After a two-year absence from the bigscreen, Hugh Grant — who got involved in politics following the News of the World phone hacking scandal in 2011, which affected him and dozens of celebrity colleagues — is excited to make a comeback in the romantic comedy “The Rewrite.”
“It’s lovely to be back. I got involved in a big political campaign in Britain, which has devoured my life,” Grant, 54, told Variety at the film’s Cinema Society screening in New York on Tuesday night at the Landmark Sunshine Theater. “I also became a father. I keep having children. I can’t stop,” he quipped.
In “The Rewrite” — which premiered in the U.K. last October and will open in the U.S. on Friday — Grant plays an Oscar-winning Hollywood screenwriter-turned-reluctant professor at a small college, who comes to value self-worth over fame upon meeting a spirited single mom (Marisa Tomei). The movie, also starring J.K. Simmons (“Whiplash”) and Allison Janney (“Mom”), marks Grant’s fourth collaboration with writer-director Marc Lawrence; the two previously worked together on “Two Weeks Notice,” “Did You Hear About the Morgans?” and “Music and Lyrics.”
“There’s never any kind of pre-standing arrangement with me and Hugh,” explained Lawrence of their frequent collaborations. “We genuinely enjoy working together. I will tell him about an idea, and if he likes it, I’ll show him the script. He is very script-centric, so he’s not going to do a film since we’re friends. It’s really about what he reads. Hugh will do it only if he loves the script.”
When Grant examines a screenplay, it’s in the interest of authenticity and entertaining jokes. “One criteria is they can’t be fake, because audiences spot that. People who really care about love need to write (movies) instead of people who just want to sell some tickets,” Grant, who won a Golden Globe for “Four Weddings and a Funeral,” noted. “Marc Lawrence comes into that category. He understands love.”
But, to him, there’s another crucial component. “The other criteria are the jokes,” Grant continued. “They have to be good. So a script must be romantic and comedic, which is sort of self-evident really, but harder than one thinks.”
With his affable nervousness and self-deprecating charm, Grant is arguably the king of rom-coms. His hits such as “Notting Hill,” “Love Actually” and “Bridget Jones’s Diary” have made him a bankable star at the box office. However, he most surprisingly admits to disliking the genre. “I’ve never been a romantic comedy watcher,” he said. “I don’t know how I ended up making so many. I can only apologize.”
His pal Lawrence, however, hardly thinks an apology is warranted. “Hugh is one of the best and one of the most underrated actors we have,” attested the director, who also wrote and directed the “Miss Congeniality” franchise. “He’s a genius at doing the things that are the hardest thing for any actor to do, which is being a credible, real and entertaining person onscreen.”
Following the film’s screening, Grant joined his co-star Chris Elliott and Lawrence at the James Hotel rooftop in SoHo for the after-party. The Brit was engaged in a deep conversation with “Desperate Housewives” alum Kyle MacLachlan and later spoke with comedian Caroline Rhea. Other guests included trumpeter Chris Botti and former “Saturday Night Live” star Abby Elliott, who came out to support her father.
“The Rewrite,” from Castle Rock Entertainment, will be released in the U.S. on Feb. 13.
(Pictured: Actor Hugh Grant and commissioner of the National Football League Roger Goodell attend the Cinema Society screening of “The Rewrite.”)