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By Jake Watt
14th May 2017

Holy shit. It’s been 15 years since ‘About A Boy’ hit cinemas.

The British comedy, based on the book by Nick Hornby (the story was originally set in 1993 London and named for the Nirvana song ‘About A Girl’), stars Hugh Grant and a then 12-year-old Nicholas Hoult in the lead roles of Will and Marcus, who form a friendship after their paths cross in unlikely circumstances.

In his own novels and memoirs, which include ‘High Fidelity’ and ‘Fever Pitch’, Hornby has always displayed a knack for tuning in to the concerns and neuroses of the modern man. But while this film centred on the budding friendship between the two male leads (the film at times uses double voice-over narration, when the audience hears both Will's and Marcus's thoughts), ‘About a Boy’ was far from a sausage-fest two-header. The supporting cast was also integral to the plot of the film, from Will’s love interests to Marcus’s family and schoolmates. Toni Collette, Rachel Weisz and Natalia Tena all turn in strong performances.

The film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay. Actors Hugh Grant and Toni Collette also received nominations for a Golden Globe and a BAFTA Award respectively for their performances.

Written and directed by Chris and Paul Weitz, then chiefly known as the creators of the ‘American Pie’ films, ‘About A Boy’ gave the Weitz's their first taste of respectability and awards kudos. The film was originally set up at New Line Cinema with Robert De Niro producing, and the nationality of the main character changed to American. The brothers both felt that it was important that the character was British. They also sought inspiration from Billy Wilder’s 1960 romantic comedy classic ‘The Apartment’.

Chris Weitz would go on to direct the underwhelming film adaptation of the novel ‘The Golden Compass’ and the film adaptation of ‘New Moon’ from the underwhelming series of ‘Twilight’ books, as well write the screenplay for Disney's 2015 live-action adaptation of ‘Cinderella’ and co-write ‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’ alongside with Tony Gilroy.


Paul Weitz would go on to commit even more horrific crimes against cinema than Chris, with directorial credits including ‘In Good Company’, ‘American Dreamz’, ‘The Vampire's Assistant’, ‘Little Fockers’, ‘Being Flynn’ and ‘Admission’. Finally, he struck gold again with the Lily Tomlin-starring ‘Grandma’ (2015) and the TV series ‘Mozart in the Jungle’.

"One of the first things [‘About A Boy’ directors Chris and Paul Weitz] said was that they were thinking of getting Badly Drawn Boy to write the music, and that seemed quite spooky to me as it wasn’t an obvious choice, and certainly wasn’t an obvious choice from two American directors," Nick Hornby told the Guardian at the time of the film’s release. "It felt like a mystical moment."

Following a win of the coveted Mercury Prize for his 2000 debut album ‘Hour of the Bewilderbeast’, singer/songwriter Damon Gough, aka Badly Drawn Boy, made a left turn by scoring ‘About A Boy’. Across 16 tracks - seven of which were instrumentals - songs like ‘Silent Sigh,’ as well as the jangly ‘Something to Talk About’ and skittering ‘A Peak You Reach’ gave a new dimension to Gough’s already wide musical canvas, and could be considered career highlights. In his book ‘31 Songs’, Hornby listed Gough's track ‘A Minor Incident’ as one of the songs that has had an effect on his life.

“I gained an audience from 'Bewilderbeast', and then after ‘About A Boy’, lots of couples starting coming to the gigs,” Gough told the Guardian in 2015. Could the same be said for Mystikal, the rapper whose most well-known song ‘Shake Ya Ass’ featured in one of the film’s most memorable scenes? Probably not...

The film proved to be a breakthrough success for actor Nicholas Hoult, then aged 12. “I was aware auditioning, aged 10 or 11, that it was a big job to get,” recalls Hoult. The third of four children born to a piano teacher mother and British Airways pilot father, he was a child actor in dramas such as 'Casualty' and 'The Bill'. “But Hugh was very encouraging. I was obsessed with cars then, and at the time he was in the market for a new car. I’d bring all my Top Gear magazines to set. ‘How about that one, Hugh?’ ‘No, I can’t have that.’ I’m an 11-year-old boy with an 11-year-old boy’s tastes, trying to persuade him to buy something. ‘Are you sure you don’t want the souped-up Ford Fiesta? It’s a winner, right?’”

The film proved to be a breakthrough success for actor Nicholas Hoult. “I was aware auditioning, aged 10 or 11, that it was a big job to get,” recalls Hoult.

Hoult went on to serve as the lead in UK teen drama 'Skins' before landing the role of Beast in the rebooted 'X-Men' saga and taking on a diverse range of interesting roles, including a zombie in the paranormal rom-com 'Warm Bodies', Nux in 'Mad Max: Fury Road' and author JD Salinger in a 2017 biopic about his life. Personally, I like to think of the dark comedy flop ‘Kill Your Friends’ (2015) as a spiritual semi-sequel to ‘About A Boy’, and an insight into how Marcus would have turned out as an adult with Will Freeman as his role model.

Since 'About A Boy', Hugh Grant has enjoyed success playing flawed middle-aged men in romantic comedies, including 'Love Actually', 'Music And Lyrics' and the second 'Bridget Jones' film, though he opted not to return for the third in 2016. Grant has focused on more diverse genres in recent years, with roles in such films as in 'Cloud Atlas', 'Florence Foster Jenkins' and 'The Man From U.N.C.L.E.'.

Author Nick Hornby continued to publish novels and non-fiction including ‘How to be Good’, ‘A Long Way Down’, ‘Slam’, ‘Juliet Naked’ and ‘Funny Girl’, as well as developing a successful career as a screenwriter of strongly female-driven films.

He adapted an autobiographical memoir by the journalist Lynn Barber for the screen as ‘An Education’, a feature film starring Peter Sarsgaard and Carey Mulligan. His work was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay and two BAFTAs. Hornby adapted another autobiographical memoir, Cheryl Strayed's ‘Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail’ into ‘Wild’, which starred Reese Witherspoon.

In 2015, he wrote the script for the film ‘Brooklyn’, an adaptation of Colm Tóibín's novel of the same name. Hornby was nominated for his second Oscar for writing the screenplay.

Finally, ‘About A Boy’, the film itself, was resuscitated for American television more than a decade later in a TV series by Jason Katims (‘Parenthood’). Set in present-day San Francisco, the television sitcom starred David Walton as a perpetual college bro, as well as Minnie Driver and Benjamin Stockham, and used ‘Comeback Kid (That's My Dog)’ by Brett Dennen as its theme song. Further updates to the story included more foosball and zero suicide attempts. On the 8th May 2015, NBC cancelled ‘About a Boy’ after two seasons.

RELEASE DATE: 17/05/2002
RUN TIME: 1h 41m
CAST: Hugh Grant
Nicholas Hoult
Toni Collette
Rachel Weisz
Sharon Small
Madison Cook
Jordan Cook
Nicholas Hutchison
Ryan Speechley
Joseph Speechley
DIRECTORS: Chris Weitz
Paul Weitz
WRITERS: Peter Hedges
Chris Weitz
Paul Weitz
Robert De Niro
Brad Epstein
Eric Fellner
Jane Rosenthal
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