Drew, Hugh match like ‘Music and Lyrics’
NEW YORK ó Some people first encounter each other in coffee shops or on the subway.
Hugh Grant got to know his latest co-star, Drew Barrymore, in a slightly more offbeat way.
“Drew sent me a letter during my great scandal of 1995,” Grant says, referring to his arrest in Los Angeles for picking up prostitute Divine Brown in his car. “I had two incredibly supportive letters from famous people. One was from Drew.
The other was from Francis Ford Coppola. Both apologizing for the press coverage and being supportive. So I’ve always loved Drew for that.”
Barrymore shrieks. “I forgot that! I’m so not Hollywood Bob that way or would send anyone I didn’t know a letter. But I thought you were so charming. I wrote you a letter and you wrote me one back, and it hung on my fridge for a long time.”
Now the former pen pals play musical chairs in the romantic comedy Music and Lyrics, opening on Valentine’s Day. Grant, 46, stars as a has-been ’80s pop star who is asked to write a tune for a hot singer, and Barrymore, 31, plays his reluctant writing buddy. Grant learned to play the piano for the movie, and, yes, that’s his voice you hear in the film.
“Of all the people in the world to be a pop star, I’m terribly miscast,” Grant says. “That’s me singing, but that’s very cheatable. They have amazing machines now. The computer puts you in tune and makes you sound great. Do you have any idea how music is made nowadays? It’s all completely fraudulent. You don’t have to be able to sing.”
Counters Barrymore, who duets with Grant in the comedy: “But that said, before we pull all the magic out of the music industry, there has to be personality behind it. You did practice diligently, and there are plenty of scenes where you sing a cappella and sound wonderful.”
In person, the two couldn’t be more dissimilar.
He’s an acerbic Brit with a scathing wit, joking that he had sex with Barrymore in an elevator. She’s bubbly and sunny, drinking iced tea and sitting on her bare feet to warm them up. He listens to ABBA, the Gypsy Kings and military bands. She likes Muse’s Black Holes and Revelations. Back home in London, Grant is dating socialite Jemima Khan, while Barrymore recently broke up with Strokes drummer Fabrizio Moretti.
“We’re such a yin and yang,” Barrymore says. “Opposites attract, oil and water; it’s good. Who wants too much sunshine or too much of a dark cloud?”
The mood on the Manhattan set, the actors say, was more subdued than side-splitting.
“I’m not unpleasant or rude,” Grant says. “But I’m very anxious, and I get bored very easily and crabby and a bit dark and solitary on the set. For a girl who’s naturally full of sunshine and laughter, it must have been tough.”
Not so, Barrymore says. Grant, she says, “can be very intense. But at the end of the day, I simply love and adore him because he genuinely cares about getting it right. And he’s also a really good guy. I had a really hard day one day, and he came and put his arm around me and put a beer in my hand and said to tell him all about it.”
She turns to Grant and smiles. “You’re a good man, Hubert.”
“It wasn’t typical!” he cracks.
Grant says he signed on to Music and Lyrics because of the subject matter, but he concedes that his mind has been on expanding his talents beyond acting. “I cling pathetically to the notion that I’ll move from being an interpretive kind of artist to being one who actually writes the thing. I’ve been really trying to write my book.”
Girlfriend Khan has helped. She, he says, “has forced me virtually at gunpoint to sit down and actually do it as opposed to talk about it or make notes.”
Khan accompanied Grant to the Golden Globes and wore a sexy white dress, but to his chagrin, “she refuses to have her photograph taken. I said, ‘Oh, go on,’ and she bolted like a horse. Kept jumping things. It was extraordinary.”
Such an attitude is unfamiliar to Grant, who jokes that being a washed-up celebrity “is on my list of terrors.”
“You have to try and get out when, relatively speaking, you’re still at the top,” he says. “And once you’re out, have some other thing that gives you self-esteem. But to slide down, down gradually into ignominy Ö”
Grant trails off as Barrymore interjects: “I don’t think that can happen for you. It does become up to you at a certain point. You earn the right to choose what your life is going to be.”
The actress, who runs her production company, Flower Films, with friend Nancy Juvonen, says she has never done anything purely for the money. “And I never will.”
“I have,” Grant retorts, “and I’ve always regretted it. I appeared on Italian television for a vast sum of money, and, God, I regret it. I looked like such a twit.”
Drew, Hugh match like ‘Music and Lyrics’