Here’s proof that the star of Notting Hill and the six-time WWF champion play the same cultural role, even though they seem like they’re worlds apart:
1. They’re both performing artists whom no one wants to see as an “artist.”
Hugh Grant hasn’t just never been nominated for an Oscar. Hugh Grant has zero Academy Award nominations even though he starred in movies nominated for Best Picture in 1993 and 1994 and 1995. That means the Academy paid very close attention to his acting in multiple quality films, yet still snubbed him hard. Hugh has had to settle for the mild praise of a single Golden Globe win for his role in Four Weddings and a Funeral, beating out “respected” thespians like Jim Carrey and Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Compare that to Colin Firth, who came up through the same cinematic minor leagues of rom coms and British period dramas that Grant did. Firth’s so critically beloved that he racked up an Oscar, Golden Globe, BAFTA, and SAG Award in one year just by stuttering and cursing.
Hugh Grant may not get any critical respect for starring in 16 movies with a combined $2.5 billion worldwide box office take, but how do you think Hulk Hogan feels? He’s consistently mentioned as one of the greatest wrestlers of all-time, yet what’s that translated to outside the ring? A self-mocking cameo on Suddenly Susan, a little Adult Swim voice acting, and a failed Hulk Hogan’s Pastamania restaurant at the Mall of America.
Wrestlers from The Rock to Chris Jericho to Andre the Giant found success beyond wrestling to hang their hat on. But despite dominating the WWF and the WCW on the strength of a winning personality, fame in the ring is the only thing Terry Bollea can hang his outrageous bandana on.
2. They both famously turned heel to revitalize their careers.
Hulk Hogan became “Hollywood Hulk Hogan” at WCW’s Bash On The Beach in July of 1996. He made a surprise entrance, pulverized “Macho Man” Randy Savage with several Atomic Leg Drops, and joined Scott Hall and Kevin Nash to create New World Order (nWo) and begin their “takeover” of professional wrestling. Listen to the announcers freak out over the Hulkster’s heel turn and you’ll recognize that this character choice was A BIG DEAL:
“Unbelievable, brother. You just sold your soul to the devil.”
The end of Hugh Grant’s time as a babyface is no less memorable. He’d played the mumbly British nice guy card once too often, so Hugh began the “Dickish Cad” phase of his career with the role of Daniel Cleaver in 2001′s Bridget Jones’ Diary. Hugh takes such an overt wrestling-style heel turn in the movie that at one point he bashes Colin Firth over the head with a trash can.
“Hollywood Hugh Grant” went over so well that he reprised the role for a Bridget Jones sequel, and did a “Bored Rich Cad” variation on it in Two Weeks Notice, About A Boy, Love Actually and American Dreamz.
3. They both had a crushing public embarrassment that wasn’t even the good kind of bad press.
Hugh Grant’s 1995 encounter with Divine Brown showed the world his willingness to cheat on Elizabeth Hurley by breaking the law with an LA prostitute, ruining most of his early career momentum.
Meanwhile the Hulkster has stumbled through a few different embarrassments since retiring from wrestling, like having anything to with that Hogan Knows Best reality show. But the biggest embarrassment of all? His leaked sex tape with the wife of a man named DJ Bubba The Love Sponge.
Both mistakes hurt their careers, and neither mistake gave Grant or Hogan the kind of “tortured soul” credibility some artists gain from battling addictions or rediscovering their lost values. Put it this way: if you tried to write either mistake into a gripping biopic, it would be lamer than the intentionally-lame part in Walk Hard where Dewey Cox struggles with pot.
4. They’re the epitome of their national masculine archetype.
Hugh Grant is the British-est of British leading men. He spouts witticisms, hesitates to bone, and plays a cute-yet physically-unimposing fop like no one else. He’s so distinctive and broad that SNL parodied him when their host was (who else) Colin Firth:
As for Hulk Hogan, he’s a bronzed showboating loudmouth who literally kicks his problems in the ass. No one is more of a real American, because no one else has personal theme music repeatedly telling us that they are A REAL AMERICAN:
So thanks, Hugh Grant and Hulk Hogan. Without you, two nations would never have the kind of cheesy, successful, idiotic male role model only pop culture can provide.