Feature by: Jack Foley
FEW writers have displayed as big a flare for writing romantic
comedy/drama in the past few years as Richard Curtis, so it is
little wonder to find that stars were queuing up to appear in
his latest, which also marks his first time as a director.
Love Actually is the romantic event movie of the
year, a star-studded, contemporary look at life and love in London,
which is, by turns, funny, poignant, and downright fairytale.
A veritable whos who of British stage, screen and TV stars
contribute in some way, as do a couple of Hollywoods bigger
names, making it a must-see for any love-struck couple, or hopeless
romantic, in the run-up to the Christmas festivities.
For starters, theres Hugh Grants bachelor Prime Minister,
who falls for his Cockney tea-lady (Martine McCutcheon), as well
as Colin Firths jilted writer, who travels to the south
of France in search of a break, only to fall for his Portuguese-speaking
cleaner. And then theres Keira Knightleys blushing
new bride, who finds herself in a bit of a love triangle, when
it emerges that her husbands best man (played by ex-Teachers
star, Andrew Lincoln) is also in love with her.
All stories converge, in some way, to prove that, whatever else
is happening in the world, and however bad the news seems, love,
actually, is all around
And it is tribute to Curtis skill as both writer and director
that what could so easily have become a manipulative slush-fest
emerges as a triumphantly feel good movie (with only the odd pass
the sickbag moment!).
It was this, as much as anything, which helped to attract two
of Britains brightest stars - Colin Firth and Keira Knightley
- to the project in the first place.
Knightley, especially, is full of praise for Curtis, stating
that, the thing about Richard, is that he makes feel good
movies and makes them well - and thats very difficult to
"Because the thing about the feel good movie, is that its
something they all try and do, and there is nothing more disgusting
than a patronising feel good, smarmy movie, because you just think
my brain has been turned to mush and that was a disgusting
experience...," she continued.
"So, to be able to do it well is an amazing talent. There
are very few who can do it, and Richard is at the top of that
list, no question. Its absolutely incredible how you can
sit through all of his films with a stupid grin on your face,
and you do - no matter if you come out and say oh no its
not my sort of thing, Im very art house... you still
smile at those films."
The same sentiment can be applied to Firth, who had previously
appeared in Bridget Jones
Diary, which Curtis had provided the screenplay for.
"This one, I think, takes a look at the kind of lives a
lot of us lead. I mean, these are people who look like us, dress
like us, and have jobs like ours
"He hasnt crossed a lot of class barriers, or regional
barriers, here, but they are recognisable people and its
as if he has sprinkled magic dust over it all, or something. Just
to give it all a lift, and give an optimistic take on some of
the more stressful and distressing aspects of our lives.
"He is not solving the problems of the entire world, but
the kind of general love difficulties which a lot of people have;
the kind of things, in real life, we lose our sense of humour
"This film rekindles the humour, and it can kind of help
to lighten ones view of those problems. And theres
nothing wrong with that."
Yet given the writers track record for getting romance
right, did Firth notice any additional pressures being placed
upon Curtis, as he went behind the camera for the first time?
"Well, actually, just before we left for France, to shoot
my segment, I had a panic attack on his behalf, and woke up in
the middle of the night," he confessed. "I actually
thought, how is he going to do this? How will he cope?
Hes got ten or 15 stories, some very famous actors, and
he is going to jump in for the first time in his life and orchestrate
all of that.
"It seemed to be an absolutely overwhelming task and the
read through seemed like a premier, or a night at the Groucho
Club, or something... He could have taken any one of these stories
and developed them into a feature film on their own.
"In fact, Im led to believe that they were all stories
that he had been toying with as full length stories. And its
as if he has put them all into one, and left himself with a clean
Curtis, it seems, continues to possess the Midas touch, or even
the accuracy of Eros, when it comes to translating love to film.
And for Knightley, the experience is one of her most memorable
to date, despite being one of Hollywoods hottest prospects,
off the back of her star-making turn alongside Johnny Depp and
Orlando Bloom, in this Summers Pirates of the Caribbean.
"It was really exciting to get the chance to work with two
people [Chiwetel Ejiofor and Andrew Lincoln] I admired so much
It was lovely costumes, lovely hair and lovely make up - and no
corsets, which was nice!"
Yet even she confessed to becoming very nervous for the read-through,
which was conducted at a hall, in Notting Hill, with all of the
cast sometime before shooting commenced.
"Ive done read throughs before, with Johnny Depp,
and that wasnt terrifying. But there were, like, 50 people
sitting around this huge table. It was astonishing," she
"You looked up and there was Hugh Grant, over there is Alan
Rickman. Oh theres Liam Neeson, theres Emma Thompson.
I mean, come on, can you blame me for being nervous?
"I mean, just the fact that all of those people turned up
for this read through shows how much respect they have for Richard.
It was huge, and, at the end of it, I was like ah! I cant
handle this! And I ran away, I got out of there as fast
as I could."
Love Actually opens on November 21 and looks set to become another
huge hit for Curtis and co...