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Monday 10 December 2018

Love, Actually is weird and deeply problematic but it will always have a special place in our hearts

Richard Curtis's festive flick is 15 years old. Chris Wasser rounds up facts, figures, anecdotes and trivia to celebrate the weirdest romcom of them all

Alan Rickman and Emma Thompson in Love Actually. Image: Love Actually
Alan Rickman and Emma Thompson in Love Actually. Image: Love Actually
A scene from Love, Actually
Hugh Grant in ‘Love, Actually’
Love Actually
Warmth and humour: Bill Nighy's tribute to Robert Palmer in the original 'Love Actually', released back in 2003
Then: Olivia Olson as Joanna in Love Actually. Image: Love Actually
Then: Rodrigo Santoro as Karl in Love Actually. Image: Love Actually
Then: Martine McCutcheon as Natalie in Love Actually. Image: Love Actually
Then: Laura Linney as Sarah in Love Actually. Image: Love Actually
Then: Martin Freeman as John in Love Actually. Image: Love Actually
Then: Thomas Brodie Sangster as Sam in Love Actually. Image: Love Actually
Love Actually
HEIDI MAKATSCH AND ALAN RICKMAN in Love Actually

Chris Wasser

It’s 15 years since Richard Curtis’s Love Actually hit cinema screens. We understand if you need a moment to take this in. A wildly ambitious offering, in which eight separate love stories intertwine in the weeks leading up to Christmas (yes, we think that’s the best way of describing it), Curtis’s cherished rom-com has, over the years, become a bona-fide Christmas classic.

Yes, it is an odd, odd film. Yes, it is deeply problematic, when you really stop to think about it (especially that scene with Andrew Lincoln and his giant cue cards - yikes). No, it hasn’t aged all that well.

And, yet, we’ll never stop watching it. It will always have a special place in our hearts. It is, easily, one of the weirdest romantic comedies ever made, and Christmas – or, life, for that matter – wouldn’t be the same without it. To celebrate its anniversary, we’ve decided to round up our favourite Love Actually facts, figures and anecdotes. You’re welcome. Now, good luck getting THAT song out of your head…

1. Curtis had a deadline…

And a particularly troublesome one at that. The story goes that Richard Curtis – the acclaimed British writer behind Four Weddings and a Funeral and Notting Hill, who made his directorial debut on Love Actually – was under pressure to have the finished film ready in time for a 2003 Christmas release. “The only nightmare scenario that I’ve been caught in was Love Actually,” said Curtis, “which worked at the read-through, and when we finished the film and I watched it edited it was…a catastrophe.” Apparently, finding the right order for each story was something akin to playing “three-dimensional chess”. Well, now, Mr Curtis, that explains an awful lot about the finished product…

2. Hugh Grant's Prime Minister inspired real-life politicians…

Right, do you remember the scene where David (Hugh Grant), the British Prime Minister, stands up to Billy Bob Thornton’s sleazy US President at a press conference? He gives a speech to remind everyone of how great, erm, Great Britain is. It’s a powerful moment in cinematic history, for sure - and, back in 2013, it inspired one David Cameron, when responding to a comment by a senior Russian official at the G20 Summit in St Petersburg, that Britain was a “small island no-one listens to”. Ouch. Cameron’s response got a lot of attention - and you know why. Watch and cringe, folks…

3. That Emma Thompson sequence is a knockout…

You know the one - it gets us every time. And, it probably deserves a better film. Basically, Harry (the late, great Alan Rickman) starts an affair with his secretary, Mia (Heike Makatsch). He secretly purchases her a necklace for Christmas – a necklace which his wife, Karen (Emma Thompson), finds before he has a chance to hide it. She thinks it’s for her and, well, let’s just say that things get complicated on Christmas Eve. Oh, and Joni Mitchell is involved.

As it turns out, Thompson dug deep for the scene, remembering what it was like to have her heart broken by former husband, Kenneth Branagh, who famously left Thompson, after starting an affair with Helena Bonham Carter. “That scene where my character is standing by the bed crying is so well known because it’s something everyone’s been through,” said Thompson. “I had my heart very badly broken by Ken. So, I knew what it was like to find the necklace that wasn’t meant for me. Well, it wasn’t exactly that, but we’ve all been through it.”

