Dear Hugh Grant

It looks like that career is off the hook, in the States at least, but there's still the gritty problem of what to do about that relationship back home
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The Independent Online
Don't worry, your career's probably going to be OK. Americans used to think you were cute and a bit dumb, now they think you're really funny although they haven't dropped the dumb part.

In cinemas, it seems that your character now has much more comic depth. Before Divine Brown, the trailers for your new movie would get some mild chuckles. Now, clips from Nine Months provoke gales of laughter.

You have become a household name in the US. Look at Our Sons, a film you did three years ago with Julie Andrews and Ann-Margret. Halliwell's Film Guide doesn't even mention it in your biography. That will change. Atlantic Entertainment are re-releasing it this week on video. Atlantic says it cannot produce enough tapes to meet the demand.

But what about the new film, Nine Months, in which you play a sensitive boy-next-door suffering from indecision about your relationship. Good news there too. On Saturday I went to a "sneak preview" in New York. Hugh, they loved it! The preview sold out days in advance and the packed house laughed heartily. Imagine their glee when they heard you tell Jeff Goldblum you were sexually frustrated.

Afterwards I sampled the crowd. "It was an excellent film," said a 52- year-old lawyer. She said she thought your dalliance made you seem more human. "I loved it," said Frannie, a secretary from New Jersey. "Hugh seemed so cute and confused and vulnerable. There must be something about that Liz Hurley that drove him to it."

I know these examples are women, but they were the overwhelming majority in the audience, and most thought Liz is stuck-up with funny-looking eyes and did I know you personally and could I pass on their telephone numbers. This last was mostly from the New Jersey contingent, which is to New York what Essex is to London. They are a bit earthy, New Jersey women, but still seem to love you; they say they understand your failings and for now they are besieging the box office with their sympathy. In the US, Nine Months is destined to be a huge hit.

Hollywood seems to know this and is ready to let you off the hook. Timothy Gray, a senior editor at Daily Variety, says you did nothing wrong. "By the standards of OJ or Woody Allen, this was just a guy with a hooker. There's something innocent about that, and the bumbling way he got caught was right in character."

So your career seems safe and here's your choice emotionally. You can try to make it up with Liz. Remember the bit in Nine Months where you say "I'm a disgrace. I now know what a bastard I've been and I want you to reconsider." Say that often enough with sincerity and Liz may love you again. Or you could move to New Jersey where your fans are still legion. Before you reject this advice out of hand, remember what Cary Grant used to say - you know, the star they used to compare you with. He once remarked that "the best form of exercise is making love." On the basis of the Nine Months previews, the Garden State could be your very own gymnasium and no money would need to change hands.

If you do stick with Ms Hurley, you may care to remember that other piece of Cary Grant dialogue. In An Affair to Remember, Deborah Kerr asks Grant what makes life so difficult. He pauses and then replies emphatically. "People," he says.

DANIEL JEFFREYS

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