Anyone who has seen the 2003 holiday classic Love Actually knows that Hugh Grant has some pretty sweet dance moves. So it's hard to imagine that the British actor and rom-com favourite was daunted by having to swing dance for his latest role in Florence Foster Jenkins.
"That was a nightmare," he tells Hello! with his trademark wry humour. Still, after three months in the dance studio, the 55-year-old actor emerged a new man. "I now enjoy expressing myself through movement and I like to dance for my children. They hate it, but I like it!"
Hugh has four kids: Tabitha Jing Xi, 4, and son, Felix, 3, from his past relationship with actress Tinglan Hong; John, 3, from his Swedish TV producer girlfriend Anna Eberstein, with whom he also has a baby girl, born last December.
The British star admits that becoming a dad has changed him for the better, both personally and professionally. "All those clichés turn out to be true," he tells us, adding, "You're not the number one anymore. Now I'm number five. It is very nice. Actually, I don't think I could have done this part, really, without having those children. I realize that now."
The part he speaks of is that of St. Clair Bayfield in Florence Foster Jenkins. The role sees Hugh playing the devoted husband to a wannabe opera singer who is blissfully unaware she can't hold a tune. His wife is played by three-time Oscar winner Meryl Streep.
Here, the handsome actor opens up about being "terrified" of Meryl, his famous sense of humour and how he thinks he is doing as a father of four.
How nervous were you working with Meryl? I did a surprisingly uncharacteristic amount of research on this film. Mainly, out of terror, because I signed up for it a year before we shot it – and that's a long time to be frightened! I was frightened of Meryl.
What was it like the first day on set? On Day 1, it was the read-through, which is usual with films. I don't remember ever feeling as frightened as that. Oddly enough, it was in the same room where we had the read-through for Notting Hill [with Julia Roberts]! So in the same room, I have sweated more from my armpits than any other room in London [Laughs].
You've always had a terrific sense of humour. Who do you credit that to, your mom or dad? Both. But I think different cultures prioritize different things. For instance, the French have the most delicious food and clothes and elegance as a very high priority. The British don't have that at all. Our food is disgusting! We dress badly, but we priortize jokes, so it's different in different countries.
Is humour something you hope to pass along to your children? All I know is people sometimes say, "What do you want for your children?" I really want very little except that they have a roof over their heads and they're fed and that they have a sense of humour. I don't think life's really bearable if you don't have one. And most people do. Very occasionally you meet someone who has none at all. They're quite fascinating.
Are you a patient parent? Without a hangover I'm marvellous. [Laughs] I think I'm alright. Obviously, I've made mistakes. For instance, I like to wear my underpants on my head. I think that's very funny, but now all my kids are doing it at their nursery schools. And all the other kids in the school are now doing it. Maybe that was a mistake. I hope I'm nice enough.