Hugh Grant had the best response when he was asked about his Nineties heartthrob status, and here’s why I’m living for it.
I don’t think of myself as overly patriotic, but there’s something about British stereotypes that brings me a specific kind of joy.
I delight in going for afternoon tea and find it endlessly comforting that a whole nation is bound by the need to apologise for absolutely everything, even when we haven’t done anything wrong. Also, that talking about the weather is a conversational topic that will never, ever run out of steam.
But one of my favourite things about the UK is our seemingly endless list of pop culture icons. And for me, personally, that means Hugh Grant in the Nineties.
His floppy hair, his inability to get out a sentence without deliberating constantly, his perfect execution of lines like “sod a dog” and the way he plays himself down without coming across pitiful, all make for movie magic.
This week saw the flame I hold for Grant and his embodiment of stereotypical Englishness turn into a blazing bonfire when he took part in a round table with The Hollywood Reporter.
Why? Because the way he talked about his success as a rom com lead was easily the most British thing I’ve ever seen. Ever.
“Hugh you’ve said that you permanently have an inferiority complex because you are (and I’m putting this in quotes so you know that you said this and not me) ‘just the guy from romantic comedies,’” noted the panel facilitator.
“Is that real? I mean really, you feel that way?”
“Well,” Grant began uncertainly, in classic Hugh Grant style. “I did… [but] a bit less now.
“I’ve got too old and ugly and fat to do them anymore, so now I’ve done other things and, um, I’ve got marginally less self-hatred than I had before.
“Some of them are shockers, but on the whole I can look those romantic comedies in the face and people like them, and I’m a big believer in that our job is to entertain.”
It’s true that Grant hasn’t been a romantic hero in years. Since his last rom-com film, he has achieved villain status as Phoenix Buchanan in Paddington 2, worked on comedy drama Florence Foster Jenkins and shocked the nation with his celebrated role in historical TV drama, A Very English Scandal.
I’m not saying that speaking about yourself in this way is a good thing. I think shouting loud and proud about your achievements is a quality that our society could adopt more, and the response that topics like imposter syndrome gets shows how many of us feel somewhat debilitated in our careers because of not feeling like we’re good enough – something which self-deprecating tendencies doesn’t help with.
But essentially, I love this style of humour, and Grant’s contribution to the romantic comedy genre and his special brand of self-deprecation is a staple part of my love for British culture. And it’s a love that’s shared widely, with a study even showing that for Brits, a show of self-deprecating humour instantly increases a potential partner’s attractiveness.
So when I think the best of Britain I still think of floppy-haired William Thacker from Notting Hill, living in the house with the blue door just off the ever-changing Portobello Road.
I think of the simultaneously hopelessly-dithering yet alluringly-charming Charles from Four Weddings and a Funeral, who (as previously mentioned) can’t help but constantly apologise for his existence, especially when he’s trying to tell the woman he loves how he feels about her. Before giving up all together and helping her go dress shopping for her wedding to another man.
So if, like me, you’re a sucker for that Nineties nostalgia-meets-Bristishism sweet spot, then Grant’s self-deprecating interview could be right up your street. Do yourself a favour and, just for a minute, pretend it’s 1994 again.
Images: MGM / Rex Features