Hugh Grant’s transition from heart-throb to grumpy old man will take some getting used to

Hugh Grant attends the "Wonka" photocall in Pottersfield Park
Grant said he only took the part of an Oompa-Loompa in Wonka because he has so many mouths to feed - Dave Benett/WireImage

Oh dear. Hugh Grant has divided womankind yet again. And unfortunately it’s a lot more painful than the usual prosecco-fuelled bickering over the relative merits of Notting Hill versus Love Actually.

Grant, 63, who appears in the new Wonka film as an Oompa-Loompa (I blame Paddington 2), has revealed himself to be – wait for it, wait for it – just another grumpy old man. A matinee idol with feet of clay, so to speak.

The prequel to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory tells the early story of the chocolatier, played by Timothée Chalamet, and has been met with rave reviews – just not from Hugh.

Speaking at the launch of the film, Grant, who won a Golden Globe for Four Weddings and a Funeral in 1995, announced that he didn’t even want the part, but took it because he has so many mouths to feed; he has three children with his wife, Anna Eberstein, and two from a previous relationship with Tinglan Hong.

“I slightly hate making films but I have lots of children and need money,” he said, before complaining about the complex CGI process needed to transform him into an orange Oompa-Loompa.

“It was like a crown of thorns, very uncomfortable. I made a big fuss about it. I couldn’t have hated the whole thing more... and frankly, what I did with my body was terrible, and it’s all been replaced with an animator.”

Anna Eberstein and Hugh Grant attend the world premiere of the movie 'Wonka' at the Royal Festival Hall
Grant has three children with his wife, Swedish TV presenter Anna Eberstein - TOLGA AKMEN/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

He is joking of course. Isn’t he? My girlfriends – for whom Hugh Grant was and continues to be the very epitome of awkward English manhood – are variously aghast and amused.

The tabloids are horrified by his dismissiveness. But given the film’s writers have spoken about their vision of the Oompa-Loompas as “biting and sarcastic and scornful and incredibly funny”, my take is that withering remarks were very much in character.

Having said that, I do wonder whether his elaborate world-weariness is entirely fake. I’m surprised he wasn’t wearing one of those postmodern T-shirts that say “Sorry for being late. I didn’t want to come”, such was his lack of brio.

It’s terribly – or wonderfully, depending on your perspective – British to self-efface and talk things down, but a children’s movie is hardly the best target.

Then again, a lot of his fans d’un certain age are probably a little sour because they (okay, we) imagined him going down the raffish silver-fox-cum-ageing-roué career route, rather than a piccolo-playing Oompa-Loompa.

The unforgettable sight of his bushy white eyebrows has laid the floppy-haired youth to rest. Forgive us if we need a few minutes to adjust.

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