4. There were more stories in there…

Yes, originally there was an awful lot more to Love Actually (14 stories in total, apparently). Hell, the finished film clocks in at an arse-numbing 136 minutes. Indeed, Curtis was forced to make some cuts, and we’re sorry we never got to see more of Anne Reid’s headmistress, whose scenes involving a terminally ill partner (Frances de la Tour), fell off the cart during the editing process. See for yourself here, as Richard Curtis explains what happened…

Read more: Heartbreaking Love Actually scenes involving lesbian couple unearthed after being cut from original film

5. We actually got a sequel!

It’s called Red Nose Day Actually, it was broadcast on BBC One last year, it’s only 15 minutes long, and it features almost everyone you loved from the original. Hey, it raised a few quid for charity, and they even got Rowan Atkinson to come back and do his shop assistant skit again (more of him in a bit)…

6. Christmas really is all around us…

In 1994, the lads from Wet Wet Wet were asked to record a cover for Richard Curtis’s new romantic comedy, Four Weddings and a Funeral. You know what happened next. Love is All Around spent 15 weeks at number one, folks. Even the band’s front man, Marti Pellow, admitted that the tune eventually did everyone’s heads in. Curtis must have known this, too – and, in 2003, for Love Actually, guess how he decided to kick off the film? Yep, with a Christmas-themed cover of Love is All Around (Christmas is All Around), recorded by Bill Nighy (as fictional rock god, Billy Mack). That’s right: Curtis somehow found a way to simultaneously poke fun at himself whilst making the song even more annoying than it is. That’s quite an achievement.

7. The Ant or Dec line…

It’s the best line in the whole film, and it deserves some sort of award. No, really.

8. That crazy Keira Knightley fact…

We’re talking about the fact that Keira Knightley (who played Juliet) was just 18 when she starred in Love Actually. And, guess how old Thomas Brodie-Sangster (who played Sam) was when he made the film? He was 13, lads. Yes, you can go and lie down if you need to…

9. Love Actually brought back the ensemble rom-com…

Yes, we have decided to blame Love Actually on every other romantic comedy where loads of seemingly unrelated, love duvey things happen to people who are far too good looking for us to really care about. These include Valentine’s Day (2010), New Year’s Eve (2011) and Mother’s Day (2016), all of which would never have found their place in the world were it not for Curtis’s film – and all of which were directed by the late Garry Marshall. Love Actually also inspired a 2013 Japanese reimagining of sorts, entitled ‘It All Began When I Met You’. No, really.

10. The Bill Nighy storyline isn’t connected to anyone else…

It’s more of a festive back-drop, really, and – after a gazillion watches – it’s something we’ve only just realised now. Sorry. We’ll move on…

11. Love Actually made a bleedin’ fortune at the box-office…

A whopping $246.9 million, in fact (against a $40m budget). We do hope Richard Curtis celebrated with a dance or two. Speaking of which…

12. Hugh Grant didn’t like the dancing bit…

And, he didn’t want to do the 10 Downing Street Shuffle (that’s what we’re calling it, anyway). Apparently, he thought it too unrealistic (he’s right) and worried it would be stupid (it was). "Well, I could see that it might work," Grant told an interviewer earlier this year. “Although I never understood it, technically. I kept saying to Richard, 'Okay, look. I've got the radio in my room. My bedroom. And I'm dancing, fine. But then I started dancing through the whole of 10 Downing Street, where's the music coming from? How does it cut off at the end?'"

Curtis’s response? “Oh, don’t worry about all of that. It's film world.” Good point, Richard.

13. Apparently, Rowan Atkinson’s character had a secret…

Broadcaster, writer and Love Actually script editor, Emma Freud (who is also Curtis’s wife) revealed a few years back, via Twitter, something rather startling about Rowan Atkinson’s character in Love Actually. Are you ready for this?

“Originally Rowan's character over-wrapped the gift on purpose to stop Alan Rickman being able to buy the necklace. Because he was an angel,” she tweeted. And now we need to go and lie down.

14. Oh, and the Mia/Harry affair actually happened…

What we mean is that it happened in the film – in ‘film world’ (but we didn’t get to see it). The aforementioned Freud also revealed this delightful ‘fact’ via Twitter a few years back. This is all getting very upsetting. Let’s finish with something a little more upbeat, shall we?

Read more: We finally know what happened to Alan Rickman and Emma Thompson's characters in Love Actually 

15. Andrew Lincoln’s Mark is a horrible, horrible person…

And all the cue cards in the world will never, ever change that. Now, we kinda feel better, actually. Enjoy your next viewing!

 

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