: “What’s your favorite thing about coming to the Oscars?”
Hugh Grant: “Well, um, it’s fascinating. The whole of humanity is here. It’s vanity fair.”
Graham: “Oh, it’s all about Vanity Fair. It’s let loose and have a little fun. What are you most excited to see tonight?”
Grant: “To see?”
Graham: “Yeah. I know that you watch a few of the movies. Are you exited to see anyone win? Do you have your hopes up for anyone?”
Grant: “No one in particular.”
Graham: “Okay. What are you wearing tonight, then?”
Grant: “Just my suit.”
Graham: “Your suit? You didn’t make your suit! Who designed it?”
Grant: “I can’t remember…My tailor.”
Graham: “That’s okay. Shout-out to your tailor! So tell me, what does it feel like to be in Glass Onion? It was such an amazing film, I really loved it. I love a thriller! How fun is it to shoot something like that?”
Grant: “Well, I’m barely in it. I’m in for about three seconds.”
Graham: “But still, you showed up and you had fun, right?”
Grant: “Uh, almost.”—Hugh Grant and Ashley Graham quoted by Michael Ausiello, “Oscars: Hugh Grant Shuts Down Ashley Graham in Mesmerizingly Awkward Red Carpet Interview,” www.tvline.com, Mar. 12 2023
Movie fans who only know Hugh Grant as the bumbling but winning lead in rom-coms like Four Weddings and a Funeral, Notting Hill and Love, Actually had a chance to see him without a script at the Oscars on Sunday night. This recent spectacle will not exactly burnish his reputation as a charmer.
Former flame Elizabeth Hurley, who still remains on good terms with the English actor, revealed to talk-show host Andy Cohen eight years ago that Grant’s peevishness had earned him the nickname "Grumplestiltskin" among her friends. His dialogue above with supermodel Ashley Graham should tip you off how he acquired that surly sobriquet.
You will get no argument from me about the general inanity of the so-called "red carpet" (or, this year, "champagne-colored carpet") chatter before the industry’s main event of the year. Nor will you hear me disagree that what transpired between Grant and Graham was still better than Will Smith’s slap of Chris Rock in last year’s controversial telecast.
But, from the moment that Ms. Graham mistook Grant’s reference to William Makepeace Thackeray’s Victorian satire of human vainglory for an allusion to the glitzy magazine famous for its Oscar parties, it was all downhill. The actor’s lifted eyebrows at the end of their exchange said far more than his clipped answers about his contempt for the whole circus.
Reaction to this tense interview on social media was swift, and mostly against Grant.
Much the same division of sentiment followed after he acted as presenter with Four Weddings and a Funeral co-star Andie McDowell. Some called his description of how he looked without moisturizer funny; others thought it tasteless.
I voted for “tasteless.” In fact, when I first heard Grant’s description of his face, I thought I must have been mistaken, that he was resorting to the stuttery style of speaking that had endeared him to so many.
Clearly, he had ad-libbed while on stage, as you might have guessed from Andie McDowell’s surprised reaction to what was meant to be a compliment to her appearance.
Richard Gere was banned as a presenter for 20 years after ad-libbing at the 1993 ceremony, but at least he did it for a good cause: a protest against the Chinese government for its mistreatment of Tibet. What should the Academy do about Grant’s tacky, raunchy joke?
“The only thing an actor owes his public is not to bore them,” Humphrey Bogart reportedly said. Maybe.
But entertainers owe each other what all human beings owe the rest of humanity: courtesy. That attitude exudes grace and is more essential to what we call “class” than something ephemeral and maybe ill-gotten like money.
Over the weekend, it was missing from Grant’s repertoire. I guess we will find out soon, once he’s had some time to consider what he did and to craft an apology, if it was ever really part of his carefully crafted persona.
(The image accompanying this post, of Hugh Grant at a charity fundraiser held in South Bank, London, was taken Mar.15, 2011, by Julien Rath.)