“Love Actually” True Story Behind The Movie & Where Are They Now?

To be in London and in Love at Christmas. This movie is what happens when you combine all the tasty stuff from a romantic comedy and juxtapose that juice into Christmas. With so many characters and story lines flying by each other it must have been a tough juggle to make it work.

love-actuallyThis movie was a big break for Richard Curtis as a first time Director. He had given us “Four Weddings and a Funeral,” “Bridget Jones’s Diary,” “Notting Hill” and had written a lot for TV including Blackadder, Mr. Bean both with Rowan Atkinson who steals the show with his cameo in Love Actually.

Sometimes love doesn’t come without a fight. In “Love Actually” Juliet (Keira Knightley) and Peter (Chiwetel Ejiofor) are getting married but Peter’s best man Mark (Andrew Lincoln) is almost obsessed by Juliet. Beyond being just the girl that got away, with his best friend, she is the most perfect thing he has ever seen. Then there’s Daniel (Liam Neeson) who’s wife just died and his stepson Sam (Thomas Sangster) has a huge crush with a classmate who he thinks doesn’t know he exists. Not too far away Karen (Emma Thompson) is worried that her husband Harry (Alan Rickman) is having an affair with his secretary. In the same office Sarah (Laura Linney) is secretly in love with Karl (Rodrigo Santoro) who’s secretly in love right back at her. Then there’s Jamie (Colin Firth) who leaves the country to write but soon discovers his own love destiny. We get great comic relief from aging rocker Billy Mack (Bill Nighy) who is trying to get the Christmas #1 tune with a twist on “Love Is All Around” called “Christmas is All Around.”…and that’s just a fraction of the storylines.

‘Love Actually’ debuted in 2003. It grossed $59 Million million in the U.S. and $246 million worldwide. It ranked at 63% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes but that’s just a small part of the story considering that it may not technically be a Christmas movie it does take part in the holiday season and every year it gains more fans.

It’s rise reminded me of another Holiday classic Frank Capra’s “It’s A Wonderful Life.” Even though “Love Actually” wasn’t a flop in the beginning it also wasn’t a huge hit. In 1946 though Capra lost half a million bucks on “It’s A Wonderful Life.” Both films always gave me that same euphoric feeling in the end and both ended up being huge in the end.

Fun facts about Love Actually:

blog-things-love-actually-7The lake that Colin Firth and Lucia Moniz are swimming in to retrieve his manuscript was only 18 inches deep. They had to kneel. It was also infested with mosquitoes. Colin Firth was so badly bitten he needed medical attention.

When the movie was released Keira Knightly was only 18 and had already been in some big movies including “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl” four months before and “Bend It Like Beckham” the previous year.

Richard Curtis had one type in mind for the character of Sarah. Even though he auditioned many Brits for the part he was really looking for someone with the essence of Laura Linney. At his point of frustration the casting director eventually snapped, “Oh, for f&%k’s sake, get Laura Linney then.” She auditioned and got the part – of course.

Speaking of Linney. She filmed both “Love Actually” and “Mystic River” at the same time causing here to fly back and fourth from Boston to London.

Hugh Grant was totally against the dance scene featuring the Pointer Sisters “Jump.’ He felt it clashed with his role. Director Richard Curtis says, “[Hugh] was HUGELY grumpy about it… He kept on putting it off, and he didn’t like the song – it was originally a Jackson 5 song, but we couldn’t get it – so he was hugely unhappy about it.”

The surprise singing of the Beatles’ “All You Need Is Love” at Peter and Juliet’s wedding came from Curtis. After he attended Jim Henson’s funeral all of his puppeteers brought their Muppets and sang a song.

grid-cell-834-1415624749-8That was really Olivia Olson (Joanna – Sam’s crush) singing “All I Want for Christmas is You” at that final Christmas concert. In fact they had to change it a bit to make it sound like a kid singing since her voice sounded so much like an adult.

The film begins with those heartwarming greetings between loved ones at Heathrow airport. Those were not extras or actors. Everything was real. They camped out at the airport for a week and asked each and ever person in the footage for their permission after to be in the film.

Billy Bob Thornton is very open about his many phobias and they were locked and loaded when he starred as the U.S. president in his scenes with Mr Prime Minister Hugh Grant. Thornton has a unique fear of antique furniture and Grant would flash a piece of antique’s in front of him before some scenes. Yikes!!!

Curtis said originally Love Actually was going to be two movies. One with Hugh Grant’s character and the other about Colin Firth.

Thomas Brodie-Sangster had no drumming skills on drums when he got the part and it showed. His dad however is a drummer and gave him some basics.

