I was ensconced in a repeat of Notting Hill the other night on Dstv. I like the movie because I was brought up halfway between Notting Hill Gate and Kensington and used to go and buy comics like Beano and Dandy and sweets called gobstoppers from a newsagent in Notting Hill. Interestingly, whereas Kensington has always been full of London toffs, Notting Hill has been more alternative and cosmopolitan.
Back to the movie. There is a stunning moment when Hugh Grant who plays the owner of a bookshop in Notting Hill invites Julia Roberts who plays an American film star around for dinner to meet his friends and family. One of his friends is Bernie, a bumbling stockbroker, who casually asks Julia Roberts what her occupation is. She replies acting and he commiserates about the poor pay in the theatre world as he has not recognised her. Then he asks her how much she earned for her last part. She replies: "15 million dollars." That is when the penny drops that he is in the presence of a superstar and he realises what a fool he has made of himself. His face is a picture of crimson.
Later, they all do a very British thing at the dinner table and discuss who should be awarded the prize for being the biggest failure. Each person argues vehemently that he or she should get the prize. Anyway, this time I recognised the stockbroker. It was none other than a younger version of Hugh Bonneville who now plays the Earl of Grantham in the hit series Downton Abbey. It has become the most nominated non-American programme in Primetime Emmy history by attracting 27 nominations in its first two series. Recently, Bonneville was recognised by an elderly female fan in a vegetable market in Los Angeles who immediately had to be given assistance for hyperventilation. She eventually calmed down.
How the world turns! We really have not heard anything spectacular about Roberts and Grant for a long time. She has made a couple of movies in the past two years which have not drawn much critical acclaim and he has been named as one of the victims of the phone hacking scandal in the UK. So we could reverse the roles in another movie called Notting Hill 2. Julia Roberts plays the wife of Hugh Grant (she did marry him at the end of the first movie) and he invites his mate Bernie, played by Bonneville, around for a social dinner. She does not know that he is now a peer and when she asks him what he does at the weekends, his response (to steal the memorable line of Maggie Smith who plays the Earl's mother in the TV series) is: "What's a weekend?"
I know that this is all only drama dreamed up by screenwriters but the theme relates to real life too. Most people have their moment in the sun and as a friend of mine joked to me the other day: "It's better to be a has-been than a never-was - or a never-will-be." At some stage, one must do just one remarkable thing that people will remember you by. Just once you need to be a recognisable star bathing in the adulation of maybe just the members of your immediate family. Then you can fade from view.
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