This weekend marks the debut of Paddington 2 in U.S. theaters, and while there's a lot to love about the little bear's return to the big screen, there's a very pleasant surprise when it comes to the sequel. The fact is, while this film is in fact filled top to bottom with fantastic performances, one of the best comes from Hugh Grant as the film's villain, Phoenix Buchanan. With his villainous nature being made of part foppish charm, part split personality menace and all evil intent, Grant wins massive points for his part in the world of Paddington Brown and his adventures. However, this wasn't overnight.
Over the past couple of years, Hugh Grant has put in some terrific performances, both in standout supporting roles and well-played leads. In fact, four films in particular come to mind when talking about how spectacular Grant has been, and they're all movies that deserve more talk attached to their end products. With that in mind, and in the spirit of Paddington 2 providing Hugh Grant the perfect meta-sendup of his own career, here's four performances of his that you may have missed in recent years.
Florence Foster Jenkins
While Florence Foster Jenkins was touted as a prestige player during last year's awards season race, most of the attention was focused on Meryl Streep's performance as the title character. That's not exactly a sin, as Streep is a power player who knows how to knock one out of the park, but there should have been a little more attention given to Hugh Grant's role as Florence's husband, St. Clair Bayfield. The actor's portrayal of Bayfield, as he cares for Florence in her final days, all the while encouraging her dream of becoming an opera singer, is both tender and absolutely hysterical. Much like their historical counterparts, both actors are a formidable team on screen, with Hugh Grant more than keeping up with Meryl Streep.
The Man from U.N.C.L.E.
I'll beat the drum for The Man from U.N.C.L.E. any day of the week. The lavish '60s style, the sly humor and fast-paced action, and a trio of performances by Henry Cavill, Armie Hammer and Alicia Vikander are everything Guy Richie could have hoped for with this one. But included in the fabric of this already stylish ensemble is Hugh Grant, playing the role of would-be spymaster Alexander Waverly - the man who runs the men from U.N.C.L.E. With a very dry humor about him, Grant's Waverly goes from random passerby to key player in the film's third act, and if there's ever a serious talk about that sequel we've been teased about, he'd better be a crucial part of its framework.
Ambition, thy name is Cloud Atlas. The Wachowskis and Tom Tykwer really outdid themselves with this one, as they took David Mitchell's Russian nesting doll of six interconnected stories and made it into a fully functional motion picture. Even better, the structure of varying genres and tones gives the filmmakers and their cast a lot of room to flex their muscles, Hugh Grant most definitely included. Playing a variety of roles that span time, space, and nationality, Grant is given a lot of material to work with in this underrated masterpiece. If you've ever wondered what Hugh Grant would look like as the chief of a tribe of cannibals, this is the film for you.
The Pirates! Band of Misfits
If we're going to talk about underrated product, then chances are a good number of films by Aardman Animations are going to come up at some point. While everyone knows and loves Wallace and Gromit, there's so much more to the studio's body of work that stands at that same level of excellence. The Pirates! Band of Misfits is one of those films, and anchoring its fate to Hugh Grant's Pirate Captain couldn't have been a better idea. Again, Grant shines in an ensemble, with members such as Salma Hayek, Martin Freeman, David Tennant and Brendan Gleeson all contributing to madness of this film's comedic delight. But this time around, Hugh Grant is the functional lead, and to convey his brand of wit and charm through a voice-only performance just proves how talented the man truly is. He holds the film together, even at its most manic and brilliant, and it's the ultimate testament to his vastly underrated skill-set.