Terence Blacker: Hugh Grant, my missing team-mate

He went away one of us and came back a star. Now I can see why everything had changed

Related Topics

My team-mate was worried by a surprising development in his life. He had been receiving anonymous calls on his car-phone. This sudden, inexplicable curiosity of strangers made him feel uneasy. Almost two decades later, he is rather more militant in his views about intrusion. As I watched Hugh Grant testify to the Leveson Inquiry this week, it occurred to me that early signs of the nasty side-effects of celebrity we see today were evident all those years ago when our right-back suddenly became famous.

Character is revealed on the football pitch. Hugh and I were part of – indeed at one point jointly organised – a ragtaggle team of freelancers (this paper's distinguished sketch writer Simon Carr was at one point a central defender) which played on Wednesday afternoons. On the pitch, Hugh was rather different from what was to become his screen persona: he was, shall we say, robustly competitive.

Shortly after he mentioned the mysterious calls, he went off to make a film, and I was away from London for a few months, teaching creative writing at a university. When I returned, Hugh's face was on posters on every street. The film was Four Weddings and a Funeral.

Although he would occasionally play for us after that, everything changed, and in a way which the evidence to Lord Leveson has helped to explain. There was a guardedness there, a distinct sense of separateness. The easy, unthinking view is that becoming well-known tends to give people airs. The truth is that it is not fame that screws up the famous so much as the attitude to fame of the outside world.

A self-protective bubble is required. Nothing is normal any more. No one can quite be trusted. There is always a danger that something said or done in a relaxed moment can be leaked to a gossip column, with miserable consequences.

Even at the time, it struck me that Hugh was paying a high price for his success as an actor. He and I were no closer than weekly footballing buddies, but he was always funny and open. It seemed a shame that he now had to be so cautious, so unlike himself.

Cultural weirdness about celebrity, unpleasant in the mid-1990s, has today become grotesque and shameful. Curiosity about those in the public eye – for whatever reason – has led to a sinister sense of ownership which, in its turn, has encouraged the kind of press harassment, bullying and inhumanity exposed this week.

The last time I saw Hugh, we were playing in a tournament together and he seemed slightly unfriendly in a way which I found bewildering at the time. Now I realise that the problem was that by then I was writing a newspaper column. I was among the ranks of the enemy.


See full witness statements from Hugh Grant to the Leveson inquiry

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Head of Marketing and Communications - London - up to £80,000

£70000 - £80000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group Head of Marketing and Communic...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Level 3 Nursery Nurse required for ...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: L3 Nursery Nurses urgently required...

SEN Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: We have a number of schools based S...

Day In a Page


Ed Miliband's conference speech must show Labour has a head as well as a heart

Patrick Diamond
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments