Your first thought when watching the new Hugh Grant farce ”Mickey Blue Eyes” probably won’t be, ”Oooh, how well researched!” After all, this goofy comedy about an art auctioneer who becomes helplessly embroiled in his father-in-law-to-be’s Mafia business features a scene where Grant wrestles an assassin with the aid of a talking gorilla doll. (Does anybody remember stuffed-monkey assaults being mentioned in the John Gotti trials?)
But Grant (who coproduced the film with Elizabeth Hurley) and director Kelly Makin say they enlisted experts to teach them Mob rules. During preproduction, Grant got a tip from his ”Four Weddings and a Funeral” director, Mike Newell, who had recently shot ”Donnie Brasco.” ”Mike called me up, slightly nervously, and said, ‘Hugh, I think you really, really should talk to a very good friend of mine named Rocco,”’ Grant tells EW Online. ”’I can’t give you his last name because I don’t actually know it. He’s called Rocco the Butcher, but don’t let that put you off.’ So we talked to Rocco, and he introduced us to a good friend of his, who was called Vinnie Seven Heads.”
Through these colorfully named contacts, the ”Mickey” team got to know many of the top… uh… ”businessmen” in the New York area, and got along quite well, thanks to Hurley. ”Elizabeth did a lot of heavy flirting with them, and they did a lot of heavy flirting with her,” says Grant. ”I sort of sat off in a corner — they weren’t particularly interested in me. But Elizabeth they adored, and she became their princess.” In fact, many of their research dinners were extremely cozy. ”We’d go to some restaurant in the middle of nowhere, and the whole place would be closed down except for one table in the back,” says director Makin. ”There would be an old guy who obviously had quite a bit of power at the head of the table. Elizabeth was always right beside him.”
This flirtation with the gangster life didn’t end with preproduction, either. Occasionally during the shoot, an extra row of director’s chairs was set up behind Makin for Mob bosses who showed up to watch him work. During the filming of a giant wedding scene, Makin noticed that many of the 400 extras were coming up to pay respects to an unassuming man sitting behind him, who the director was later told was one of the heads of a crime family. ”He came back the next day and said to me, ‘I would like to ask you this favor of putting my daughter in this movie,”’ says Makin. ”Very quickly I said yes, of course, and she had a walk-on. At the end, he came up and said, ‘Thank you for doing this. If I can ever do anything for you, just tell me.”’ How about boffo box office this weekend?