British actor Hugh Grant faced the cameras Monday night for the first time since his arrest two weeks ago with a prostitute, offering his apologies on "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno" and showing the embarrassed face that everyone wanted to see.
"You know in life what's a good thing to do and a bad thing to do. I did a bad thing," Grant said.
The "Four Weddings and a Funeral" star, who was arrested for allegedly engaging in lewd conduct with a prostitute near Sunset Boulevard on June 27, appeared wrought with nervousness as Leno went right to the point.
"OK, question No. 1: What the hell were you thinking?" Leno asked.
The conversation between the two remained fairly lighthearted, and no mention was made of what happened the morning of his arrest, but Leno spent one of two segments with Grant talking about how the arrest has affected his personal life and the media hoopla it caused.
"It's not easy explaining," Grant said. "People have given me tons of ideas on this one, from 'I was under a lot of pressure, I was lonely, I fell down the stairs when I was a kid' . . . but I think it would just be bollocks to say anything like that."
Grant denied reports that he and his fashion-model girlfriend, Elizabeth Hurley, have permanently split over the matter.
"Contrary to what I read in the paper today, [Hurley] has been real supportive and we're going to try and work it out. Time is the essence," he said. "It might be different with a single man, but it's not funny when you've got someone like [Hurley] hurt. . . .
"I'm sure I would be enjoying this as much as everyone else, but it's horrible when you're on the other end."
Grant had been scheduled to appear on "The Tonight Show" to promote his upcoming film, "Nine Months," even before his arrest. The film, which hits theaters Wednesday, was the main topic of conversation for the second half of Grant's appearance, although when Grant was talking about hit director Chris Columbus ("Home Alone" and "Mrs. Doubtfire"), he quipped, "With a track record like that, I'd hate to be the cause of his first failure."
Leno couldn't resist joking about Grant's predicament. When a girl in the audience asked if she could sit next to Grant before the taping started, Leno replied, "I think we saw what happened last time someone asked him that." Then, when commenting on the hot weather the crowd had to endure while waiting in line, he said, "The audience was sweating worse than our first guest."
NBC was barraged with media requests to attend Monday night's "Tonight Show" taping, but the network reluctantly declined. One source said that Grant, who has been in contact with Leno on the phone, specifically told NBC that he did not want any press members in attendance.
That did not sit well with the NBC press and publicity department, which is always looking for a promotional edge over David Letterman's "Late Show" on CBS. Finally on Monday, NBC found a way to accommodate reporters around the country by arranging a huge conference call and plugging them into a live audio feed of the show beginning at 5 p.m.
Media from around the world waited outside the taping to get the audience members' response, which was mostly sympathetic to the troubled actor.
"I really feel sorry for him," said Rachel Parenza, 22, from New York. "He seems to genuinely acknowledge that what he did was wrong and that he wishes he had never done it. I guess the guy deserves a break."
"He didn't make light of what he did, but he seemed to be ready for his life to go on," Hal Bergstrom, 42, of Burbank, said.
Grant's interview Monday night was the first of several television appearances he is scheduled to make. He will be on CNN's "Larry King Live" on Wednesday, and on Friday he is to guest on both "The Today Show" on NBC and "Regis and Kathie Lee." A "Late Show With David Letterman" spot is scheduled a week from Wednesday.
Another appearance the actor will be making is in a Hollywood court next Tuesday, when he will be arraigned along with the alleged prostitute he was charged with, Stella Marie Thompson (a.k.a. Divine Brown).
Times staff writer Daniel Howard Cerone contributed to this story.