SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
Hugh Grant is a British fish out of water - again. He plays Keith Michaels, a screenwriter who won an Oscar once 15 years ago, but has fallen so low since that his lights go out. He has to take a one-semester teaching job at a college in Binghamton, or Bing-hamp-ton, as he calls it. Around his first night in town, he encounters a group of students in a hamburger joint. They find him charming.
(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE REWRITE")
HUGH GRANT: (As Keith Michaels) What are you all majoring in, then?
UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: (As character) I'm pre-med.
GRANT: (As Keith Michaels) Really? And where do you stand on full-body scans? Would you say helpful, or would you say cancer-causing cash conduits?
UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: (As character) Well, I mean...
UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS #2: (As character) Nice alliteration. I'm an English major.
GRANT: (As Keith Michaels) I thought I recognized a fellow sufferer. And Chloe is majoring in?
SIMON: Charming, yes, but they don't know him yet. Hugh Grant's new film is "The Rewrite." It also stars J.K. Simmons, Marisa Tomei, Chris Elliott and Allison Janney. Hugh Grant joins us from New York.
Thanks so much for being with us.
GRANT: Oh, no, thank you for having me.
SIMON: You spend much of the film as a cad.
GRANT: Yeah, his attitude is horrendous. He drinks too much, he's rude to the other members of the faculty, he has an affair with one of his young students. But he gradually comes to find that he actually likes teaching and likes the university, likes Binghamton. And especially that he's drawn to this mature student played by Marisa Tomei, who's a single mom kind of working her way through university.
SIMON: This is your fourth collaboration, I guess, with Marc Lawrence, the writer and director. "Two Weeks Notice," "Music And Lyrics," a couple of other films. What kind of films do you think you folks make together?
GRANT: They're films which are romantic comedies, but I think with a brain. And Marc's big thing is that he really genuinely loves people in a way that I don't. And so I think there's sort of - there's always some charm and it's quite uplifting, I think.
SIMON: You don't love people?
GRANT: Not as much as I should, I think.
SIMON: Well, what's wrong with us?
GRANT: No - I love you.
SIMON: (Laughter). I love you. But, every few years you give an interview in which you sound like you want to get out of acting.
GRANT: Yes. I've got to stop giving those interviews. I mean, I genuinely haven't done very much in the last few years, but I - on the whole, my focus has been elsewhere.
SIMON: Yeah. Did you ever take an acting class at Oxford or elsewhere?
GRANT: Well, certainly not at Oxford. But after I found that I had become an actor, slightly to my surprise, I did have some insecurity and I did take some rather strange acting classes at a place called the Actors' Studio in London. And I don't think they did me any good at all.
SIMON: (Laughter). I've read that you used to make radio commercials for Red Stripe Lager.
GRANT: Yeah, Red Stripe Lager, Mighty White sliced bread with all the goodness of brown but the great taste of white.
SIMON: (Laughter). I was going to ask you if you remembered any lines.
GRANT: Yeah, yeah. Brylcreem and all sorts of things.
SIMON: Did you get a sense making this film of what could make a good teacher happy?
GRANT: Well, I don't know. I mean, I think he - yes, he comes to realize he actually can teach. He can make them better at something they're very enthusiastic about it. He also comes to realize that there other metrics by which to judge the quality of your life rather than money, and where you are on the Hollywood ladder.
SIMON: You have been among the founders of Hacked Off, and, this is a group of citizens that's been opposed to the illegal hacking of phones.
GRANT: Yeah. Not just hacking of phones, other forms of - the worst forms of tabloid abuse of sort of innocent civilians, yeah. Used and exploited by a certain group of British tabloid papers, for profit. And up till now, no one's really dealt with that problem because everyone's extremely terrified of those newspapers because their vengeance is quick and brutal. So for the first time, we now have a civic society group who are taking on that problem. And we've managed to get a year-long public inquiry led by a judge in Britain and then we got the recommendations of that judge put into law.
SIMON: Can you see how difficult it is to draft a law that both protects privacy but also represents the public's right to know?
GRANT: Yeah, well, that's exactly the trick. And those are two fundamental, but clashing, human rights. So I think what was very clever at the end of this year-long inquiry, this judge came up with a system that did do both those things.
SIMON: Do you think you've made yourself a bigger target?
GRANT: Yes. (Laughter). Very much so, very much so. I was taken aside by a friendly newspaperman the other day. He said, you know, I don't think you realize just how much they hate you now and just be careful 'cause you don't know what they might do, and you might find drugs planted in your bag or something like that. Because I mean, criminality was not at all beyond their code of practice for a long time. I remember having my flat broken into in 1995, for instance, on the orders of one of the British papers.
SIMON: Well, good luck.
GRANT: Thank you very much.
SIMON: Hugh Grant, his new film in which he co-stars with Marisa Tomei, J.K. Simmons and several others is "The Rewrite." Thanks so much.
GRANT: Thanks, thanks.
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