The life of Hollywood
A v. [very] Lucky Voyeur
Our intrepid reporter
feels the Inner Poise on assignment with Bridget Jones.
Photos by Anacleto Rapping for the Los Angeles Times
Oct. 8, 3 p.m.
V. excited. Have just learned will be interviewing Hugh Grant and Colin
Firth. In a hotel room. At the Four Seasons. Will also meet with
Renée Zellweger(sp?), who is of course star of "Bridget Jones:
The Edge of Reason." But cannot believe it will be anything like being
in a hotel room with top lad and cad of recent cinema history.
Things I will do:
• leave early to find perfect outfit that reveals my Inner Poise while
projecting both Sex Goddess and Serious Journalist.
• figure out how to mention to husband casually enough to avoid
ludicrous but seemingly universal husbandly statement along lines of:
"I don't understand the appeal of that Hugh Grant."
• see movie.
Things I will not do:
• ask Hugh if he shaved chest for very sexy topless scene in Thai
• ask Colin if he practices
arrogant-locked-jaw-melts-into-puppydog-eyes thing in the mirror every
• forget to talk to Renée as she is star of movie.
IN DANGEROUS WATERS
Unless it involves a monster, a sequel is a frightening proposition.
The resurrection of something really nasty can usually ensure a
follow-up film momentum — think "Aliens" or "Return of the Jedi" or
even, if we include monsters of the id, "The Godfather: Part II."
Comedic sequels, on the other hand do not have such a great shelf life
— the $4.99 bins everywhere are filled with your "Caddyshack II,"
"American Pie 2" and "Ghostbusters II." And romantic comedies, well,
there's a reason they didn't make "When Harry Met Sally: the Menopausal
Which is why, though it seemed ridiculous at the time, the three
principals of "Bridget Jones's Diary" really did have reservations
about making a follow-up to one of the most successful romantic
comedies in years. For months, adoring fans were treated to tantalizing
bits in the (mostly British) press — Firth wasn't happy with the
script, Grant wasn't happy with the script, Zellweger didn't want to
get fat again. But as with the two books, the happy ending was
inevitable; the fun was in getting there.
And so, more than a year after filming, the three recently found
themselves reunited at the Four Seasons for what must be, along with
potential psychotic stalkers and postnatal paparazzi, one of the
grimmest parts of movie stardom — the press junket.
Diary: Oct. 14, 1 p.m.
Am told photo shoot with three actors will take place before separate
interviews in their "holding suites." (Do not have courage to ask what,
precisely, demarcates a holding suite from a nonholding suite; perhaps
they have re-created Thai prison from movie …)
Diary: Oct. 14, 1:25 p.m.
Hugh first to arrive in what assume is "picture-suite," all v. blue
eyes and perpetually pillowcase hair. Exactly as on film only thinner
and tired-looking. Says he just arrived at midnight and is very
jet-lagged. Walks carefully as if head could fall off at any moment but
attempts cordial conversation. Is startled by observation that things
will be cooling off for the weekend. "Not too cool, I hope. I brought a
girl and I promised she could lie by the pool." (Wonder if this is
heiress mentioned in People a few weeks ago; surely heiress would have
own pool.) Mentions that he likes L.A. Times very much but that it
smells funny, "like a wet dog." Room smells funny too. "Does it smell
like vomit in here?" he asks the three young women who have trailed him
into the room. Eagerly accepts can of Red Bull.
THE JOYS OF 'SPAZ'
Grant, who reprises the role of Bridget's bad-boy ex and former boss,
Daniel Cleaver, says he was concerned about appearing in the sequel
even though he is "one of the few who think the second book is better
than the first."
Daniel does not, however, occupy much of the narrative, which was a bit
of a problem. Fortunately neither movie hews too closely to the books;
in "Edge of Reason" Daniel gets many of the funniest lines, the hottest
romantic scene and equal billing in a fight sequence that could be
categorized as "Abbott and Costello Meet the Quiet Man."
But he is an even bigger cad than last time around, which may be
explained by the fact that he is now working in television — neither of
which Grant is thrilled about.
"I didn't want him to be a bigger dog than ever going in," he says. "In
fact that was what I was afraid of. I didn't want it to be all black
and white. And I liked that about him in the first one, that he was in
publishing, that he was smart. So I said if he's got to be in
television, let's make sure it's at least something smart."
