NEW YORK – Hugh Grant is getting a bit testy. I can tell there are certain things he will and won't talk about sitting in a Manhattan hotel suite. It's unspoken, but obvious.
I didn't intend to bring up the Divine Brown incident, it just sort of happened. But with so many recent successes, the occasional misstep is going to be trotted out sooner or later.
In the meantime, Grant is happy to talk about his new movie About a Boy. Maybe because as a kind of cad, he's perfectly cast — something he admits early in our exchange.
McCuddy: Was this movie at all autobiographical? I felt like I could be looking at Hugh Grant's life.
Grant: Hmmm. Interesting reaction, and not all together wrong. I mean, certainly in my past, pre-Four Weddings and a Funeral, when I still had a lot of time on my hands, my life was quite 'Will-ish' in the sense of being like my character, Will in this film. You know, I had many consecutive weeks of doing 'bugger all' except watching afternoon TV and playing snooker with my friends. A bit of gambling, scheming about, meeting girls, that sort of thing, and rejoicing in the life of shallowness, really.
McCuddy: We coined a term "Willish."
Grant: (Smiles) OK.
McCuddy: There was 'Willishness' in a way.
Grant: Yeah, because most people don't know what I was like pre-Four Weddings and a Funeral.
McCuddy: Well open up, Will, tell us. Did you ever mentor or have any desire to hang around with a 12-year-old?
Grant: That's a whole different story, I don't want to go there. (Laughs)
McCuddy: That's about a different boy?
Grant: (Laughs) Yes. It's girls actually.
McCuddy: Well, I could talk about a girl, but that's a different episode as well.
McCuddy: What the hell were you thinking?
Grant: (blank stare)
McCuddy: Let me ask it this way: Can you believe that turned Jay Leno around? Come on, that's got to be at least amusing to you. That you went on that show that night, with that story, and now Jay Leno is beating David Letterman.
Grant: (Polite pause and then) Is that so? I didn't know.
McCuddy: Come on, you're often credited with that.
Grant: (He wants me to leave) Uh-huh. Uh-huh.
McCuddy: I can't be the first to make this observation.
Grant: Maybe. Maybe.
McCuddy: But hopefully the last is what you're telling me with that glare. OK, what is it about working with a first-time kid as opposed to some big egotistical co-star?
Grant: (Smiling again, thankfully) Well, you don't know what you're going to get. But you know, on the whole, I think it's quite nice because they're so unencumbered by sort of, anxiety and you know, career anxiety and a sense of their own performance that they're going along. I mean, I'm a lot more neurotic and most actors are a lot more neurotic than this boy was. There's nothing to lose, really, in a way. And so he was just incredibly good and fresh. Annoyingly so.
McCuddy: Does he have a big future?
Grant: I think so, if he wants it. I mean, I always advise him not to go into the business because that's where madness lies. But he may do it nevertheless.
McCuddy: How old were you when you started acting professionally?
Grant: Oh god, 23 or something.
McCuddy: Would you have ever wanted to do it at 10, 11 or 12?
Grant: No. I didn't want to do it at 22. (Laughs) I just fell into it by mistake.
McCuddy: This is a mistake?
Grant: Um, well it has been. I mean, now I'm in quite a good place. I'm proud, very proud of this film and I like Bridget Jones's Diary and I think things are going pretty well at the moment so I feel relatively upbeat.
McCuddy: Good little streak. This is a wonderful little film. And it's the David and Goliath story because how do you feel opening opposite Star Wars?
Grant: (Sarcastically) Yes, poor little 'David.' Um, I think that'll be fine. You... obviously it's an art house film, but I think I'll get some numbers.
McCuddy: If it's sold out, come over to our little movie.
Grant: Well, I think it will be the other way around.
McCuddy: No, I meant if they're sold out ...
Grant: (Laughs) Oh, right, right, right, right.
McCuddy: May the force also be with you. Or something like that.
Grant: Yes! (Laughs)
"About A Boy" opens May 17.