Equally famous and infamous, actor Hugh Grant is compelling whether playing the stuttering romantic lead or the cynical rogue. The BAFTA-award winning English actor was born in Hammersmith, West London, in 1960.
He is the second son of James Murray Grant, the boss of a carpet company and former soldier, and Fynvola, a teacher who died of cancer in 2001. His older brother, also named James, is a banker. Grant was later sent to Wetherby preparatory school and in 1979 won a scholarship to prestigious Oxford university.
Far from his solid middle-class background, Grant joined the exclusive Piers Gaveston Society at Oxford - a group with a reputation for debauchery and decadence. He excelled academically and became involved in student drama. In 1982, while still a student, Grant made his big screen debut in 'Privileged', a film about Oxford undergraduates’ bed-hopping. He is credited under the name Hughie - his childhood moniker.
His 'Privileged' performance caught the eye of talent scouts and he was persuaded to abandon plans for a doctorate in art history. Grant decided not to sign up with the acting agency and instead, set about earning his Equity card as an extra.
Following a few small television roles, Grant got his real first break when he was cast in the Merchant Ivory film 'Maurice', in 1987. There followed a portrayal of Chopin in 'Impromptu' (1991) and the part of a young English cruise passenger in 'Bitter Moon' (1992), directed by Roman Polanski.
He was busy acting during the early 90s but his big breakthrough came in 1994 when he played the stammering, floppy-haired Charles in Richard Curtis’ 'Four Weddings and a Funeral'. Though he has played more rakish and crop-haired roles since, the 'Four Weddings’ charming-yet-bumbling character has become the embodiment of Grant.
Playing Andy MacDowell’s love interest, Grant’s irresistible portrayal won him a Golden Globe Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture award, as well as a BAFTA Best Actor award. It was at the London premiere of 'Four Weddings' that Hugh was upstaged by his then partner, English actress and model Elizabeth Hurley.
The couple had met on the set of 'Rowing With The Wind', a behind-the-scenes look at the writing of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. Grant played Lord Byron and - making her debut as Claire, Shelley's half-sister and Byron's former lover - Elizabeth Hurley also appeared. However, the night of the 'Four Weddings’ premiere, Liz stole the headlines for wearing a black, plunging Versace dress held together with gold oversize safety pins.
Outside of his acting profession, Grant has been a keen athlete, playing cricket and football in his younger years. He currently loves golf and has been an avid art lover since his younger years, and has been collecting fine art, a passion he inherited from his father. His comic icons include Monty Python and Fawlty Towers, Gene Wilder and Mel Brooks’ films.
Despite Four Weddings' hype and star-promise, Grant then starred in a series of films which barely registered - some spawned from his and Hurley’s production company Simian Films.
Grant’s private life is the topic of just as much, if not more scrutiny than his screen persona. For 14 years, between 1986 and 2000, he dated Hurley but in 1995, he was arrested in Los Angeles on Hollywood's Sunset Boulevard for indecent conduct with prostitute Divine Brown. Considerable damage was done to Grant's public image after his mug shot was beamed around the world. Grant admitted to receiving oral sex from Brown but managed to win back public adoration for his honest televised apologies. He pleaded not guilty and received a $1,180 fine and two years' probation.
In 1999, Grant again enchanted fans and critics with his performance opposite Julia Roberts in another Richard Curtis film, 'Notting Hill', playing a similar role as the foppish, unlucky-then-lucky in love admirer of Roberts’ film star character. He told reporters it felt weird to be kissing a silver-screen icon but later found his usual dry-humoured self. “She is very big-mouthed. Literally, physically, she has a very big mouth. It is a very big mouth. When I was kissing her I was aware of a faint echo.’’
'Mickey Blue Eyes' (1999), the story of an English auctioneer proposing to the daughter of a Mafia kingpin, under-whelmed at the box office but Grant re-emerged with a change of tack.
