Hugh Grant was as surprised as everyone else about his BAFTA nomination for “Paddington 2,” mostly because “it’s not a classic awards-type film. It’s a kid’s film, it’s a sequel, it’s animated.” Yet Grant snagged a Best Supporting Actor bid for playing Phoenix Buchanan, a narcissistic, washed-up actor with his sights set on the friendly title bear’s fortunes. Released in the U.K. last December, “Paddington 2” opened stateside in early January to critical raves (it holds a 100% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes) and is now eligible at the Oscars. Watch our exclusive video interview with Grant above.
Grant relished the opportunity to spoof his profession, donning a variety of costumes and personas to portray a pompous thespian. Though he wouldn’t name names, he reveals that he “created him out of scraps of old actors I’d worked with in my 20s in the provincial theater in England.”
Though “Paddington 2” is ostensibly a children’s movie, Grant considers it “moving” and “important.” In its story about a kindly bear who immigrates to England from Peru, “there’s something to be said about welcoming strangers, refugees, aliens, which is sort of pertinent in these political times.”
This season the actor could also find himself in the TV awards race for “A Very English Scandal,” which reunites him with his “Florence Foster Jenkins” (2016) director Stephen Frears, not to mention Ben Whishaw, who voiced Paddington. The Amazon limited series recounts the shocking true story of British Liberal Party leader Jeremy Thorpe (Grant), who in 1979 was accused of conspiracy to murder his gay ex-lover (Whishaw). Grant, who was a teenager during the real-life trial, recalls it as “a Monty Python-type farce” and a “voyeuristic joy for the British nation.”
In bringing the story to the screen, the series “walks this very fine line between drama and comedy.” Screenwriter Russell T. Davies (“Doctor Who“) “could just see the fun side of any scene, even if it’s about murder.”
Grant has yet to be nominated for an Oscar, but for “Florence Foster Jenkins” he received SAG, Golden Globe, BAFTA and Critics’ Choice nominations. He won the Globe and BAFTA for “Four Weddings and a Funeral” (1994), and contended twice more at the Globes for “Notting Hill” (1999) and “About a Boy” (2002) and once more at the SAG Awards as a member of the ensemble cast of “Sense and Sensibility” (1995).
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