Hugh Grant makes for a "pretty good" narcissist, if he does say so himself.
The actor, known to so many fans for his endearing roles in some of our favorite rom-coms like Love Actually and Notting Hill, has recently ventured into playing darker characters or "unpleasant narcissists," as he puts it. Why? Well, it's a wee bit more fun.
"It's alarming how many pretty unpleasant narcissists I've played or been offered in the last six or seven years," Grant told NPR on Tuesday, Dec. 1. "It's certainly been a blessed relief after having to be Mr. Nice Guy for so many years—which is a thankless task for any actor."
Though he's undeniably brilliant at portraying the archetypal Mr. Nice Guy (from the fictitious Prime Minister David to bookshop owner William Thacker), Grant has made waves more recently for playing Jonathan Fraser in The Undoing and Jeremy Thorpe in A Very English Scandal.
And the 60-year-old heartthrob has a pretty good idea as to why he can pull off narcissism so easily.
"I'm pretty good on narcissists, because there's plenty in my business," he quipped. "I've also spent a good deal of the last decade surprisingly close to politicians, and they rival anyone I know in show business for narcissism. I'm a great believer in whoever said, 'Politics is show business for the ugly.' That is absolutely true, [there is] extraordinary egomania going on there."
Between his work in the entertainment industry and time around politician friends, "I've seen a lot of that stuff up close." Was that a burn?
Still, he used some of his old "rom-com charm" in The Undoing, co-starring Nicole Kidman, he said. "I also tried always to just keep something vaguely unsettling about him, even in episode one. Is this guy too good to be true?" Grant asked.
If you're still not convinced that Grant has done it all, he went on to recount a story of how he took on the role of Alex Fletcher in 2007's Music and Lyrics, with a little help from a choreographer that had worked with Britney Spears.
"That was one of the low moments of my career, if not my life, was the first rehearsal with him," he recalled. "It was just him and a big boombox with some music in it in a vast rehearsal room somewhere in Manhattan."
The dancer wanted to see how Grant moved naturally, so he put on some music, but Grant just stood still for 20 minutes. The actor explained, "He was not getting that out of a 40-year-old Englishman at 11 o'clock in the morning. So it was very difficult."
How did he eventually nail that performance? "In the end, I did those scenes on a sneaky combination of whiskey and lorazepam tranquilizers brought to me by my loyal makeup girl in a 7UP bottle," he admitted.
Grant continued the candid interview by giving more insight into the effects of fame in the limelight of showbiz. Specifically, there's one trait he feels he shares with other A-list stars, including George Clooney.
He subscribes to the theory that people's personalities are "emotionally" stuck at the age they were when they got famous. "I have found that my tastes or the things I'm most comfortable with are things I was doing and the food I was eating when I was 34. It's quite odd," the Brit said.
Want proof? "I'm talking to you now from the flat I had at that time and which I've never sold, because I like to run away here to work. I feel safe here," he continued. "Around the corner, I've got five screaming children and a whole other life."
Stream the first season of The Undoing on HBO.