The second movie, like the second book, moves out of the territory of
social commentary — "Bridget Jones's Diary" was as much about skewering
certain types in British society as it was a girl-meets-boy story — and
that had Grant concerned as well. Helen Fielding, he says, is a comic
genius — "all you have to do is look at the crap that followed her, all
this chicklit" — who understands that the best comedy comes from pain.
"Bridget's essential predicament in life is just so painful," he says.
"It's tough for girls of a certain age to know what they should be
aspiring to and at the same time be afraid they'll die alone and be
eaten by Alsatians."
He was even worried about the fight scene; a similar scene in the first
film redefined the cinematic clash of two leads. "Spaz fighting," says
Grant. "That's all it said in the script, and that's what we did. We
wanted to stay as far away from the stunt coordinator and just look
like two yuppies going at it. But one has to wonder, how many times can
you get away with that?"
This particular fight winds up in a fountain in Hyde Park. It was
November when they were filming and the sequence took three days
because the actors had to keep warming up between takes.
"The special-effects guys promised they would put warm water in the
fountain," Grant says. "But being British special-effects guys, they
were unable to do this. They did set us up a little paddling pool with
warm water. And so in between takes, Colin and I would leap in and
embrace each other to stay warm. I believe there are several
Diary: Oct. 14, 1:35 p.m.
Colin Firth arrives in photo-shoot suite. Manly embrace between the
two. Absolutely expect mushroom cloud or whatever happens after nuclear
"How's it going?" Hugh asks, referring to TV interviews already done.
"Are you being cheerful or crabby? I'm thinking of being crabby."
"Oh I wanted to go for resentful and sort of broody," Colin says, "but
I wound up chirping in a most unseemly manner." (If any more handsome,
face would collapse from weight of handsomeness.)
Still waiting for Renée. Colin asks Hugh what sounds like "Have
you gotten back to God?" Hugh says yes, but now has slipped a bit.
Serious Journalist is curious — God?? "No, no," Hugh laughs. "Golf."
(Mortified. Clearly should have taken class in actorly-Brit-mumble,
understood apparently only by dogs and other actorly-Brits.) "Does it
smell like vomit in here?" Grant asks. "You know, it does a little,"
A MAN OF MYSTERY
Sitting on a sofa after the photo shoot, Firth is surprised Grant has
mentioned the paddling pool — "Oh, he told you about the paddling pool,
did he?" — and the photos. "One photo," he says quickly, "and I don't
believe it has made its way to the Internet."
He points out that he and Grant really don't know each other that well
— in each movie, they had only one scene together. "We just meet to
snarl and fight," he says. "But everyone seems to have us linked
inextricably in their minds. So I'm always being asked questions about
him, or people want to interview us together and I don't really know
But like Grant, Firth was nervous about donning the mantle of his
character once again, in this case the stoic Mark Darcy. "It's not a
safe bet at all," he says. "There's a long way to fall."
Darcy, he says, is an archetype, and that is difficult to portray
twice. "His main characteristic is being unknowable," he says. "And so
it's hard to develop him — you want to show a little bit more but you
can't give too much away."
Many of Firth's roles are along the unknowable, archetypal lines — from
"Pride and Prejudice" to the more recent "Girl With a Pearl Earring,"
he often plays the tense, silent types whose repressed passion is
mistaken for arrogance only to be revealed in heart-stopping splendor
in the last act.
"I do tend to simmer," he says, laughing. "Though in 'Girl With a Pearl
Earring' I was simmering with different things, which I hope was clear."
Before the Darcy role in "Pride and Prejudice," Firth preferred more
demonstrative types. "I am myself much more loquacious, much more
flamboyant than many of my characters," he says. "In fact, the degree
of containment that was required for Darcy seemed quite beyond me at
the time. I didn't know if I could do it because there didn't seem to
be much to do."
It's difficult, he says, to project the stillness required of a
repressed character, which made the scene he did shoot with Grant in
"Edge of Reason" that much more fun.
"It's so hilarious — two yuppies in their mid-40s fighting — that I am
amazed no one had done it sooner," he says. "Now of course, we've
pretty much trademarked it." Some men, he adds, have a hard time
believing he would let himself be filmed in such an unmacho way. "Guys
shake their heads," he says, "say: 'Better you than me.' "
Diary: Oct. 14, 1:45 p.m.
Photo-suite-that-smells-like-vomit is suddenly full of 27-year-old
publicists in hip-hugger bell-bottoms and pointy shoes carrying
clipboards and Blackberries. Also makeup people who don't like to be
called makeup people but prefer "groomer."
