Hugh Grant has revealed he got into his latest role as a pirate by stroking an imaginary beard.
In his first animated venture, the Love Actually actor voices the luxuriantly hirsute Pirate Captain, the enthusiastic but less than successful head of a hapless crew, who has one dream - to beat his rivals to the coveted Pirate Of The Year Award.
"It was very bad casting, a huge mistake," joked Hugh of his role in Aardman Animation's The Pirates! In An Adventure With Scientists. "Physically, I'm so ill-suited to the part. He's a big, portly, bearded fellow and that just isn't me."
To add to the difficulty, the animated filming process was laborious and Hugh had to dip in and out of the project over a lengthy period.
"Between sessions you forget the character because it can be months and months and then you're hauled back in to do some more voicing," he explained.
So to help him capture the Pirate Captain's "essence", he liked to stroke an imaginary beard.
"I found that very helpful. That or I'd stroke Peter's," he said, referring to Peter Lord, the film's director.
Equally as important was looking into the eyes of his pirate alter ego, he added.
"The whole Aardman spirit is captured in the bulging eyes. Every character, including a lobster, has bulgy eyes in this film. It's a sort of wide-eyed innocence."
:: The Pirates! In An Adventure With Scientists is in cinemas now.