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Lord Grantham is looking a little different these days.
Hugh Bonneville, best known for his role in Downton Abbey, confused viewers who tuned into his interview Thursday on BBC’s The One Show because they weren’t convinced it was really him. Social media began spinning with people who thought the British actor, 56, looked “unrecognizable” between weight loss and cropped locks.
Bonneville, whose face and body appear more slender, chatted with hosts Alex Jones and Gethin Jones, leading to social media comments from viewers commenting that he “lost a hell of a lot of weight.” It was to the point that many said they didn’t recognize him at first amid his “transformation.” Others thought he looked like Jude Law and Bear Grylls.
On air, they read one viewer’s comment which was, “Can’t we just discuss how amazing Hugh looks?” That led Bonneville to laugh and blush.
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Bonneville has been up and down the scale throughout his career. In a 2015 interview, he recalled losing 20 pounds prior to auditioning for the 1999 film Notting Hill. However, the character was supposed to be heavy and Bonneville wasn’t after losing weight. He said he told director Roger Michell, who wanted him to gain weight back for the part, “I’m sorry, but I’m not going back.” He won the role anyway, but some scenes were rewritten to delete references to chubby cheeks. In that same interview, he said he was once “told I was too fat to play Hamlet,” which he called “disappointing, but that was about it.”
Though he did gain back weight later. In a 2009 interview, he talked about returning home from making 2008’s Bonekickers and his wife remarking that he was “as fat as a pig.” While he wasn’t ever vying for shirtless sex symbol roles, he said, it led to him to hire a personal trainer, who forced him to exercise and change his diet. As a result, he lost 16 pounds, and he got moving, even participating in the Trailwalker race, a 52 mile walking competition.
Bonneville played down his commitment to exercise in another interview from 2017. Asked about his achievements outside of acting — in recent years roles included the Downton Abbey movie and Paddington 2 — he quipped, “I don’t think I’ve achieved anything much. Although I recently completed the 100 kilometer South Downs walk, which wasn’t bad for a fat man in his 50s.”
The actor has apparently been focusing on fitness during the coronavirus pandemic, which has many around the globe living the quarantine life. He said in another interview “lockdown has given me a sense of what matters” and it’s “family rather than just trying to be a hamster in a wheel.” While he’s “been extremely fortunate that over the last 10 years I have been able to select projects more and more carefully.”
That coupled with the loss of his father earlier this year has changed his life and priorities significantly. “It does make you reflect more about what is actually important,” he added.
Bonneville’s latest project finds him playing British children’s author Roald Dahl in the biopic film An Unquiet Life.
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