November 30, 2020
No more Mr Nice Guys! With his role in the HBO miniseries, Grant – like Richard Gere and Vince Vaughn – has swapped charm for smarm, reflecting a changing society
Hugh Grants Undoing: how romcom leading men embraced the dark side
Hugh Grant made his name in the 90s as a squeaky-clean charmer, but anyone who has been keeping tabs on his career will not have been surprised to see him show up in the HBO miniseries The Undoing as an unhinged philanderer, attacking a man with his bare teeth in a prison-yard brawl. For a while now, the Actor who used to warm our hearts has been doing his best to chill our blood. And he has been doing it pretty well: as a scheming politician in A Very English Scandal, as a scheming investigator in The Gentlemen and, best of all, as a scheming theatre impresario in Paddington 2. As mid-career renewals go, Grant’s has been one of the best and The Undoing, six hours of top-notch trash that wraps up tonight, has made the most of its newly depraved star.
The reinvention of the romantic lead is hardly a new phenomenon – it is more than 75 years since Murder, My Sweet turned Dick Powell from a fresh-faced musical star to a whisky-addled noir antihero, but in recent years it has become an especially popular trope. Richard Gere, who, like Grant, found screen stardom by flirting faux-modestly with flattered young ladies, has lately gone to great pains to show off his ugly side. He forged a career from playing wealthy, winsome suitors, but his recent turns as a hedge-fund magnate (Arbitrage), a moneyed philanthropist (The Benefactor), a high-flying politician (The Dinner) and a Murdoch-esque media mogul (MotherFatherSon) have all helped to flip the twinkly-eyed archetype on its head. Gere’s message is clear: I’m not the white knight you all thought I was.
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