Hugh Grant is in the midst of a comeback. Though the actor, renowned as a star of ’90s rom-coms, took several years off acting, he is currently Emmy-nominated for his role as disgraced British politician Jeremy Thorpe in A Very English Scandal. That miniseries cast him alongside fellow Emmy nominee Ben Whishaw, but not for the first time. A year earlier, Grant costarred with Whishaw in the family film Paddington 2. To hear Grant tell it, it’s Paddington 2 that marks the real zenith of his current renaissance — no matter what some early detractors said.
“I was presenting I think at the Golden Globes, and they do that thing when you walk out, and they say, ‘From the forthcoming Paddington 2, Hugh Grant.’ And someone showed me Twitter afterwards, and it was…people were full of derision,” Grant said in a new Vanity Fair interview. “‘Christ, has it come to that. Poor old Hugh. Paddington 2. Sequel to a kids film.’ It’s particularly annoying in the case of Paddington 2, because I genuinely believe it may be the best film I’ve ever been in.”
In the film, Grant plays Phoenix Buchanan, a washed-up actor who turns to petty crime in order to fund his artistic ambitions, and uses his skill with costumes and performances to facilitate his thievery against Paddington Bear (voiced by Whishaw). Paddington 2 director Paul King told Vanity Fair they immediately thought of Grant for the part.
“He seemed to have sort of retired at the time,” King told Vanity Fair. “We wrote this very awkward letter — ‘We’ve come up with this role, of a kind of vain, washed-up old ham, whose best days are sort of behind him, his lips are sort of heading south along with his jawline, and we thought of you.’ Luckily he saw the funny side.”