How Hugh Grant Found New Life in Guy Ritchie Action-Comedies
Back in that Dark Age that was the 1990s, Hugh Grant was the big-screen heartthrob of British romantic comedies. He rose to success as the lead in Four Weddings and a Funeral, charmed Bridget Jones (and everyone else) and was solely responsible for reviving that silly old expression, “whoopsie-daisy.”
Grant starred alongside America’s Sweetheart Sandra Bullock in Two Weeks Notice, America’s Vice-Sweetheart Drew Barrymore in Music and Lyrics and he played a dancing prime minister who falls for a junior staff member in Love Actually. Then, the English actor with the sad little eyes all but disappeared for a couple of years — presumably because he couldn't get over the fact that the world saw him do this:
It turned out that the man who everyone came to know as the “Questionable Romantic Lead” was tired of being typecast. As Grant confessed in an interview with AwardWatch, “I did so many romantic comedies, I sort of lost faith that I could do other stuff.” The actor, it should be noted, continued to try his hand at non-romantic comedies. After going silent for over three years, he reappeared in the Wachowskis’ 2019 sci-fi movie, Cloud Atlas, playing six different characters. However, Grant became disillusioned yet again when the movie failed to make any significant impact. (Outside of the rightful complaints about white actors wearing Asian face makeup.) He told Yahoo! that he was frustrated by it all: “Every time I’ve done something outside the genre of light comedy, the film fails to find an audience at the box office. And, sadly, Cloud Atlas never really found the audience it deserved.”
While Grant proclaimed to be “out of show business” at that time, he still seemed determined to shake off the apparent curse of the Rom-Com Man. Enter director/lover of cursing Guy Ritchie, who gave Grant a part in his 2015 spy-comedy thriller, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. The movie received mixed reviews, but it was Grant who got most of the praise for what everyone at the time thought of as his comeback moment.
Since then, Grant has starred in everything from TV shows (A Very English Scandal, The Undoing) to movies, including everyone’s favorite sequel, Paddington 2. (Eat it, Godfather Part II.) However, his continued work with Ritchie has surely been the driving force behind his recent success and newfound affinity for villainous characters. In 2019, he played a seedy, foulmouthed private investigator and the most delightfully nefarious character in Ritchie’s action-comedy, The Gentlemen.
Now, Grant has seemingly settled into his new role of “Funny Villain in a British Way” with his character, the billionaire arms dealer Greg Simmonds, in Ritchie’s new action-comedy, Operation Fortune: Ruse de Guerre.
Honestly, it suits him, as Grant has always been the somewhat morally ambiguous character in every genre he’s found himself in. Of course, the actor has his own explanation for this genre switch, joking with Deadline, “When I stopped being young and handsome, and I wasn’t being offered romantic leading men, some really interesting parts came up.”
The actor did blame himself for his previous predicament of getting stuck playing the romantic schmuck, telling the Hollywood Reporter in 2019, “Every decision I ever made was probably wrong. After (Four Weddings and a Funeral), the world was my oyster. I should’ve made interesting decisions and done different stuff. Instead, I repeated myself almost identically about 17 times in a row.”
Well, we wouldn’t mind seeing Grant do just that again — only as an outlandish villain in 17 more Guy Ritchie action comedies.
Zanandi is, regrettably, still on Twitter.