Young brunet in skirt and pointy shoes plops down beside Colin. "I've
been trashing you two all morning," she says. Have no idea who she is
until head publicist (figure she is head because not carrying anything)
says: "Great, now Renée's here, we can get started."
Cannot believe this is same woman as starred in "Edge of Reason." Dark
hair, eyes mascaraed into impenetrable fringe and approx. size of
hummingbird. V. small hummingbird. Look to costars to see reaction
toward fake Renée stand-in but both dutifully trooping toward
bed where saucy photo to be shot. "Why does it smell like vomit in
here?" Renée asks.
On bed, three arrange themselves as intimately as decorum and
Renée's v. tight skirt will allow — Hugh looks as if born to be
up on one elbow on bed in Four Seasons, Colin tries to look relaxed —
"I have no idea what to do with my hands," he says. "You're going to
have to move in," the photographer says. "Could you put your hand on
Hugh's leg?" Firth gamely tries. "Well, that's very uncomfortable," he
says. "Can you think of something else?" — while Renée poses
perkily between them. "I'm having a great day at work," she says. "Is
everyone else having a great day at work?"
BRIDGET RAISES THE BAR
Zellweger doesn't want to talk about the weight, which was, she says,
the least-important part of playing Bridget Jones, but she knows she
will have to so she does. "I never said I didn't want to do the sequel
because of the weight," she says. "[Reports of that] were completely
disgusting and not true. I didn't feel like I was somehow worse off
because I was heavier. I didn't look at myself as there was something
wrong. It was an honor to play this character."
She was concerned about not being able to run or go to the gym, she
says, because "these are the outlets that keep me sane," and whether
she would be able to get the weight back on in time and keep it on.
"The skiing was worrisome, up and down those hills," she said. "I
didn't want there to be big fluctuations in the weight, so I said,
'Well, guess it's time for a few candy bars.' "
Zellweger loves Bridget Jones, loves her ability to get herself into
and out of hideously embarrassing situations, loves her pluck and her
wobbly self-esteem. "She's so human," Zellweger says. "She's
self-deprecating in a humorous, honest way, but not self-pitying at
all. She just keeps trudging forward. She has a way of minimizing these
incredibly embarrassing situations that is really quite beautiful if
you think about it."
Most of the visual humor in the movie belongs to Zellweger and she
pursues it with a zest that evokes the work of the women she says
inspired it: Carol Burnett, Carole Lombard, Imogene Coca. "I love the
broad, physical sense of humor," she says. "It's rare to be able to do
it. In most circumstances it would be inappropriate, but because it
reflects who she is on the inside, it's perfect for her."
She too has a fairly goofy scene with Firth, in which the two are
running up a hill toward each other in a "Sound of Music"-type moment.
"It was freezing that day," she said. "And we had to keep taking off
our coats which was horrible and Colin had no tread on his moccasins so
he is trying to run up this hill, smiling … it was hilarious."
If female moviegoers think she is pretty lucky to have had romantic
scenes with Grant and Firth in two movies, she agrees with them. "Aside
from the fact that love scenes are incredibly uncomfortable and
embarrassing to do," she says, "if you have to do them, it helps when
you're working with such wonderful, witty people."
But it is work, she says. More than any other movie, a successful
romantic comedy must look completely effortless, light as a meringue or
a soufflé, and the process is just as treacherous. Bridget Jones
is the most difficult role Zellweger's ever had, she says, bar none.
For the first movie, she spent nine months living in someone else's
apartment, learning essentially another language and creating another
person's body. And it wasn't any easier the second time around.
"There were just a lot of things to pay attention to," she says. "I
wanted to show how she had grown but that she was still recognizable
from the first film. The potential to fail was incredibly high. It was
a new kind of thing to learn — how to reanimate a character rather than
start from scratch."
Diary, Oct. 14, 2 p.m.
Group moves from bed to balcony — groomer yells at photographer: "No
side light. Sorry to be a brat, but no side light." Catch Colin's eye
three times in a row. V. embarrassing. Want to tell him am Serious
Journalist observing Interplay of Famous Performers not wallflower
staring at Man Who Played Darcy. Odd to be a movie star — trapped in
hotel for days, bossed around by photographers and groomers and junior
publicists in pointy shoes, stared at by Serious Journalists trying to
think of way to make junket story interesting. Would feel sorry for
them if not for the millions of dollars and all those gift baskets.
Also would be nice to have personal groomer, especially one prepared to
yell "no side light" when required.