He was the ‘90s heartthrob with the perfectly foppish hair, charming accent and adorably lopsided grin, but Hugh Grant has revealed that after his career-making turn in Notting Hill, he began suffering from debilitating episodes of stage fright.
Eventually, the actor’s anxiety attacks were occurring with such crippling frequency – filling him with “dread” – that he had to walk away from doing the thing he loved most.
“They would just hit me in the middle of a film and they would only last a morning or something, but it was devastating,” the 55-year-old tells The Hollywood Reporter.
“It would be some very simple scene, you’d rehearsed it perfectly, maybe shot the other guy’s close-up, they turned around on you, you’d walk in there whistling and then suddenly, out of nowhere, you’ve got sweat shooting from your armpits and you can’t remember your lines.
“These were terrible and embarrassing occasions. You could almost never use the scene, you actually had to cut the scene from the film.”
After some time out off-screen, Grant began accepting smaller, supporting bit-parts; it wasn’t until he was offered a leading role opposite Meryl Streep in upcoming Florence Foster Jenkins that he felt ready to step back into the spotlight.
But while returning to a film set hasn’t come easily, the move has prompted the star to actively prevent his stage fright from getting any worse – although he does admit that the process is a “pain in the ass.”
“Day after day, you know, ‘I better go for a run this morning’ and ‘I better take these herbal calmers now’.”
So was it worth the hassle? And does this mean he’s officially un-retired?
“Once I was over it, in many ways it was a treat,” Grant says. “Performing with the greatest female actress possibly of all-time is no hardship. Things got better.
“I don’t know quite what will happen now. I did enjoy enormously making this film, Florence, and I think I got a bit better at acting doing it.
“And when you improve… you want to play again.”
Happy to have you back, Hugh.