Hugh Grant reveals ‘panic' over Jeremy Thorpe role in A Very English Scandal

The actor will play the politician in the BBC drama series about the 1970s scandal surrounding the former Liberal MP.

Hugh Grant has revealed his fears over playing Jeremy Thorpe in the BBC’s dramatisation of the former Liberal MP’s affair with Norman Scott.

Grant will star in A Very English Scandal, a three-part series that tells the true story of Thorpe and Scott’s relationship in the 1960s, and the highly-publicised trial in which Thorpe was acquitted of conspiring to murder his former lover.

The Four Weddings And A Funeral star said that after accepting the part he became panicked by what the programme’s audience would think of his portrayal of Thorpe.

Grant said: “It’s unlike me to do any prep at all, really, but I was quite panicked by this project.

“I just thought, ‘Everyone is going to watch this’. I am particularly frightened of the British and British audiences and I thought ‘Oh BBC, they’re going to watch it’.

“So I panicked a lot and I read every single book there is on the subject.”

He added: “I went to meet lots of people that knew Thorpe. I dug up old films, some of them out of the bowels of the BBC that haven’t been seen for decades.

The real life Jeremy Thorpe pictured leaving the Old Bailey (PA)
The real life Jeremy Thorpe pictured leaving the Old Bailey (PA)

“I don’t know if it does any good, but it seems to soothe me a bit.”

A Very English Scandal sees James Bond star Ben Whishaw take on the role of Scott, and is directed by The Queen’s Stephen Frears and penned by former Doctor Who head writer Russell T Davies.

Grant said that his desire to play the role of Thorpe well led him to try and learn the violin, which produced mixed results.

“I tried. God knows I tried. For months. But the violin is completely impossible as it turns out,” he said.

“That piece (in the programme) is a sort of virtuoso piece.

“I said to my violin teacher, ‘How long would you have normally been playing before you take this on?’ And he said about 10-12 years.

Hugh Grant and Ben Whishaw
Hugh Grant and Ben Whishaw in A Very English Scandal (Kieron McCarron/BBC/Blueprint Television Ltd)

“So I did my best – and then my children broke two violins, so yeah. Good editing.”

Reflecting on playing Thorpe, Grant also told of his memories of the news of the affair from when he was a schoolboy in the 1970s.

Grant said: “It was all happening when I was at school and it was a source of much sniggering.

“You know schoolboys, the jokes were all good, ‘join the Liberals and widen your circle’. In Lower 5T that’s pretty damn funny.

“So I do remember it, I remember the Private Eye covers and all that stuff.

“I love things which are funny and sad at the same time, which rejoice in eccentricity.

“The oddness of people.

“And I’ve become very interested in politics over the last six years, so I love that aspect of it.”

A Very English Scandal premieres on BBC One on Sunday May 20.

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