“He was a complicated character in that you are not sure for a large part of the film whether he’s a selfish guy hanging out with this very rich woman for his own self advancement and gain or whether he is what he says, which is a very loving husband,” reveals actor Hugh Grant about his role in the recent film “Florence Foster Jenkins.” Grant plays the real-life Shakespearean actor St. Clair Bayfield, who was married to the title character, a New York heiress and socialite (Meryl Streep) who founded the Verdi Club because of her love for opera and music. Unfortunately, Florence is a hilariously bad singer herself who insists on expensive vocal lessons and performing in public.
In our recent chat via webcam (watch above), he adds, “He was an out-of-work, struggling actor from England, rather a lost soul with no family. He meets this mega-rich, society woman in New York, and I’m sure there were definitely selfish aspects for his reasons for hanging out with her, particularly because she wasn’t Raquel Welch. Over the weeks and months and years, it became an incredibly deep blood bond.”
On working with Streep, he says, “I assumed she would be the greatest actress that cinema has ever know and that she would bring with her not only this terrifying talent but also a terrifying intensity. I was absolutely correct on both assumptions. It was genuinely like being invited in to a room to watch Leonardo da Vinci draw or to watch Lionel Messi play soccer. It’s an extraordinary experience; you’re in the presence of a genius.”
For this role in the Paramount release directed by Stephen Frears, Grant has already won the Hollywood Film Award in early November as Best Supporting Actor. While he is also being campaigned for the Oscars and SAG Awards in supporting, he is eligible at the Golden Globes as Best Comedy/Musical Actor (lead category). He won at the Globes early in his career in that same category for “Four Weddings and a Funeral” (1994). His other HFPA nominations were for “Notting Hill” (1999) and “About a Boy” (2002). Other major films have included “Sense and Sensibility” (1995), “Small Time Crooks” (2000), “Bridget Jones’s Diary” (2001), “Two Weeks Notice” (2002), “Love Actually” (2003), “Music and Lyrics” (2007), and “Cloud Atlas” (2012).
Be sure to make your Oscar predictions. How do you think “Florence Foster Jenkins” will do with academy voters? Weigh in now with your picks so that Hollywood insiders can see how this film is faring in our Oscar odds. You can keep changing your predictions right up until just before nominations are announced on January 24 at 5:00 am PT/8:00 am ET. Be sure to read our contest rules. And join in the fierce debate over the Oscars taking place right now with Hollywood insiders in our forums.