Four wheels and his own funeral?

David Lister looks at the arrest and future prospects of Hugh Grant
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The Independent Online
Hugh Grant's fall from grace was at least combined with one of the the movie world's favourite place names and a little drama. He picked up a prostitute in Sunset Boulevard, was arrested by undercover police officers and taken, sirens screaming, straight to a Hollywood police station, where, no doubt, the stars leave their fingerprints in cement.

For Grant's British fans the romantic location will not dim the sense of shock. Such behaviour might be viewed as a symptom of stress for a soap opera star but not for a pampered and erudite Oxford graduate who, with his glamorous girlfriend, is supposed to be one half of the romantic couple of the Nineties.

It is the plight of Liz Hurley that will harden many hearts against Grant today. When Jeffrey Archer was alleged to have consorted with a prostitute a judge looked at his wife and declared famously: "Is she not fragrant?" How many people must today be looking at Elizabeth Hurley and thinking: "Is she not the epitome of fragrance?"

Grant has been quoted as saying of his on-screen sex scenes: "If I do them early on in a film, I find it very sexy. The thing is, I have always found strangers sexy, so if an actress is still a stranger, then it's real sexiness." He once said: "I'm horrible to my girlfriend frequently. Liz stopped fancying me years ago. She encourages the myth now because I'm her product. She thinks the more I am liked, the better it is for business."

The romance between Britain's most eligible and classically handsome actor and a girl so porcelain pretty that she was signed up by Estee Lauder, as the multi-million dollar face of its perfumes and cosmetics campaign, was a love story with the combination of wholesomeness, glamour and self- deprecating affection to delight middle England.

For both it was a meteoric rise to fame. Two years ago Grant was hardly known outside student circles but the first night of Four Weddings And A Funeral changed that. The film had already made Grant a cult star in America and, on its British premiere, Hurley's appearance in the flimsiest of Versace dresses shoved her firmly into stardom, if somewhat vicarious.

Hugh Grant, 34, had spent his time after graduating in English from Oxford taking minor roles in repertory and scripting his own satirical revues. He had only had limited success in films at first. But Four Weddings made him not just a star but a tabloid sensation.

He was well cast as the foppish, polite, and attractive beau, unable to commit to a long-term relationship and not averse to putting his foot in his mouth. His comic timing revealed a genuine talent and, though he was only paid a relatively small salary for the movie, his success in Four Weddings immediately brought him to the attention of Hollywood studios.

He also showed at awards ceremonies that he had a ready, self-deprecating wit for a presentation speech strangely akin to his Four Weddings character and the best man's speech. At Bafta recently he apologised to John Travolta, who was in the audience, for beating him for the best actor award, reassuring him that, if Pulp Fiction had been shot in the Sussex countryside, Travolta would have won over the British.

All who know Grant agree he is charming and generous. But Hollywood studios do not like to see their actors indulging in immoral behaviour off screen and whether they will retain their interest in him remains to be seen.

Dear Hugh Grant,

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