If it is necessary that good friendships withstand the passage of time, look no further than the actors Hugh Grant and Hugh Bonneville.
Almost 20 years after they starred together in the neighborhood of Notting Hill, the two Hughs have been gathered for the new film Paddington – and both say that mutual affection has not diminished.
“When I first saw the Bonneville, I threw him to the ground and tried to give her a kiss, which is what we used to do,” says Grant, who plays the villain of the film (Nicole Kidman role in the first movie), washing of actor Phoenix Buchanan.
“But he is so old now, he put his back. It took us a couple of days of shooting.”
Since the Grant, 57 years old, is four years Bonneville senior, there is a breath of wind, in the air.
It is aggravated by this curve anecdote: “And he still has embroidery between takes.
“It is charming. But he makes God-awful things. No idea what they are”.
Even so, friendship and acceptance are of course central to Michael Bond Paddington stories and director Paul King’s films.
In the heart of every story, our ursine Peruvian, hero of the struggle to navigate their way through a confusing world seemingly designed to trip with him. But he persists in seeing the best in everyone and everything.
Bond died at 91 at the beginning of this year, the last day of filming, an event that Bonneville is described as “very sad and very sudden”.
“It was very touching for us and it has caused a bit of reflection,” says the actor, who returns as Lord Brown, the head of Paddington substitute for the family.
“We have doubled our thoughts, efforts, and desires that this second movie would do justice.”
He adds that the Bonds of the wife, Sue, and their daughter Karen have made the final cut of his blessing.
This follow-up to the King 2014 hit is so charming, funny, and creative as before – maybe even more.
Paddington is on a mission. He desperately wants a very special and expensive pop-up book of London for his beloved Aunt Lucy’s 100th birthday.
He takes odd-temporary work to earn the pennies. The barber is a disaster. Window cleaning shows in the last instance, to be a better bet.
But everything crumbles when the book is stolen by the evil cash Phoenix. Poor Paddington ends up in the frame and serving 10 years behind bars.
In this movie we’re going to see more of the Browns’ neighbors, played by some of the best British acting talent – including Joanna Lumley, Richard Granath, Dame Eileen Atkins, Jessica Hynes and Tom Conti.
“Across the emerging world,” says Bonneville. “I think Paul King went through his entire address book and all wanted to join us.”
But as one of the film’s leads, newcomer of the Grant does more than pop in and (with apologies to Paddington) practically steals the show.
Phoenix is a glorious parody of the stereotypes of self-obsessed actor (with a touch of Grant of self-mockery thrown in). Once famous and rich. Now, on-the-hill and it broke, however, determined to make a comeback. (Get the tongue-in-cheek name.)
“I was glad that mocked the insanity of the psychosis of each actor,” Grant says. “The incredible narcissism, self-love and insecurity. In the background, which all over the act.
“I’ve always been mixed about the performance to say the least, and I still am. It is a torture really. The insecurity is unbearable. The fear of failing.
“Even Ben Whishaw [who voices Paddington] asked what part of the work that I’ve enjoyed. I said: ‘nothing of this really,’ and he said, ‘No, nor me!'”
But there is a huge fun to be had by both the Concession and the public, as Phoenix takes a series of quirky costumes.
And where Bonneville dressed as a cleaning lady in Paddington 1, is to Grant the turn to take the women’s clothing – as a nun.
And, boy, do Grant to enjoy it or is that a rope from the bell we hear again?
“Loved it – I used to do a lot to my all guys school where I took the girl pieces in the works,” Grant says.
“I was a late developer, with at least a beard, very nice, and with the type of tabs.
“I was especially good as Brigitta Von Trapp in The Sound of Music.”
Grant’s career seems to be undergoing a bit of renaissance (the Phoenix again, but this time for real). After the oft-reprimanded rom-coms, then a series of minor roles, was 2016 of Florence Foster Jenkins, which marked a change of trend.
Now, half way through the filming of the TV drama a Very British Scandal, in which he plays himself unworthy of the 1970s politician Jeremy Thorpe. Whishaw, by the way, plays Norman Scott, the lover Thorpe was accused of murdering.
A wide range of papers, is one of the few advantages of age, Grant says.
“One ceases to be offered to the romantics. They are very difficult to do without being boring or naff. So when you start getting offered roles that are more nuanced and more dark notes, and more color, it’s a relief.”
The age is a problem of Bonneville. On the screen, Mr. Brown is going through a midlife crisis. Off the screen, Bonneville says he knows how his character feels.
“He believes that his life is falling apart, that has lost out on a promotion, he is not fit, and it goes grey and becomes an extreme form of yoga as a remedy.
“I can relate with some of that. Not the yoga, but the rest of it is tick, tick, tick!”
Not career distress, without a doubt.
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After six years of Downton Abbey, three years of comedy W1A and Rev, and films such as the recent Breathing, Bonneville is never far from the public psyche. It is something that the actor knows all too well.
“I deliberately had a very quiet year as I was sick of seeing me around,” says Bonneville. “Downton was wonderful, but we were all aware that in each one of their faces so that is good just to be quiet.”
The much-rumored Downton film is laughed off by Bonneville.
“I love all the people involved, but the bottom line is that we are all in different corners of the world. It would be a miracle to pull it all together several years.”
Like Grant, Bonneville is set to star in a biopic – a film about the children’s author Roald Dahl.
When you leave Paddington behind, the two actors learned nothing from our furry friend?
“We’ve all been vulnerable, as those which he has and wanting to fit in,” says Bonneville. “But I do like his eternal optimism. Life is too short to be miserable.”
Meanwhile Grant adds: “Thus, in Paddington, is not bad. Your default position is to see the best in people and mine is the worst.
“Well he is right and I am wrong. Maybe my new motto in life should be, ‘What would Paddington do?'”
For all of us to chew with our jam sandwiches.
Paddington 2 in the united kingdom, on Friday 10 November.
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