Hugh Grant’s guilty pleasures: rediscovering the saucy and Sapphic curios of his back catalogue | Culture

I’m not sure what has been more curious about Hugh Grant in recent months: his breaking stammering-toff type to play a geezer in Guy Ritchie’s The Gentlemen, or his becoming an unlikely Twitter hero as @HackedOffHugh. He’s given the blue bird to Boris Johnson (an “over-promoted rubber bath toy” leading a “gang of masturbatory prefects”); reminded Piers Morgan that his paper hacked actor Nigel Havers’ phone while his wife was dying of cancer; and posted his own mugshot when trolls attempted to wind him up about his 1995 arrest for receiving oral sex from a sex worker.

Given this glorious renaissance, it seemed like a good time to further cement the cult of Hugh and unearth three streamable – and coincidentally rather softcore and Sapphic – curios from his back catalogue.

This camp horror was directed by Ken Russell (Tommy, Women in Love) with a smirkingly wooden script. Grant plays James, a toff whose ancestors – legend has it – had run-ins with a mythical white worm. As Peter Walker wrote of Grant’s performance in the Guardian’s My Guilty Pleasure series, “I fancy you can sometimes see a flash of panic in his eyes, as if he’s wondering if a 2:1 from Oxford should really lead to this,” but still, he’s one of the few actors here not struggling with his accent.

Grant is pitted against Amanda Donohoe’s Lady Silvia Marsh, dominatrix head of a serpent cult, who delivers her lines with all the vocal relish of Vincent Price, even when topless or when fellating a Boy Scout to death in a Jacuzzi. In a 1999 interview with The AV Club, Grant recalled that Russell would slur: ‘“Do it how I showed you, you fuckin’ cunt!’ Which is not classic Ingmar Bergman direction.”

Ah, but dream sequences, saxophone, strap-ons – this film’s got it all.

Buy or rent The Lair of the White Worm on YouTube

Kristin Scott-Thomas (L) and Hugh Grant (C) in Bitter Moon.

Kristin Scott Thomas (L) and Hugh Grant (C) in Bitter Moon. Photograph: Pictorial Press Ltd/Alamy Stock Photo

Before we proceed, you should know that this erotic thriller is both set on a cruise ship and directed by Roman Polanski. Grant plays Nigel, an out-of-touch toff who has a tendency to make Prince Philip-style faux pas.

He’s in a buttoned-up relationship with Fiona (Kristin Scott Thomas), and it’s pushed to its limits when he meets bitter drunk Oscar (Peter Coyote), who’s keen to ply Nigel with whisky and bend his ear about his sexually and emotionally sadistic relationship with young French dancer, Mimi, played by Emmanuelle Seigner (who is Polanski’s wife).

At first, Nigel is far too British to want to know the coarser details, but before too long, he too is obsessed by Mimi and the twisted role-reversal that occurs in this Parisian affair. Unapologetically melodramatic, Bitter Moon climaxes with a scene scored by Bryan Ferry’s Slave to Love.

Buy or rent Bitter Moon on YouTube

Tara Fitzgerald and Hugh Grant in Sirens.

Tara Fitzgerald and Hugh Grant in Sirens. Photograph: AF archive/Alamy Stock Photo

Grant is Tony, a progressive English reverend sent to the Blue Mountains with his wife Estella (Tara Fitzgerald) to take to task artist Norman Lindsay (yes that Norman Lindsay, played by Sam Neill) for his profane paintings. Once sequestered at the artist’s estate and introduced to his witchy trio of sultry muses – played by Portia de Rossi, Elle Macpherson and Kate Fischer – Tony and Estella start to feel some distinctly un-British stirrings.

Grant seems in his element here; both able to stammer and go red on cue and work with his own dry sense of humour. Much of the joy of Sirens, though, is director John Duigan’s delight in rubbing quintessential Englishness up against ocker Australianness. The cast includes Ben Mendelsohn and John Polson as sheep shearers, and then-model Mark Gerber – now boss of the Oxford Art Factory – playing the blind and mute handyman everyone lusts after.

Gerber tells Guardian Australia that he became Grant’s drinking partner at the Fairmont Resort – which the studio had taken over – at one point going over the script to Grant’s next film, Four Weddings and a Funeral, in Grant’s hotel room. “We’d be drinking whisky till five in the morning and I thought, my god, you must be a machine,” Gerber says. “Maybe he was method acting, because there was one scene where he had to act quite disheveled.”

Buy or rent Sirens on YouTube or watch on Amazon Prime

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Source: The Guardian

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