CROWDS GREETING GRANT TRAILERS WITH GIGGLES

It’s amazing how a simple little arrest for lewd conduct can capture the public’s fancy.

Since Hugh Grant was nabbed June 27 for allegedly having oral sex with an alleged hooker in an allegedly public place (off Sunset Boulevard), audience reaction to the allegedly wholesome actor has changed decidedly.

On an L.A. bus poster for 20th Century Fox’s “Nine Months,” in which Julianne Moore is whispering in Grant’s ear, someone drew a little balloon so the actress is saying, “That’ll be $25.” Other wags have expanded on the pic’s title, making it “Sentenced to Nine Months,” “Nine Months’ Probation” or “Nine Months Plus Community Service.”

At a recent showing of “Apollo 13,” the audience laughed as soon as Grant appeared in trailers for the Fox film, which opens July 12. There were a few chuckles at the narrator’s line that the character will have to give up “the freedom, the life he’s always loved.” And a shot of the actor, looking forlorn as he is subjected to a mug shot, got some big snorts of derision from the crowd.

But that was nothing compared with the reaction from the arthouse audience.

Waiting to see Luis Bunuel’s “Belle de Jour” at Laemmle’s Royal Theater in West L.A., the seemingly cerebral, upscale types sat patiently through coming attractions for “Persuasion,” “The Postman” and “Safe,” and displayed no reaction as the trailer started for Fine Line Features’ “An Awfully Big Adventure.”

But when Grant’s face filled the screen, the house exploded with deafening screams, whoops, laughter, some applause and scattered boos from the cultured sophisticates. The crowd settled down, but a second outburst met the narrator’s line, “What she needed was someone who would appreciate her,” followed by a shot of a toothy Grant, looking anxious to appreciate someone.

A small wave of dirty laughs met Grant’s line about the aspiring actress, “I shall give her a part” – but the biggest snickers were saved for the end of the trailer, as white letters appeared on a black screen: “Coming soon.”

Fox had no comment. A Fine Line rep maintained that the trailer for “Awfully Big” (which opens July 21) “has been playing well and continues to play well.”

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