The Notting Hill star announced his retirement some years ago but he was brought back to movies by director Stephen Frears and the thought of playing Meryl Streep's husband in Florence Foster Jenkins.

But, in a new interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Hugh admits there was a time nothing would have put him back in front of a movie camera.

"I got these absurd stage fright attacks," he explains. "I really don't know where it suddenly came from. They would just hit me in the middle of a film and they would only last a morning or something, but it was devastating.

"It would be some very simple scene, you'd rehearsed it perfectly, maybe shot the other guy's close-up, they turned around on you, you'd walk in there whistling and then suddenly, out of nowhere, you've got sweat shooting from your armpits and you can't remember your lines. These were terrible and embarrassing occasions. You could almost never use the scene, you actually had to cut the scene from the film."

And Hugh still shudders at the idea of appearing in a dramatic art house movie: "What I dread is the sort of Juliette Binoche French film shot, where they just track in on you and you've got no lines and you just have to go from happy to crying. Then I c**p myself."

It's not clear if Hugh will return to retirement now Florence Foster Jenkins has been released, but he did enjoy working with Streep.

"Performing with the greatest female actress possibly of all-time is no hardship. Things go better. If you play tennis with Rafa Nadal, you play better tennis. I don't know quite what will happen now. I did enjoy enormously making this film, and I think I got a bit better at acting doing it. And when you improve, it's like when you improve your serve at tennis - you want to play again."