London-born and Oxford educated Hugh Grant first hit the big screen in 1982's "Privileged", but didn't achieve movie star status until his delightful 1994 turn in "Four Weddings and a Funeral". Handsome and charming, with abundant chestnut hair and a somewhat stiff manner softened by his open and warm smile, Grant worked as an advertising copywriter in addition to engagements in repertory theater and stints with the comedy troupe The Jockeys of Norfolk before carving out a steady acting career. He returned to film with a starring role in the 1987 Merchant-Ivory effort "Maurice", playing the sexually ambiguous Clive Durham. This part earned him recognition, and roles in "Bengali Nights" and Ken Russell's vampire thriller "The Lair of the White Worm" (both 1988) followed. That same year, he was featured in "The Dawning" with Anthony Hopkins and portrayed Lord Byron in "Rowing With the Wind", which to date marks the only film Grant made opposite longtime girlfriend, actress and model Elizabeth Hurley (the two later spilt but remained close friends and business associates).
He also played legendary composer Frederic Chopin opposite Judy Davis' George Sand in James Lapine's feature directorial debut "Impromptu" (1991) and then starred as half of an upstanding British couple seduced into the debauched and sadistic lifestyle of an American writer and his French wife in Roman Polanski's odd thriller "Bitter Moon" (1992). The actor was featured in "The Remains of the Day" (1993) alongside previous co-stars Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson ("Impromptu"), before delivering an impressive turn as a somewhat repressed British minister at once disapproving of and besotted by the lifestyle of freethinking Australian artist Norman Lindsay and his beautiful nude models in the droll period comedy "Sirens" (1994).
With the surprise hit "Four Weddings and a Funeral" Grant would find great fame, with an acclaimed performance as the terribly charming Charles, an unlikely hero, stammering and unlucky in love who finds his match in Carrie, an aloof but passionate American woman (Andie MacDowell). His portrayal in Mike Newell's well-made film enchanted audiences and critics, many of whom likened him to similarly witty and dashing classic cinematic leads David Niven and Cary Grant. The film cemented Grant's image as an occasionally caddish but emminently likeable screen personality and flung open the doors to Hollywood for the actor.
A much less glamorous June 1995 arrest preceded the release of "Nine Months", Grant's lead debut in a US film, when Los Angeles police discovered the actor engaged in a lewd act with a prostitute named Divine Brown in a parked car near the famed Sunset Strip. Even though his mugshot was displayed on virtusally every media outlet imaginable for several months following his arrest, Grant emerged virtually unscathed, reportedly getting even more movie offers following the scandal, and won many over with the heartfelt public apology given to his girlfriend and family in a particularly uncomfortable but courageous "The Tonight Show" appearance shortly thereafter, squirming beleiveable when host Jay Leno asked the question on everyone's mind" "What were you thinking?" Moderately crude and uneven, "Nine Months" benefited at the box office from Grant's unusual publicity, but the scandal did little to appease critics, most of whom found the film formulaic and uninspired and more interesting for its ironic arrest scene (trimmed following Grant's real life run-in).
Better was his turn in the endearing comedy released just prior to his arrest, "The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill but Came Down a Mountain", in which he was a map surveyor who, following technical standards, deems a Welsh village's legendary mountain no more than a hill and is entwined in the town's ploys to build it up and have it remeasured. A sinister role in 1995's "An Awfully Big Adventure" reteamed Grant with Mike Newell, the actor's part, a campy monocle-wearing villain and arrogant artistic director of a local repertory theater, proved far different from that in "Four Weddings and a Funeral". A busy year for Grant, he closed out 1995 with a featured role in Ang Lee's superior take on Jane Austen's "Sense and Sensibility", co-starring as the charming unwitting heartbreaker Edward opposite Emma Thompson's reigned in Elinor and had a smaller role as portraitist Finn in the opulent period piece "Restoration", directed by Michael Hoffmann. Grant went on to star with Gene Hackman as doctors on opposite sides of a mortal ethical battle in "Extreme Measures", the maiden outing of Simian Films, Grant and Hurley's production company. This was a moderately unsuccessful venture, with audiences responding poorly to Grant's dramatic role in the dark and disturbing film.
The actor disappeared from the screen for a time, but returned with the charming romantic comedy "Notting Hill" (1999), starring as a failed bookshop owner who enters a relationship with world famous film star Anna Scott (Julia Roberts). The film, written and produced by the team behind "Four Weddings and a Funeral", was a well-reviewed early summer hit and proved a victorious comeback for Grant. Next up was Simian Films' sophomore effort, the Mafia-themed comedy "Mickey Blue Eyes", starring the actor as an art dealer who finds that the father of his fiancee wants to use his auction house to launder money.
Grant then segued to a leading role in Woody Allen's "Small Time Crooks" (2000) before taking on the role of Daniel Cleaver, the sleazy but irresistible boss whose antics fill up many pages in "Bridget Jones's Diary" (2001), a role that may have been Grant's ultimate charming scoundrel performance--at least the ultimate unrepentant one (he gleefully reprised the aprt for the 2004 sequel "Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason") . He had at least one more warmer-hearted variation up his sleeve: In the year 2002 Grant delivered the comedic performance of his career in "About a Boy" as a rich, child-free, irresponsible Londoner who, in search of available women, invents an imaginary son and starts attending single parent meetings and meets Marcus, an odd 12-year-old with problems at school and a depressed mother at home. Gradually Will teaches Marcus how to be a cool kid andMarcus helps Will finally grow up. With this role Grant perfected all the caddish, callow, uncomfortable characters he'd played in the past but also invests the part with more warmth, wit and sensitivity than he'd previously displayed. Later that same year he returned to the romantic comedy genre, teaming with Sandra Bullock in "Two Weeks Notice," in which he further displayed his crackerjack comedic timing playing another self-centered wastrel who's forced to open his heart to romance--but this time the material and his co-star simply weren't operating as Grant's level.
Grant re-joined his "Four Weddings," "Notting Hill" and "Bridget Jones" screenwriter Richard Curits when Curtis made his directorial debut with the winning "Love Actually" (2003), comprised a serious of intertwining romantic comedy plotines. Grant's story had him in most affable form as the new Prime Minister of England who falls inescapably in love with the woman who brings him his tea (Martine McCutcheon).
While less celebrated than his film work, his small screen appearances were fairly frequent, especially in the earlier stages of his career. Grant was often cast as distasteful aristocrats in television miniseries. He made his US TV debut with the syndicated 1985 miniseries "Jenny's War" and went on to co-star in the 1987 PBS-aired special "Lord Elgin and Some Stones of No Value". 1989 saw him take on the role of an aristocrat forced into a life of crime in the CBS TV-movie "The Lady and the Highwayman". That same year, he undertook the title role in the syndicated miniseries "Champagne Charlie", chronicling the true-life rise to success against the climate of the American Civil War and political unrest in France of Charles Heidsieck, and offered a touching turn as the homosexual son of Julie Andrews in AIDS drama "Our Sons" (ABC, 1991). Grant additionally starred in the BBC adaptation of "The Changeling" (aired in the USA on Bravo in 1994) and guested on an episode of the CBS series "The Nanny" during the 1996-1997 season.