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HBO’s murder-mystery limited series The Undoing earned four Golden Globe nominations this morning, including a nod for best limited series or movie made for television. Also honored were the three previous Golden Globe winners in its cast — both stars Nicole Kidman and Hugh Grant were nominated in leading categories, while Donald Sutherland earned a supporting actor nomination.
Grant, who won his Globe 26 years ago for his breakout performance in the romantic comedy Four Weddings and a Funeral, admits he didn’t think then that one day he’d be playing a much darker figure in a project like The Undoing. Speaking with The Hollywood Reporter, Grant reflects on the fun parts of playing bad guys and what he’ll miss most about attending the annual event this year.
Nicole Kidman said at the beginning of The Undoing’s press tour that she was really worried you weren’t going to be interested in doing the show at all. Was there any sort of hesitation on your part from the get-go?
Well, not really, because it was such a classy project. I’m honored to be offered classy projects. Nicole, Susanne Bier, David E. Kelley … It was pedigree stuff. Having said that, I was very eager to know who died. I was only sent the first episode. And I was even more eager that it should be me, because it would have been considerably less fun to just play the husband who shagged the wrong woman and apologized for five episodes than it would be to play a total sociopath who appears to be a darling husband and father and the healer of children.
You seem to have been embracing bad guys in the past few years — I’m thinking of A Very English Scandal and Paddington, the latter for which I think you were unfairly snubbed. Is it something that you’ve found is more exciting to play than, say, the handsome lead in a romantic comedy?
Well, I would never say anything negative about my romantic comedies, because I love them. And my children eat because of them. But it certainly is a relief not to have to pretend to be a nice guy. And of course, it’s more fun — actors love playing the bad guy. And audiences always respond best to the bad guy. And, you know, the reasons for that are very deep.
You won a Golden Globe in 1995 for Four Weddings and a Funeral. Did you think at the time that something like The Undoing is what you’d be nominated for many years later?
Not at all. That’s really the surprising part of my life. What I did in my 20s was character parts and silly voices. I mean, I had a whole business where I was doing silly voices for radio and television. And the whole idea of playing a sort of romantic, unlikable character — like the ones that Richard Curtis wrote — would never have entered my head and was never something I thought I’d even be any good at. So it was a little weird that I ended up doing that for the most part of my life. Ten years, really. There was a film I made literally just after Four Weddings and a Funeral called An Awfully Big Adventure with the same director, Mike Newell, in which I was a really seedy, despicable, unhappy and toxic theater director. That’s a whole other career I could have had, playing character roles like that. But as I say, I’m not remotely ungrateful for the romantic comedies — it just was a surprising excursion for me and for anyone who knew me. They never thought I was remotely that kind of person.
The Globes are the fun precursor to the Oscars. There’s lots of food and drinks and partying. Since you’ll be at home, any idea how you can celebrate with the same kind of revelry?
Well, it is a tragedy because I do love Golden Globes night. And my wife loves the Golden Globes trip. You know, we get to fly to L.A. from London and leave the children with her mother. Stay in a nice hotel. And sleep! And so it’s a tragedy. I don’t know how this will pan out. I’m going to be in Turkey, I think, when this happening — I don’t know what time of the night it will be in Turkey. But you know, I will get up, I’ll put on my tux. I’ll make a pleased face when someone else wins.
I’m still hoping something crazy will happen. Maybe someone will be in their bathroom when their name is called as a winner.
Or they’ve just put on a tux top and nothing underneath and then stand up [on camera].
Is there something you watched, read or listened to during the pandemic that you found particularly uplifting or soothing during this chaotic time?
What haven’t we watched? We’ve drained Netflix and Amazon of their entire content. I loved The Queen’s Gambit. We watch a lot of a lot of sporting stuff, which won’t mean anything to The Hollywood Reporter readership because it’s mainly football [i.e., soccer]. My wife is extremely sporty, and that’s what we tend to watch. Sadly, because we’re not really allowed out of the house. We can’t play tennis, we can’t do anything. We’re sad lockdown creatures.
I imagine that also gives you a break from your own industry and watching what everyone is doing. I don’t know if you’re the type to be jealous of another actor’s role.
You know, I’ve never once in my life ever felt that. Isn’t that odd? I certainly don’t like anyone else having a success, of course. I’m human. (Laughs.)
Interview has been edited for length and clarity.
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