British film director Richard Curtis, after visiting famine-ravaged Ethiopia along with Lenny Henry back in the 1980s, launched Comic Relief and its annual Red Nose Day fund-raising event. For part of this year’s telecast he has reunited most of the cast of his 2003 ensemble rom-com Love Actually. In a 12-minute mini-sequel, shot in recent weeks, we shall learn what happened to the characters in the film’s multiple story lines.
So, in the update of this fictional world, is Hugh Grant still Prime Minister? And did he marry his Cockney junior staffer, played by Martine McCutcheon? Is veteran rock star Billy Mack (brilliantly played by Bill Nighy) still going strong? Did the romance between writer Jamie (Colin Firth) and his attractive Portugese housekeeper Aurelia (Lucia Moniz) develop? And how did the love triangle work out involving Juliet (Keira Knightley), her husband Peter (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and his best friend Mark (Andrew Lincoln), who is besotted with her and writes her messages of love in huge letters on cue cards? All will be revealed.
Read our interview with Bill Nighy in the April issue of Saga Magazine
Not everyone in the cast will be back, notably Emma Thompson as Karen, sadly coming to terms with her husband Harry’s infidelity. Alan Rickman, who played Harry, died in January.
It’s been a while since Love Actually was first released, but it’s having quite a moment right now. In America especially, it has gradually established itself over the years as a must-see movie on TV for the Christmas season. (The film got a November release both here and in the States, and its story takes place in the run-up to Christmas).
And then late last year a comic spoof of the scene featuring Andrew Lincoln and his cue cards was shown on the long-running American comedy show Saturday Night Live, with actress Kate McKinnon, in character as Hillary Clinton on the doorstep of a female voter wielding the cards that begged her not to vote for Donald Trump. The clip of the scene went viral, and suddenly Love Actually was on everyone’s lips once again.
And the film’s opening scene was often cited in America in the recent controversy over the Trump administration’s travel ban. The scene was shot at Heathrow Airport, showing real people from all over the world enjoying emotional family reunions, with a voice-over from Hugh Grant that proclaimed the essential goodness of ordinary people.
I interviewed Curtis back in January about his considerable charitable work; in Britain Red Nose Day has raised an astonishing £1 billion since its inception. He spends half of each year concentrating on humanitarian work and the other half on filming (which he describes as ‘the fun and games.’)
When we talked, the Love Actually mini-sequel had not been announced, but Curtis was genuinely bemused by all the recent interest in the film: “It’s odd when you shot something one night, 14 years ago, to find it still being referred to -- particularly when I stole the idea of those cue cards from Bob Dylan in the first place!” (Dylan used cue cards in the 1965 video to announce the lyrics for his song Subterranean Homesick Blues).
As a film-maker, Curtis’s name is virtually synonymous with romantic comedy. He wrote the screenplays for two global hits in that vein, both starring Hugh Grant: Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994) and Notting Hill (1999). He both wrote and directed Love Actually, which at the time was marginally less successful; and on its release some British critics, by this time a little wearied by the sheer niceness of ‘Curtisland,’ dismissed it as saccharine.
Yet it’s Love Actually that chimes with the spirit of our times today. It’s strange how these things can happen; and rather heartening that renewed interest in a 14-year-old film will help swell the coffers of a hugely worthwhile charity.
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