Superciliousness has been part of Grant’s charm for decades. But if you’re showing up to the red carpet, you can do it with the same good grace as everyone else
March 13, 2023 9:22 am(Updated 9:23 am)
The first thing I’d like to clarify is that I love Hugh Grant. I have been low-level in love with Hugh Grant since I watched About a Boy at a sleepover in 2004 (yes, I should unpack why it’s About a Boy Hugh Grant, not Four Weddings Hugh Grant, in therapy).
So what I’m about to say is based entirely on being disappointed in the man I still hope might be my future husband. Hugh Grant went to the Oscars last night and behaved like a dick.
Watch the clip, otherwise none of this will make any sense, but in short, he pauses on the “champagne” carpet to talk to Ashley Graham, who is a supermodel with no training in journalism, and then gives the kind of interview that would have had Jeremy Paxman and Christiane Amanpour squirming.
“Do you have your hopes up for anyone?” she says. Hugh responds as if this is the maddest thing anyone has ever asked him, rather than standard Oscars fodder, and says “No, no-one in particular.” Graham grapples for a life raft and asks the safest question imaginable. “Who are you wearing?” “Just my suit” Hugh responds. Graham, who at this point surely must be wondering if she can just tell him to piss off, responds “You didn’t make it – who made it?” The response is: “I can’t remember, my tailor.”
She then pads a bit, tries to format a new question and eventually arrives at “What does it feel like to be in Glass Onion?” It’s not a very good question, if we’re being honest, but then her interviewing career is incinerating, so it’s probably better than I would have managed. “I’m in it for about three seconds” Hugh says, offering absolutely no let-up.
Watching the clip back in order to transcribe it has given me the kind of second-hand social shame that will take most of the day to wash off, and I just can’t really understand why the 88-second car crash needed to happen.
Sure, Hugh has never been the type to smile nicely through a junket giving earnest answers about how the script moved him, and how his co-stars were miraculous to work with. He’s archetypically British in his pathological dislike of showing off, and generally I like his refusal to spout vacuous nonsense about the work. I don’t blame him for finding the champagne carpet nonsense, it probably is nonsense. But it’s nonsense that he willingly showed up to, and all the plaudits on Twitter about him being a legend who is cutting through the bullshit seem to miss that he put on a suit, RSVPd and joined in with it.
Is Hugh’s behaviour funny? Yes, of course it is. Were we watching an episode of something Succession-adjacent, I’d have sniggered and probably used a GIF of it some months later in a flirty WhatsApp. But this isn’t a script, it’s real life, and if you can watch it without dying inside then you’re a harder person than I am. There’s no doubt in my mind that Graham probably left that exchange feeling small and stupid and like she never wants to watch Sense and Sensibility again.
But no matter how charming, self-deprecating or talented a person is, or how much I still quite fancy them, there is never an excuse to make someone else look stupid and feel small.
Grant’s dislike of the press is well documented and, while I don’t think I’m supposed to agree because I’m arguably sort of one of them, I can see why. I have full sympathy with how hideous it must be to have photographers following you around all the time. But the red carpet at the Oscars cannot be a surprising place to encounter the press. It’s probably the press-iest place in the entire world. And Hugh went there, on purpose.
On top of that, there’s no obligation to do an interview. You can smile and keep walking. You do not have to stop and talk to Ashley Graham. If you do stop and talk to Ashley Graham, you have to be at least a little bit nice to her. Grant’s been doing this job for over three decades: the pretence that he’s uncomfortable and doesn’t know how to handle a carpet is risible.
The true low point of the conversation is probably when Hugh refers to the experience of the Oscars as a “vanity fair”, referring to the William Makepeace Thackery novel which satirises high society in the mid-1800s. Ashley, unfortunately, misunderstands and thinks that he’s talking about the magazine Vanity Fair, which throws one of the biggest Oscar afterparties in Hollywood. “Oh it’s all about Vanity Fair, that’s where we get to let loose and have a little fun” she says, palpably relieved that Hugh has thrown her a conversational bone.
At this point I now feel that if I had one chance to go back in time, rather than putting my life savings on Leicester winning the Champions League in 2016, I would give Graham the SparkNotes for the book so she could look Hugh Grant dead in the eye and say: “Yeah, and you’re being a real Rawdon Crawley tonight”.
Hugh Grant has never pretended to be the cushy romantic heroine he spent the 90s playing, he’s said multiple times that Daniel Cleaver is the closest character he’s ever played. And we all know you don’t have to be nice to work in Hollywood.
But when Hugh and I do eventually get married, we’ll be having a serious conversation about the fact that if he’s going to a red carpet event he can do it with good grace like everyone else. If he doesn’t want to do that then he can just stay at home.