Hugh Grant: Actor, ex ad-man, Seinfeld fan and Japanese idol

In 1996, CBC's Midday ended up talking to Hugh Grant about so many things — but very little about the movie he was promoting.

How Hugh Grant got into acting

26 years ago
Duration 1:24
Hugh Grant talks about his rise to stardom.

Hugh Grant wasn't always famous?

That's one of the takeaways from a wide-ranging interview Grant gave to Midday back in 1996, as he was promoting the Toronto-shot movie Extreme Measures.

Grant, still with the trademark floppy hair of his early career, was there to talk about the film, but he ended up looking back on his path to stardom.

'You weren't a child actor?'

Hugh Grant, seen here in this 1995 file photo, had already been the star of some well-received pictures such as Four Weddings and a Funeral by the time he spoke to Midday in 1996. (Mark Lennihan/AP)

No, Grant was not a child actor. The question came up, as Midday's Tina Srebotnjak asked Grant how he ended up going into acting.

Grant explained that he worked on a student film while going to Oxford University, which got him noticed. That led to opportunities in the business.

"I thought it'd be amusing for a year to do that while I worked out what I really wanted to do," said Grant, in the interview which aired on Sept. 24, 1996. "And here I am, an embarrassing number of years later, still doing it."

"So, what — you just got the [acting] bug?" Srebotnjak asked.

"Yeah, I suppose so, yeah," said Grant. "You just want to finally crack it. And then you think: 'I'll give it up as soon as I've cracked it.' And you never quite do."

He used to write ad copy

Hugh Grant's ad-man past

26 years ago
Duration 0:20
Hugh Grant tells Midday about his past work as a copy writer.

Yes, he had a real job before he was an actor. He wrote copy for advertisements.

"I loved it," said Grant. "I used to write commercials for Mighty White sliced bread, with 'all the goodness of brown, but the great taste of white.'"

He mentioned that he'd also worked on Red Stripe beer ads, adding, "I wish I had a Red Stripe lager now."

He was big in Japan

Becoming famous in Japan

26 years ago
Duration 0:51
Hugh Grant explains what made him famous in Japan.

"What was it that made you an overnight sensation in Japan?" asked Srebotnjak.

Grant explained that he became well-known in Japan after starring in Maurice — a film adapted from an E.M. Forster novel, produced by Ismail Merchant and directed by James Ivory — years earlier.

"They just adore things that are very, very British and that was an incredibly British film and all these young girls just went nuts," said Grant, noting that two books were then written about him in that country.

He joked he'd read translated versions and found them "pretty riveting."

Canadians, comedy and Seinfeld

Hugh Grant on Canadians, comedy and Seinfeld

26 years ago
Duration 1:14
Hugh Grant gets talking about Canadians, their taste in comedy and his interest in Seinfeld.

Having spent time filming Extreme Measures in Canada, Grant said he felt at home here, as he was able to watch many British sitcoms on Canadian TV.

Grant said he suspected Canadians understood U.K. humour because they were "half-British" to some degree.

He also defended the reputation of American sitcoms and named some of his favourites.

"If you watch their sitcoms, their best sitcoms are unbelievably funny, I think, and well-written," said Grant, calling Seinfeld "superb" and mentioning his appreciation for Friends and Murphy Brown as well.

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