Actor Hugh Grant called on UK lawmakers to regulate news organizations that he says frequently use unethical tactics to violate the privacy of celebrities like him — and ordinary people who unwittingly find themselves in the public spotlight. There’s “almost no journalism now” in Britain’s tabloid press – which he called the “privacy invasion industry” in testimony to the Leveson Inquiry which is looking at the News Of The World phone hacking scandal and the country’s press culture. “It’s almost never (about the) public interest,” he says. “There has been a section of our press that has been allowed to become toxic (using) bullying, intimidation, and blackmail….It’s time this country found the courage to stand up to this bullying.” Although it’s “a lovely idea” to let news organizations regulate themselves, it “absolutely has been shown not to work. ..This is the big opportunity now, this inquiry.” And it need not result in censorship of legitimate news or opinion, he says: “I don’t think it is that difficult to tell what is bath water and what is a baby. To most people it is pretty obvious.”
Grant said it’s “a big myth” that actors benefit from tabloid publicity. “In 17 years I’ve only given two interviews in the British press.” He says that he hires publicists in the U.S. when he has a new film, but “they’re like anti-publicists.” Studios “will be desperate for you to do everything” and his people “might say, ‘he won’t do that, but he might do that because it’s classy.” He became popular because his 1994 film Four Weddings And A Funeral “made gazilions at the box office. That’s all (studios) care about.” Grant says that he is “emphatically not motivated” to attack the press in retaliation for the coverage of his 1995 arrest for lewd behavior in public with a prostitute. “I have no quarrel with that whatsoever.”
But he has a lot of complaints about the way the Daily Mail covered the recent news of the birth of his daughter with actress Ting Lan Hong. “We held them off for a surprisingly long time,” he says. Although NOTW had speculated about her pregnancy, the details emerged after Hong entered the hospital. Even though she used an alias, “the dam was breached” Grant said when he visited her there. “In this case it was the Daily Mail that seemed to have all the details.” Last week a judge granted her an injunction requiring photographers to leave her alone after she testified that that the paparazzi had made her life “unbearable.” Earlier this month the Daily Mail ran provocative photos of Hong that Grant says the paper bought from an ex-boyfriend. “There is an ugly spin being put on a lot of this stuff because it sells papers better,” he said.