As the tenth anniversary of the theatrical release of Love Actually nears, VH1 takes a look back on the now classic holiday film. After talking with cast members and digging through old interviews, we learned some interesting things about ensemble film starring Colin Firth, Hugh Grant and Emma Thompson. For starters, it was never supposed to be a Christmas film! Say what?! We can’t even imagine our holidays without an annual viewing of this movie.
1. Love Actually was never meant to be a holiday movie.
While talking to VH1, director Richard Curtis admits that LA was never intended to have a Christmas theme. But the director loves Christmas films, so it seemed natural to make one of his own.
“I’m so surprised and delighted by the Love Actually thing, because when I first started the movie it wasn’t set at Christmas then I love Christmas movies so I thought I’ll make a Christmas movie, but it didn’t occur to me that it might be one of those Christmas movies where people actually watch it again and again and it’s a delightful surprise to me,” Curtis explains. “And I think maybe it’s because it’s got so many plots that people can’t remember what’s going to happen next, so it’s sort of satisfying–it’s not like watching a thriller where you know he’s about to get killed, I think you can’t quite remember where you are. But Love Actually, ’tis like a gift that my past has given me that people still like it.”
2. Love Actually came out of two different films written for Hugh Grant and Colin Firth’s characters.
In an interview with Vulture, Curtis explains how LA wasn’t originally written as an ensemble film. Curtis wrote two scripts before switching gears and opting to write an Atlman-esque movie.
After Notting Hill, I took my time, and I thought that I might write the film that turned out being Hugh’s story [in Love Actually] and the film that turned out being Colin’s story [in Love Actually] as whole films,” Curtis says. “I’d worked out whole films on those subjects, and then I thought, Oh, I don’t want to do these because they are just turning out to be a shape I know. And I said, ’I’d be more interested in writing a film about love and what love sort of means, and how, you know, about the subject than rather than one example of a story about that subject.’ And then I remembered how much I loved Robert Altman’s movies with lots of stories — Nashville and Short Cuts. And how much I loved those Woody Allen movies with three or four stories. And Pulp Fiction. And Smoke. And I suddenly thought, Oh, I’ll write one of those. And then if I write one of those, I can not only deal with the Jolly-People-Fall-in-Love-and-Kiss ones, but I can also deal with the Emma Thompson story and the Laura Linney story and the father and son story and stuff.”
3. Richard Curtis originally thought Love Actually was a catastrophe.
“I’m immensely critical and uninterested in what I wrote in the first place,” Curtis tells Variety of the creation of the film. “It read really well, seemed to go well when we shot, then we watched it — catastrophe!”
It turns out, Curtis had to reassemble a number of vignettes and story lines to make sure audiences actually cared about the characters in the film. Even though they are woven together, Curtis is not sure it all comes together. “I’m not sure all the stories are from the same universe,” he jokes.
4. Claudia Schiffer was never supposed to be in the film.
In an interview with VH1, Elisha Cuthbert revealed that Schiffer was someone who came in last minute after the director had difficulty finding someone who matched her appearance.
“If I’m not mistaken, Richard Curtis wanted to have someone who looks like [Schiffer] and couldn’t find anyone that was right, and then actually calling her and getting her,” Cuthbert says. “So that’s amazing… I think in the script, it was always, I remember reading it being, you know, just a version of and then I don’t know if they were able to find anyone, I mean, how could you find another Claudia Schiffer? If you found another Claudia Schiffer, we’d all be rich. But yeah, so it was funny how it ended up, you know, him getting the real deal. I just thought it was brilliant.”
5. Little did Andrew Lincoln know, but he was actually playing Richard Curtis.
In the film, Lincoln played Mark, a character who secretly pines for Juliet (Keira Knightley) and later reveals his true feelings on a bunch of handwritten cards. Prior to filming the movie’s most iconic scene, Lincoln learned that he was playing a version of Curtis.
“Halfway through filming it, Richard’s partner Emma (Sigmund Freud’s great-granddaughter) came over and whispered in my ear, ’You know, you’re playing Richard.’ I said, ’What?'” The Walking Dead star recalls. “And she said, ’Yeah. This is the closest to Richard that he’s ever written.’ That made it a double honor, because Richard is such a wonderful, extraordinary human being.”
6. Laura Linney wishes Sarah never picked up the phone.
One of the most frustrating story lines in the movie involved Linney’s character Sarah, who finds herself trapped by caring for her brother who constantly calls her. As a result, she’s unable to express her true feelings for Karl. In fact, answering her brother’s call is one thing Linney wishes she could have prevented her character from doing. “Oh, easy… don’t pick up the phone,” she says of her character’s biggest regret.
7. A lot of Colin and the American girls’ story line was improvised.
In the same VH1 interview, Cuthbert says that she and Kris Marshall (Colin), January Jones (Jeannie) and Ivana Miličević (Stacey) had a lot of opportunities to improv during their scenes.
“I do remember, though, on set, it was just a lot of fun and it was such a creative space and we were allowed to improvise and try different things and it wasn’t just completely set into Richard’s writing,” Cuthbert says of filming. “I mean we were allowed to sort of venture, at least in the scenes that we got to play with, January Jones, myself, the other girls. It was nice that we got to sort of play around. ”
8. Bill Nighy never wants to get naked again.
In LA, Bill Nighy’s character famously threatened to go nude if his song, “Christmas Is All Around,” topped the year-end charts. As luck would have it, the song did prompting Nighy to shed his clothes on camera. However, it’s not something he ever plans to do again.
“I wouldn’t get naked again,” Nighy tells VH1. “No, I’d do most things for Richard, it’s a very good day when I script from Richard comes through. As you say, quite different. I also made another movie with him, he didn’t director it but he wrote it, called The Girl in the Cafe, which again was a very different thing. I’m just very grateful, I treasure our association. He writes great parts for me.”
9. Sam is still a 13-year-old boy on… Game Of Thrones.
“I’ll probably always be remembered as the cute little boy who plays drums and gets the girl in the end,” Sangster says of his breakout role as Sam, the stepson of Liam Neeson’s character. The child actor was 13 years old when Love Actually premiered in theaters, and ten years later, the actor is playing a 13-year-old again in Season 3 of Game Of Thrones. After a decade, Sangster surprised many American fans of the show when he suddenly appeared on the HBO series. Even though he’s worked on several films since LA, it has been the first time many had seen Sam, err Sangster, again.
10. 2013 is turning out to be a big year for LA alums.
Not only are Jones, Lincoln and Sangster starring on TV’s most popular shows (Mad Men, The Walking Dead and Game Of Thrones, respectively), but several other stars are having breakout year. Chiwetel Ejiofor, who played Peter in the film, is getting tons of Oscar buzz for his lead role in 12 Years A Slave. Alan Rickman co-starred in the Oscar-buzzworthy ensemble film, Lee Daniel’s The Butler, Laura Linney is back in the spotlight with the WikiLeaks film, The Fifth Estate, and Liam Neeson has a cameo in Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues. Bill Nighy stars in About Time, another film directed by Richard Curtis, Denise Richards is back to work on the ABC Family drama, Twisted and Rodrigo Santoro takes center stage in next year’s sequel to 300.
[Photos: Universal Pictures]