He played Daniel Cleaver, the type of naughty boy your mother always told you to steer clear of, in international hit 'Bridget Jones's Diary', in 2001. His character was loved and loathed by Bridget Jones but just plain adored by audiences.
Grant has said he feels most affinity with Will in 'About a Boy', based on Nick Hornby's book about a man being forced to grow up after befriending a child. "I have lived so much of my life as a London slacker. I did a lot of the stuff Will does in the movie. I played snooker, I divided my day into half hours. I can tell you everything that is on afternoon TV.’’
Grant's ability to show character development within a limited screen time shines in 'Love Actually' (2003), with his witty portrayal of a Prime Minister whose personal insecurities become intertwined with his country's international affairs.
After categorically proving himself one of Britain’s most bankable exports, Grant teamed up with American actress Sandra Bullock in the romantic comedy 'Two Weeks’ Notice'. Typically self-deprecating, Grant told reporters he had inadvertently delayed their pairing for years. "We had a 'relationship meeting’, where you talk about the possibility of working together. I told Sandy a very disgusting story, which I think revolted her, she left the room, and I didn't hear from her for three years after that.’’
In 2004, the follow-up to Bridget Jones Diary was released - 'Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason' - in which he resurrected the Cleaver performance and had one of the funniest on-screen, non-macho fist fights with fellow British actor Colin Firth. Grant made Cleaver’s first film appearance so memorable and popular that his part was extended specifically for the second Bridget film.
Also in 2004, Grant began dating socialite and Unicef ambassador Jemima Khan, ex-wife of Imran Khan, their relationship going public after months of denial.
In 'American Dreamz' (2006), Grant played the slimy Simon Cowell-a-like character of Martin Tweed - a judge on an American talent show similar to 'Pop Idol'. The film took pot shots at many satirical targets and Grant’s Tweed finds himself helplessly attracted to a young, female wannabe pop star because she's almost as hollow as he is.
Continuing with his American A-list status, Grant’s latest box office hit was the romantic-comedy 'Music and Lyrics'. Grant stars as aging boy-band loser Alex Fletcher opposite Drew Barrymore. Even though Grant has historically claimed he could not sing, at the age of 46 the actor has turned crooner, appearing on several of the film’s songs, including its catchy title soundtrack, 'Pop Goes My Heart'.
The eternal bachelor, just a month after announcing he was ready to settle down and marry, Grant and Khan broke up in February 2007. The split was said to be amicable, though tabloids would have the public believe differently. In April, Grant accepted undisclosed libel damages from Associated Newspapers, for three "entirely fictional" stories following their break-up.
That same month he ran foul of the press again after he was arrested but later bailed for an allegedly attacking photographer Ian Whittaker. Wielding the most British of weapons, Grant flung baked beans at the paparazzo. Whittaker alleged Grant had attacked him after he tried to take photographs of his former girlfriend Hurley, who lives nearby. Courts took the incident no further saying there was too little evidence to charge Grant.
More recently, Hugh Grant has made headlines for his involvement in the News International phone hacking scandal.
In April 2011, Grant wrote an article of the New Statesman detailing a conversation he recorded with ex-News of the World journalist Peter McMullan.
The reporter and newspaper had long been a thorn in the side of Hugh Grant's career, providing the star with much unwanted press coverage.
This time round though, the roles were reversed, as Grant's article gained worldwide coverage, with readers even able to download audio of the conversation with McMullan.
Writing about the encounter though, Grant remained his usual foppish self: "Apart from the fact that Paul hates people like me, and I hate people like him, we got on quite well."
The article saw Hugh Grant emerge as an unofficial spokesperson for celebrities embroiled in the phone hacking saga, even appearing as a notable guest on a 2011 edition of the BBC's Question Time programme.
His latest films include 'Did You Hear About The Morgans?' (2009) and the Aardman animations feature 'The Pirates! Band of Misfits' (2012) - he will also appear in the upcoming movie version of 'The Man From U.N.C.L.E'.