Hugh Grant plays a has-been ‘80s pop star who now scrapes by making appearances at amusement parks, fairs, and even the occasional high school reunion in Warner Bros Pictures’ romantic comedy Music and Lyrics, written and directed by Marc Lawrence and co-starring another romantic comedy staple, Drew Barrymore. While Grant’s an audience favorite in rom coms, he’s never had to sing, dance, and play the piano in a film before. The fact he pulls it all off is, according to the actor, due to heavy vocal manipulation in the editing process and a wardrobe that brought out his inner pop star.
If you think any of Hugh Grant’s answers in this article are serious, it’s because sarcasm and humor don’t always translate well in print.
Hugh Grant on His Pop Star Moves: Although Grant didn’t offer the media a sampling of his moves, he was happy to know people are definitely appreciating his wiggles and thrusts in Music and Lyrics. “I'm glad you liked them. It was misery for me. I don't play the piano, I don't sing, and I definitely don't dance. They can teach you to sing a bit and the computer can put you in tune and they can teach you to play the piano, but nothing, nothing can make you move like a pop star if you haven't got it in you.
I used to go to these choreography sessions… There's a brilliant choreographer on the film who did all these big numbers and we just used to stand there looking at each other. He would put the music on and say, ‘Go, just go. Just do your own thing.’ And I would say, ‘I have no thing. There's nothing to come out.’ And in the end I had to rely heavily on the makeup woman bringing me what looked like a 7-Up bottle but was in fact whiskey….”
The tight jeans also played a key role in Grant’s pop star transformation. “Actually, it helps a little bit. I must say when I got into my costume, I thought, ‘Yeah, quite sexy.’ Especially with those high heels.”
Preparing for Music and Lyrics: “I was doing piano and singing for probably two months before we started shooting and while we were shooting. I had a little piano in my trailer and I used to do it by myself at night. Singing that is... I would sing long into the night.
It's a curious thing. It is one of those rare examples where practice does actually make you probably better, I've found. It's all confidence, I'm sure you know. It's weird. People just say, ‘Just go for it,’ and that's the hard thing. You can't just go for it if you've got no confidence. But this strange procedure where they record you and then fiddle it so it actually sounds pretty good… The more they do that, the more you think, ‘I can relax now because whatever happens, I'm going to end up sounding good,’ and then you start to sound good on your own.”
Don’t Look for Grant to Transition to Singing When He’s Done Acting: Barrymore says Grant sang a cappella and it sounded really good. In fact, Barrymore, who plays Grant’s onscreen love interest in Music and Lyrics, went as far as to say he sounded beautiful. However Grant himself says it’s all due to how his voice was finessed in the editing process.
“I heard a lot of the singing beforehand because you work for days and days to do these recordings. It's not how I imagined it,” Grant said about watching the finished film for the first time. “I mean, you must sing every song about a thousand times and then they take one syllable that you might happen to have got vaguely right, and they stitch it together with another syllable. Literally, it's that fine. Then they put it through the machine 1,600 different ways and tune you and put what they call ‘slap’ - which is sort of an echo effect, which makes you sound better. It's unbelievable. By the time they finish doing that, and you've learned that you can do it, you actually do sing better anyway. You get more relaxed. You think, ‘They can fix this.’”
And Theatre’s Not in His Future Either: Singing and dancing in Music and Lyrics didn’t convince Grant he should sign up to star in a West End musical. “I'm not very good in the theatre,” admitted Grant. “I don't like watching plays. I don't like being in them very much. But I have learned to love the sound of my own singing voice.”
No Music, No Plays…: So how does Grant fill his free time since he doesn’t listen to music or take in an occasional play. “Oh, I don't know,” answered Grant. “I sit around and moan. I play a bit of golf and I see my friends and read a book. Actually, I watch films.”
Grant did train in the theatre but he’s put it behind him now. “Yeah, I did a lot of plays, but to be really honest with you, I think doing a play is quite fun. It's watching a play that is utter misery. That's why I couldn't really justify going on acting in the theatre because I just knew that these poor bastards paid a lot of money and were having a horrible time sitting out there watching. Let's be honest. One time in 50 is actually fun in the theatre. The other 49 times you're thinking, ‘Bring on my gin and tonic in the intermission.’”
The Attraction of Working Opposite Drew Barrymore: “Drew was the perfect person for this thing. I sat down with Mark [Lawrence, writer/director] and we watched every romantic comedienne working at the moment, and it was quite clear it had to be Drew. She's got incredible charm… She's not a charming person in real life, charming on the screen [said in a joking manner]. No, she's just perfect, perfect for the part, and very kind and supportive to an extremely grumpy, difficult actor.”
Grant Doesn’t Play Favorites: Because he doesn’t have any when it comes to bands and songs. “It's a very short answer: I'm a fraud and a charlatan in this film, because I have no interest in music. I never have had. I don't have any records. I never play music, so it's very difficult for me to tell you my favorite song. Sorry.”
In Keeping with the Film’s Valentine’s Day Release: Asked if he really gets into Valentine’s Day Grant joked, “Yeah, I take it extremely seriously. If I don't get a lot of cards and things, I get crabby. I like a lot of attention. At school there was a system where you put things in letter boxes, which was weird because it was an all boys' school (laughing).”