Love Factually: 46 things you may not know about the Christmas classic

All the Love Actually facts you need as the film airs for Christmas

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Love Actually

Love Actually is on TV for the trillionth time, which must mean it’s Christmas season.

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While technically a rom-com, the film has become a staple of the festive viewing calendar ever since it hit cinemas 16 years ago.

But how much do you actually know about it?

There are probably a few secrets even the biggest fan is unaware of. Luckily the cast, crew, and Love Actually creator Richard Curtis’s wife Emma Freud have drip-fed us nuggets of info over the years.

The pair attended a live screening of the 2003 classic in 2015 – it was the first time Curtis has seen the film since it premiered – and Freud tweeted throughout.

We’ve picked her best nuggets of info as well as facts revealed since its release as Love Actually airs on ITV2 tonight.

1. The cast was made up of family and friends

Emma Freud’s mum played the Prime Minister’s cleaner. Extras were played by family friends and that mini Lobster was her daughter Scarlett Curtis.

Plus the Spider-Man, that’s her son.

2. The airport scenes starred real people

The team used hidden cameras on location at Heathrow Airport over a week. In the film’s DVD commentary, Curtis explains that when they caught a special moment on camera the crew would run over and get the people to sign a waiver. It seems rather fitting as it was watching the love expressed at the arrival gate of LAX that also inspired Curtis to write the film in the first place.

3. Cast and crew could buy and wear the clothes in the movie

I mean, who doesn’t want a turtle neck?

4. Filming took place at night

A lot of the film was shot at night to avoid crowds, which makes sense given the locations.

5. No, no-one got naked

No one stripped off for the film. Martin Freeman had a “little sock” on. Ahem. Emma Freud’s phrasing not ours.

6. Yes, Rowan Atkinson’s character was on our side all along

Rowan’s character originally over-wrapped the gift on purpose to stop Alan Rickman buying the necklace. It turns out Rufus was actually supposed to be an angel in the first draft. Another scene was shot where he disappeared after he helped Sam get past security in Heathrow Airport. It all ended up being too much so the scene, and idea, were cut.

7. January Jones wrote most of her own lines

8. Emma took 12 takes to do her heartbreaking scene

How she had any tears left by the end is anyone’s guess. Thompson realises her husband is having an affair and weeps while listening to Joni Mitchell’s Both Sides Now. Curtis said he shot it in medium-wide and didn’t move the camera, then just watched her act. Emma walked in 12 times and cried her heart out. “It was an amazing feat of acting,” Curtis said.

“That scene where my character is standing by the bed crying is so well known because it’s something everyone’s been through,” she said later.

Emma Thompson in Love Actually
Emma Thompson in Love Actually
Love Actually

9. She also drew on her own experience

Thompson has spoken about how she delved into her own experience – her now ex-husband Kenneth Branagh’s alleged affair with Helena Bonham Carter.

“I had my heart very badly broken by Ken,” she said. “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.”

10. Emma Thompson’s crying scene wasn’t scripted

Emma Thompson came up with the bawling her eyes out scene herself.

11. Colin Firth’s character’s name was a little dig

12. Emma’s favourite line…

Second favourite?

Emma tweeted: “Where the f*** is my f***king coat?”

13. Colin’s romantic kiss was down to Freud

14. Harry did have an affair

When asked if the affair had actually happened, Freud revealed the truth: “[Harry] definitely had an affair. I begged Richard just to make it a flirtation, but no. The whole way.”

15.  Sarah’s story was changed

Karl and Sarah’s love story originally just fizzled out after she got a call from her brother, but when the film was shown to test audiences it didn’t go down well. Curtis changed the story and added extra scenes so it was clear the pair weren’t going to get together.

16. There was a lesbian storyline cut from the film (though four plots were cut)

Anne Reid and Frances de la Tour
Anne Reid and Frances de la Tour

The original movie had 14 stories originally planned. Two of them were later cut – before filming – and the other two ended up on the cutting room floor.

One of the scenes was added to the first DVD’s bonus material showing a school headmistress and her lesbian partner.

Curtis has said he regrets scrapping the scene at the last minute because it removed one of his main points – everyone has their own complicated love story to tell.

One of the other axed stories involved an African couple who supported each other through famine.

17. A fifth of the movie is cut when the movie is shown on TV

John and Judy’s love story shows Martin Freeman and Joanna Page stand-in on an erotic drama. Their scenes show the pair mimicking sex acts, which is usually seen as too much for TV.

18. Curtis had Hugh Grant and Emma Thompson in mind from the start

Curtis has said that was always the plan – he wanted Hugh Grant and Emma Thompson to play the PM and his sister.

