Being in the public eye is one thing. Losing any sense of privacy is quite another.
Hugh Grant took the stand in Britain's high profile Leveson Inquiry today, testifying in court about the alleged hacking, spying and other gross violations of privacy perpetrated against him not just by the shuttered-in-shame News of the World, but several other tabloids, including, notably, the non-Rupert Murdoch-owned Mail on Sunday.
He wasted no time in his two and a half hours on the stand in detailing what he perceived as the horrendous violations against him, and his testimony—and evidence—was thoroughly damning. So what'd he accuse the press of this time?
Grant blames the tabloid press with victimizing in one form or another him since as early as 1995—that's 17 years—starting with the apparent burglarizing of his home.
As he described it, shortly after his now infamous arrest while the "press storm" was still in full swing, his London flat was broken into and ransacked, though curiously enough, nothing was found to be stolen. Instead, a story soon appeared in the tabloid which described in startlingly accurate detail the layout of his apartment.
"Nothing was stolen, which as weird," he said. Two days later, one of the papers printed the story. "I remember thinking, who told them that? Was that the burglar or was that the police?"
He was later told by authorities that "it didn't appear to be a singular occasion," and that other celebrities' homes were broken into in a similar fashion.
"I know they were desperate to get some kind of access," he said of the press.
More recently, in 2007, Grant described how completely fabricated stories had begun popping up on the state of his and his then-girlfriend's relationship.
"The Mail on Sunday ran an article in February 2007 saying that my relationship with my then-girlfriend Jemima Khan was on the rocks because of my persistent late-night flirtatious phone calls with a 'plummy voiced' studio executive from Warner Bros. And it was a bizarre story, completely untrue," he said. "I sued for libel and won."
"Thinking about how they could possibly come up with such a bizarre, left-field story," he realized he had a friend whose production company was associated with Warner Bros, who had a charming middle-aged female assistant who's voice "could only be described as plummy."
"I'd love to hear what the Daily Mail or the Sunday Mail's explanation of what that source was if it wasn't phone hacking," he said.
(The Mail, for its part, said the newspaper "utterly refutes" Grant's speculation, which the editors labeled "smears.")
Then, just earlier this year, both the Sun and the Daily Express ran stories about a visit he took to the hospital emergency room, something he described as "a gross intrusion of my privacy."
"I think no one would expect their medical records to be made public or to be appropriated by newspapers for commercial profit," he said. "That is fundamental to our British sense of democracy."
Afterwards, he told the tabloids he would not file a breach of privacy suit if they agreed to donate money—the equivalent of about $7,800 to a health charity.
"The Express flatly refused to pay a penny…the Sun gave" the equivalent of just $2,300.
And just to round things out, it seems that even Grant's new daughter—whose paternity he had been trying to keep secret—did not escape being victimized and outed by the tabloids.
While Grant was not present at the girl's September birth, he did turn up to the hospital the following day to see the girl and her mother, Tinglan Hong.
"I couldn't resist a quick visit," he said. "There seems to have been a leak from the hospital. They even knew the fake name she had checked into the hospital under."
Grant said that the tabloids' collective history of phone hacking and other illegal and immoral practices were "cowardly, bullying and shocking."
"Most shocking is that this has been allowed to go on for so long with no one putting their hand up and saying, 'Stop.'
"It should be unacceptable and illegal to deprive a person of their fundamental right to privacy.
"There has been a section of our press that has become allowed to become toxic over the last 20 or 30 years and its main tactic is by bullying and intimidation and blackmail. I think that that needs a lot of courage to stand up to and I think this country's had a historically good record standing up to bullies, and I think it's time the country found the courage to stand up to this bully now."