Did Emma Thompson gain wait for her part? Actually according to Richard Curtis she wore a fat suit.

As much as “Love Actually” is now a holiday classic it does have a racy subplot featuring Martin Freeman and Joanna Page filming, sometimes, nude scenes. You can only really watch the TV version with your family since all of their scenes are cut. There was no way to edit their scenes to keep them in the movie.

Even though it looks like British government gave the crew permission to let Hugh Grant’s Prime Minister stroll and sometimes dance at Number 10 Downing Street it was actually a set. Writer-director Richard Curtis and his production designer Jim Clay were given a two hour tour of the real residence of the British Prime Minister who was Tony Blair at the time. Here’s the thing they couldn’t take pictures or take sketches so Clay had to recreate it from memory.

BTW, The word “actually” is spoken twenty-two times by various characters in the film.

The cards that Andrew Lincoln was holding were written by him, well he didn’t write the words but that was his handwriting. The art department did it first then he did kind of a stencil thing to make sure things fit on the page.

laura_999696Bill Nighy’s Billy Mack video for “Christmas is All Around” was not only influenced by Robert Palmer’s “Addicted to Love” but he also used the same theme with the ladies on “Simply Irresistible”and “I Didn’t Mean to Turn You On.” In all the videos the ladies look like they’d rather be someplace else.

Olivia Olson (Joanna) would go on to play another love interest of Thomas Brodie-Sangster (Sam) in the TV show Phineas and Ferb from 2007 where Sangster is the voice of Ferb and Olsson is the voice of Vanessa

This is an easy one, both Hugh Grant and Colin Firth previously worked together in ‘Bridget Jones Diary.’

Being a huge ensemble cast many actors didn’t film together. Bill Nighy says, ‘There were so many famous people in there, we used to talk about being on Liam Neeson Way or Emma Thompson Road or Hugh Grant Avenue. And it was a masterpiece of diplomacy, too; we all had the same size and type of trailer.’

The film was called “Real Love” in Russia, and the Czech version was named “Heavenly Love”

After reading the script Andrew Lincoln thought his character was a stalker, adding, “That was my question to Richard Curtis, ‘Do you not think we’re sort of borderline stalker territory here?’ And he said, ‘No, no. Not with you playing it, darling. You’ll be alright’.”

Laura Linney was disappointed in her character Sarah saying when she was with Karl (Rodrigo Santoro) and gave that up for her brother. In the real world that would not have been an option for her.

Rowan Atkinson’s character was initially supposed to be an angel and disappear as he walked away from Liam Neeson’s character in the airport scene.

So did Harry (Alan Rickman) and his secretary Mia (Heike Makatsch) actually get together in “that” way? Remember after the Christmas Concert Karen asks her husband, “If you were in my position, what would you do? Imagine your husband bought a gold necklace and come Christmas gave it to somebody else. Would you wait around to find out if it’s just a necklace, or if it’s sex and a necklace or if, worst of all, it’s a necklace and…love.” Then the husband Harry admits to being a “classic fool.”

In December 2015, Emma Freud (who was the movie’s script editor and is the life partner of its writer and director Richard Curtis) confirmed on her Twitter account that it was indeed a full-fledged sexual affair, and not just an inappropriate but nonphysical flirtation, as some viewers assumed it was. Freud also confirmed that Karen and Harry stayed married after Karen discovered the affair, “but home isn’t as happy as it once was.”

oliviaolsonFor her one-minute cameo, Claudia Schiffer received a reported £200,000 sterling. (Roughly $300,000 U.S. dollars)

The entire production team put much thought into what color underwear Aurelia should have in the lake. In the end pale blue won.

Where are they Now?

Bill Nighy – Billy Mack won at 4 awards for his role including a BAFTA Award for “Best Actor in a Supporting Role.” He had played a similar character 5 years earlier in ‘Still Crazy’ – an aging rock star trying to reach the top again. As well as ‘Love Actually’ in 2003 he also debuted the character Viktor in the first of three “Underworld” movies. Since ‘Love Actually’ he’s been involved in 8 TV series and 42 Movies. He also voices video games – the man has great pipes. He was in two “Pirates of the Caribbean” and one “Harry Potter’ movie. Nighy worked with Curtis in 2013’s ‘About Time.’ He had a relationship with actress Diane Quick from 1980-2008.

