Scandal maketh the man? The evolution of Hugh Grant and the celebrity confessional
Following a range of supporting roles in the late 1980s, Hugh Grant’s breakthrough performance in Four Weddings and A Funeral (1994) established him as Britain’s ‘go-to’ romantic lead. And yet, a potentially career-ending sex scandal while on the verge of Hollywood stardom could be considered the making of the man. By analysing press coverage using analytical approaches and frameworks from celebrity studies, this article shows how several flashpoints in Grant’s personal life and subsequent ‘celebrity confessionals’ have been central to Grant’s enduring popularity and evolving star persona. As I argue, scandals across three decades, and subsequent confessionals are mirrored in Grant’s maturing onscreen persona–from commitment-phobic characters, to experimentation with satire and comedy for the American market, to his triumphant return in British biography/dramedies. This article considers Grant’s evolving and unique engagement with the media as a type of ‘reverse confessional’–where Grant’s confessions subsequently expose the shifting nature of celebrity engagement with the media, and less desirable aspects of the (British) tabloid press. In sum, I contend the reverse narrative mode employed by Grant as an ‘image restoration strategy’ has allowed him to reclaim his own narrative and expose key truths about privacy, press coverage, and contemporary celebrity culture.
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