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Actor Hugh Grant was the breakout star of many romantic comedies like Four Weddings and a Funeral and Love Actually, but he eventually backed away from the spotlight and the roles that catapulted him to stardom.

British actor Hugh Grant and his wife Anna Elisabet Eberstein
British actor Hugh Grant and his wife Anna Elisabet Eberstein | Tolga AKMEN / AFP) (Photo by TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images

Essentially, Grant was ready to move on from being a rom-com lead but Hollywood didn’t flow with him when he decided to downshift. “I developed a bad attitude from about 2005 onwards, shortly after Music and Lyrics,” he told the Los Angeles Times. “I just had enough. Then I went back in 2009 and made another film.”

“At that point, it wasn’t me giving up Hollywood,” he continued. “Hollywood gave me up because I made such a massive turkey with that film with Sarah Jessica Parker [Did You Hear About the Morgans?]. Whether I wanted to or not after that, the days of being a very well-paid leading man were suddenly gone overnight. It was slightly embarrassing but it left life free for other things.”

Grant dove into politics and activism, but eventually returned to acting. His portrayal as Jonathan Fraser in The Undoing is a return to his original roots and theatrical intention.

Hugh Grant originally became a character actor

Grant never intended to become a leading man, but instead sought character roles. “Whatever it might be, Four Weddings and a Funeral or Two Weeks Notice, my process was always the same as it is now,” he told the LA Times.

“I do a ridiculous amount of homework and granular analysis of every moment in the film,” he said. “I build up these vast biographies of the character. Hiding behind the mask of someone else seems to loosen me up and make me better. And in the end, one thing I have discovered over the years is all you really want in film acting is to be loose.”

Fans wondered if Grant’s characters in films like Love Actually, Notting Hill, and Four Wedding and a Funeral were versions of himself. But Grant said he actually became a version of the filmmaker, Richard Curtis.

“That always made me grind my teeth a bit,” he said about the notion that the characters were like himself. “Because that character in the Richard Curtis films was a bit repetitious. But it wasn’t me. It’s really kind of Richard.”

The new era of Hugh Grant

Grant shared that becoming a family man with a wife and kids transformed him personally and professionally. “When you say how have I changed as an actor, I strongly suspect that having these children has really helped. Because suddenly, instead of being a half-atrophied, middle-aged golfer, I’m a man with a life full of love. I love my wife, I love my children. They love me. And, suddenly — very unusual for an Englishman — I have all this access to emotion. Almost too much access. Sometimes it’s hard to keep it down.”

In The Undoing, Grant plays a family man with an ocean of secrets. He wanted to play the part because he simply couldn’t put down the script.

Nicole Kidman and Hugh Grant Elevate ‘The Undoing’ Above Its Mundane Reliance on Mystery Mechanisms

“There’s not a huge number of laughs in The Undoing,” he told the LA Times. “But I’m not sure that was why I did it. I did it because it was a very classy project and it was a script that made me turn the pages, which is very rare because normally I’m asleep by page six of most scripts I read.”

“For 10 years now at least I’ve been trying not to be [the] sort of romantic Englishman who is in love,” he added. “I’ve been trying to do more character roles. I’m not entirely sure that this is a character role. I wanted to make it that way and then, quite near to production, Susanne Bier very politely told me to dump all that.”