Colin Firth had many things in common, in real life with his character Jamie most notably learning a language for his love. In 1997, Firth married Italian film producer and director Livia Giuggioli . Like Jamie learned Portuguese for Aurelia he learned Italian for his real wife. They have two children and two houses – one in Italy and one in London. Since “Love Actually” he’s done over 40 acting projects including another ensemble cast in “Mamma Mia!’ He was amazing in “The King’s Speech.” and won the Academy award for Best Actor in 2011. To many ladies he will always be known as Mr Darcy from 1995’s “Pride and Prejudice.”

Emma Thompson’s Karen character had some big challenges in love in this movie. In real life she was married to actor and director Kenneth Branagh until 1995. The same year while filming ‘Sense and Sensibility’ a film that features a few future “Love Actually actors Alan Rickman and Hugh Grant and her next husband Greg Wise. She was suffering depression while filming in 1995 and credits that, work and Wise saved her. Thompson was in a few big box office hits like three Harry Potter Films and she has won two academy awards. Best Actress for ‘Howard’s End’ from 1992 and Best Adapted Screenplay for ‘Sense and Sensibility.’ She also has two Golden Globes and an Emmy.

Liam Neeson who plays Daniel has very particular set of skills. He will look for you, he will find you and he will kill you. Well his three ‘Taken’ films have made $930 million worldwide. He’s done incredibly well since ‘Love Actually’ but also let’s remember he was Oskar Schindler in ‘Schindler’s List’ in 1993 and ‘Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace’ in 1999. Neeson was in ‘Batman Begins’ and ‘The Dark Night Rises and received lots of praise for ‘Kinsey’ in 2004. He quit smoking while working on ‘Love Actually. His love story had a tragic end however. He met actress Natasha Richardson in 1993. They married the next year. She died after suffering a severe head injury in a skiing accident in 2009.

Hugh Grant who was the Prime Minister has done some great work with ‘Love Actually’ Director/Writer Richard Curtis. His breakthrough role in 1994’s ‘Four Weddings and a Funeral’ was scripted by Curtis and he was the writer/producer of ‘Notting Hill’ in 1999, writer of ‘Bridget Jones’s Diary’ in 2001 and it’s first sequel ‘Edge of Reason’ in 2004. During the filming of ‘Love Actually’ Grant had already broken up with actress Elizabeth Hurley three years before and dated heiress Jemima Goldsmith from 2004 to 2007. Grant has had some interesting twists in his love life. In 2011 he had a daughter with Tinglan Hong, a receptionist at a Chinese restaurant in London. The following year he had a son with Swedish television producer Anna Eberstein. The following year went back to Hong and had a son and reunited with Eberstein and had his fourth child.

love_actuallyMartine McCutcheon played Natalie. She was one of my favorite characters in ‘Love Actually. She was not as well known in North America but the singer, television personality and actress was a household name in England after playing Tiffany Mitchell in the BBC’s EastEnders. 22 Million viewers tuned in for her final scene in that soap in 1998 where he character was killed off. In the real world she wanted to return to her singing career. Four years before ‘Love Actually’ she had a #1 hit single called ‘Perfect Moment.’ Since 2003 she has done a few TV movies and appeared as a guest in several British TV shows. She has also done a lot of stage acting. She married singer Jack McManus 2012. McCutcheon also spent some time away from the spotlight after being diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome.

We end with the late great Alan Rickman as Harry. Many knew him as Hans Gruber in ‘Die Hard,’ Severus Snape in the Harry Potter film series and Sheriff of Nottingham in ‘Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.’

He met his wife Rima Horton way back in 1965. He was 19 and she one year younger. The only married in 2012 and didn’t tell the media until 2015. They lived together from 1977 to 2016 and had no children.

After having a minor stroke in 2015 he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He was a private person and only told a handful of people.

Rickman died on 14 January 2016 at the age of 69.

We can sometimes feel like an emotional jack in the box at Christmas. The good stuff is so much better than it really is and the bad stuff is so much worse than it really is. I think Love Actually showed that. Keep in mind it is on Netflix right now.

Also check out more “True Story Behind & Where Are They Now” with our Charlie Brown Christmas video. – by John Beaudin

John Beaudin has been in major market radio (Edmonton, Vancouver & Calgary) for 33 years and a music journalist since 1989. He graduated from Broadcasting school as a news man so he would have the skills to write about the artists that inspired him since he bought his first album, “Madman Across The Water” by Elton John as a teen. In the 80’s Beaudin was the host of the syndicated radio show “The Cross Canada Report” which had two version (Rock and A/C). Beaudin was also asked to be a judge at the Juno Awards (Canada’s answer to the Grammys) Twice. He has anchored every position in radio including morning and afternoon drive and was a Program and Music Director for The Breeze and California 103 in Calgary. He currently hosts the popular Lovesongs at QM-FM in Vancouver.

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