It’s official: we are in love with Hugh Grant. Earlier this year, the actor - who had dimmed on our passion radar - reminded us of his charm with a thrilling stage-side reunion with his Bridget Jones’s Diary co-star Renee Zellweger at the BAFTA Awards (Brad and Jen, and now Bridget and Daniel Cleaver? Our hearts are going to burst). Hugh took to the stage to present Best Picture, but not before he made a perfectly timed Bridget Jones quip, congratulating Renee for her Best Actress award (for Judy) with a deliciously smooth, 'Well done Jones', then adding. 'That indeed was a silly little dress.'
Now, he's turning sixty in style having galvanised a love which has been unexpectedly blossoming for the past few years. Where did it all come from?
After his floppy-haired, rom-com glory years – Four Weddings and a Funeral, Notting Hill, About A Boy, Love Actually: all the greats – Hugh sort of fell down the rankings of our affection a bit (let’s not talk about Music and Lyrics).
But then came 2017 hit Paddington 2 and in one hilarious, knowing, camp performance as the narcissistic villain – who happens to be a washed up actor who’s now doing dog food commercials – Hugh reinvented himself as the very best kind of actor: one that doesn’t take himself too seriously. Our love sparked again.
Doing press for Paddington 2, he was refreshingly candid about his career, acknowledging how typecast he had been – 'We all know that I’ve only really played one [role]' – and saying that he was grateful he had got 'too old and ugly' to be cast in rom-coms anymore. And while most actors are a bit precious about discussing their less successful projects, Hugh cheerfully admits he has appeared in some 'shockers' over the years, saying, 'When I was unemployed, I took everything. The worse it was, the quicker I took it. You think, "Oh, well, this is nonsense, this film [but] it’s never going to see the light of day", so just go and have a nice time for three months.'
Not just admirably self-aware, he refuses to indulge in thespian ramblings about the ‘art of acting’ ('I am a big believer that our job is to entertain. It's not to practice some weird, quasi-religious experience') or bestow rapturous praise for his fellow actors: 'Everyone has to talk about the craft and it's about giving and it's not a competition, it's like teamwork. But believe me, it's a fucking competition. [S]ome of the actors and actresses that I've come across who preach loudest about it being teamwork — they're in fact the most terrifying great white sharks, set on success.'
Hugh’s won us over by abandoning any sort of PR-friendly, neutral public persona to say whatever the hell he wants.
Following up Paddington 2 with a critically-praised performance in the popular TV miniseries A Very English Scandal in 2018 - playing the real-life British politician Jeremy Thorpe who get caught up in a gay sex scandal in the 1970s - Hugh’s career is back on track.
And he’s bust out of the bumbling bachelor box, too. This autumn he will star opposite Nicole Kidman in a new HBO drama by David E Kelley (creator of Big Little Lies), a glossy psychological thriller called The Undoing, which has ‘binge watch’ written all over it. In typical self-deprecating style, Hugh doesn’t get the fuss: 'I’m such a baby about television. I didn’t even realise that HBO is considered kind of the crème de la crème.'
Off-screen, Hugh’s won us over by abandoning any sort of PR-friendly, neutral public persona to say whatever the hell he wants. On Twitter he’s ranted about Boris Johnson (dubbing him 'an over-promoted rubber bath toy') and slogged it out with Piers Morgan (they pair have had beef ever since the phone-hacking scandal erupted). When trolls tried to bring up Hugh’s embarrassing 1995 arrest, when he was caught with former sex worker Divine Brown in a car on Sunset Boulevard, he shared a photo of his old mugshot, alongside Brown, with the caption: 'To my dear trolls. Hope this is helpful. Now you have more time to spend with mummy.'
Having previously and very publicly denounced marriage as 'a recipe for mutual misery' – ouch – he married his on-off girlfriend of six years (and mother of three of his five children), Swedish TV producer Anna Eberstein in 2018. Hugh happily admitted he was 'just plain wrong', and he’d been a 'sad, angry, old golfer' when he said it.
It’s no surprise really, that the 60-year-old has become an acceptable crush (again). After all, as Brits, sarcasm, humility and a willingness to take the piss out of yourself, are the traits we admire above all others. Delight us with an iconic noughties rom-com reference, too – and you really are a heartthrob.