenge yourself. But, it's scary. The thing I didn’t mention to you, really which I've said before, is that the main reason I'm scared to work is just stage fright. I got a touch of it on a couple of films recently, where I suddenly seized up. They were scenes I could do standing on my head, but just suddenly I froze and my mouth went dry. Like panic attacks. I was so scared of that happening again I was reluctant to take a part. Now, I start that film tomorrow and I can feel one coming on. Laughs.
Q: The pop culture of our time is totally different from the pop culture of the '70s. The bad taste is more and more underway. Do you believe that?
HG: I'm not sure. My theory is that it's all to do with capitalism and the free market, I think. That you work out as a business man what people want, like the lowest common denominator market forces. Same with food. People shouldn’t have Krispy Kreme Doughnuts, but we're going to create them because they're so delicious people won’t be able to resist them. Same with McDonald's, although I gather that's fading now, but you know what I mean. Same with television. What can we create, it doesn’t matter if it has any quality, as long as it gets ratings. People have done that brilliantly. I think that's what shows like American Idol are, they're brilliant rubbish. We laugh in a sort of good-humored, post-modernist kind of way and say, ‘oh, yes, I love it, too,’ and in a way we do. But I think it will catch up on us. Part of me does think the world is sort of going to hell, down that road of trash culture. Trash food, trash politics, and that we will sort of implode quite soon. Laughs. Is that gloomy enough for you? Laughs.
Q: You have accomplished and experienced abundant success, but do you still have a dream that you wish to come true?
HG: Well, I hope to go back to being properly creative, like I was in my mid-20s. Laughs. This is 20 years ago now. But I remember the feeling when I was doing those comedy shows in little pubs in London. I remember feeling like a real man at the end of the day. It was our show, we'd written it, we'd performed it, and I felt more alive and more like a man than I have after any days filming on a mega-budget film.
Q: You once said that you'd like to have the whole street with just your houses. Laughs. Are you planning to buy something in America?
HG: Now, that really was just a joke. It just happened that I by mistake bought two houses on the same street. It is not my ambition to have a whole street with my own houses.
Q: Can you tell us what you think of Tweed's love life and if it's anything you've seen in the business?
HG: I see a lot of that in the business, actually. I see a lot of that in Hollywood. You turn up to talk to agents or executives, producers out there, and you just think, there’s no point in having a conversation about love life or your sex life, because there's no way you have one. You're no longer human. You’ve become this humanoid. I think people who are that invested in their business and getting ahead and in meetings, just talk about business. I don’t believe there is any part of their life which is human anymore. To me that's the most chilling thing about putting such a big emphasis on business and success, is that people actually start to become non-people. That’s really chilling. I think everyone should back off a bit. There are these places in Italy called Slow Towns. There is a whole new philosophy where you’re not allowed to work more than eight hours a day, and you have to stop for two hours for lunch. And you have to be a human. I thoroughly approve of them, I have to say.
Q: American Dreamz is a satire of a reality show, but sometimes because of paparazzi, your life is becoming a reality show for the public. How do you deal with that?
HG: Well, very badly. I never see a paparazzi that I don’t whack. I don't like it, I don't approve of it. And I don’t think it's justifiable either.
Q: You say that you haven't chased success and got out there and had a crack at becoming a movie star. Would you have any advice for me to become a success, because I'm a slob as well, and I like your philosophy on work? Laughs.
HG: Advice on what? Laughs.
Q: Well, on how to become a successful slob.
HG: You want to be good at being a slob? Because you seemed to have cracked that already. Laughs. Do you mean you want to be successful and a slob at the same time?
Q: Yeah, that’s it.
HG: I don’t know you very well. But I just feel you have zero chance. I don’t know what it is. Laughs.
Q: I’m destined to be a slob my whole life?
Q: You seem to have pulled off that dynamic of just being a relaxed man, yet, people keep coming to you for roles, so help me with the slob thing.
HG: Actually, there is only one way, if you're going to be a slob, there’s only one way to get successful, and that's to be really, really lucky. That is exactly what happened to me. I know that's a terrible actor's cliché, but that is the truth, isn't it? If Four Weddings And A Funeral hadn’t come along, I would be slobbier than you. I would be still sitting around doing the occasional TV show, writing a few book reviews, drinking Red Stripe Lager and that would be it.
Q: In terms of image and talking about image, you don't seem to care about image anymore, but at some point in your career, did you care? Were you finding that you were getting negative criticism when you would do the lighter stuff and wanted to do more serious stuff just to better your image?
HG: No, I've never been tempted to do the part where I cry or get AIDS or save some people from a concentration camp just to get good reviews. I genuinely believe that comedy acting, light comedy acting, is as hard, if not harder, than serious acting, and it genuinely doesn’t bother me that all the prizes and the good reviews automatically by knee-jerk reaction go to the deepest, darkest, most serious performances and parts. It makes me laugh.
Q: Your character is telling you that you must have people kissing your ass 24 hours a day. Do you ever get tired of people kissing your ass all the time.
HG: No, the more the merrier. I don't get enough. Laughs.
Q: Who's your favorite leading lady in life?
HG: That'll get me into trouble. Uh, I have liked them all so much. I was very fond of Sandra Bullock, and I make no secret of that. But having said that, I'm very fond now of Drew Barrymore who I'm doing this present film with. She's a real laugh. She's fun.