Hollywood star Hugh Grant, 57, graces the small screen to play former Liberal leader Jeremy Thorpe MP, who, in the 1970s, was caught up in an alleged conspiracy to murder his ex-lover Norman Scott.
Here, the actor – who is famous for multiple British film roles, including Bridget Jones’s Diary, Notting Hill and romantic comedy Love Actually – tells us about learning the violin for the part and kissing co-star Ben Whishaw in BBC1’s three-part drama, A Very English Scandal.
This drama tells the story of the fall of politician Jeremy Thorpe. Were you aware of it at the time?
Yes, it was all happening while I was at school. Then I got sent the script and it was so up my alley.
Thorpe was accused of trying to have his ex Norman Scott (Ben Whishaw) killed, to hide that he was gay…
Yes, he had this complicated inner turmoil about being gay in the age when it was illegal. But I think he did love Norman.
Did you do much research for the part?
Well, I’m particularly frightened of British audiences, so I read every single book there is on the subject. I met lots of people who knew Thorpe and dug old films out of the bowels of the BBC.
You had to kiss Ben Whishaw in the role, too. How was that?
We just went at it. I got – what do they call it – ‘pash rash’ from his beard. He’s remarkably un-luvvie for a top actor. I loved him.
You also learned to play the violin especially for this. How did you get on?
God knows I tried for months! But the violin is completely impossible as it turns out, so I did my best. My children broke two violins!
A Very English Scandal airs Sunday 20 May, BBC1, 9pm.