19. Martin McCutcheon’s role was written for her

…after he saw her in EastEnders. He wrote it specifically for the actress, even calling the character Martine. They later changed the character’s name to Natalie as they didn’t want her to realise she already had the job when she came in for the audition.

20. Claudia Schiffer was never supposed to star

Curtis originally wanted someone who looked like Schiffer, but couldn’t find anyone. He decided to just offer the role to her and the rest is history.

21. Curtis wrote letters to the US stars

Curtis wrote to Laura Linney, Billy Bob Thornton, and Denise Richards to ask them to star in Love Actually. Linney said later she was impressed and even more flattered when she read the letter. Linney said: “I got a letter in the mail from Richard Curtis saying that he’d been trying to cast this part, and he’d kept saying to his partner, Emma Freud, that he’d been looking for a ‘Laura Linney-type,’ and she said, ‘Why don’t you ask Laura Linney?’”

22. Bill Nighy didn’t know he auditioned for Love Actually

This was the first time Nighy and Curtis worked together, but Nighy didn’t even realise he had auditioned for the film. On the 10 year anniversary he admitted he did a rehearsal reading as a favour to the casting director Mary Selway. Nighy said he thought it was just so she could hear it read out, but then he got offered the role.

Love Actually (Netflix, BA)

23. Simon Pegg auditioned

Before Shaun of the Dead (2004) Pegg was known for sitcom Spaced. He was in line for the Rufus role in Love Actually, but Rowan Atkinson got the gig.

24. Thomas Brodie-Sangster learned to play drums

The actor who played Liam Neeson’s step-son Sam was taught to play the drums by his dad just for the movie.

25. Hugh Grant is related to another cast member…

Grant and Brodie-Sangster are second cousins.

26. The famous card scene was inspired by Bob Dylan

Andrew Lincoln’s famous card scene was inspired by the singer’s video for Subterranean Homesick Blues. Curtis wrote five versions of the scene and then read them to the women in his office to check they weren’t ‘too mushy’.

27. There’s one character Curtis feels is close to himself

Apparently it’s Andrew Lincoln’s character who is the closest to himself that Curtis has ever written – that’s according to his wife.

28. The music changed for the US release

The UK got the Sugababes Too Lost in You, the US got Kelly Clarkson’s The Trouble With Love Is.

29. The band in the wedding scene was inspired by a funeral

The band play All You Need is Love which was inspired by The Muppets Jim Henson’s funeral.

30. Hugh Grant’s PM was based on a real PM

The PM character is based on Ted Heath, who was seen as a typical bachelor.

31. Hugh Grant hates his dancing

You may all love it but Grant was very grumpy (and still is) about dancing around No 10 in the crab pose and “kept putting it off”. Curtis and Grant disagreed on how the PM should be played, but never more so than when Grant had to dance, and he refused to rehearse.

He said: “I kept saying to Richard: ‘OK, look. I’ve got the radio on in my room, my bedroom. And I’m dancing, fine. But then I start to dance through the whole of 10 Downing Street. Where’s the music coming from? And how does it cut off at the end?”

The song was also originally Jackson 5, but they couldn’t get the rights so Jump (For My Love) by Girls Aloud is was.

32. It also wasn’t Downing Street

The crew did try and get permission, but were told no.

33. Tony Blair had to live up to Grant’s PM

…and couldn’t. When he faced criticism in 2005 for his dealings with the US, Blair said: “I know there’s a bit of us that would like me to do a Hugh Grant in Love Actually and tell America where to get off. But the difference between a good film and real life is that in real life there’s the next day, the next year, the next lifetime to contemplate the ruinous consequences of easy applause.”

34. ‘Bernard’ is a running joke

Every Richard Curtis film contains “Bernard” with a joke at his expense. He’s the son of Emma Thompson’s character in Love Actually who is labelled “horrid”. But why? Curtis says it’s down to a love triangle that didn’t go his way. Bernard was the name of a man who got the girl Curtis fancied called Anne, hence the joke. Revenge. If you’re interested. Bernard went on to become an MP – he’s called Bernard Jenkin.

35. They stole a scene from Four Weddings and a Funeral

A character insults the caterer’s food while he’s attempting to flirt in Love Actually, but the scene was originally written for Grant’s character in Four Weddings and a Funeral. The scene got cut from the latter film so Curtis brought it back to life in Love Actually with Kris Marshall acting out the faux pas. Some drafts of the Love Actually script still had Grant’s name attached to the scene.

36. Love triangle?

Liam Neeson’s character, Daniel, has his love story with Carol, but he later calls her Karen… which is Emma’s character’s name.

37. There’s a reason Liam Neeson has a toothpick

The actor had just quit smoking and needed something to replace the cigarettes.

38. Joanna was played by Richard Curtis’s crush

In the DVD commentary, Curtis admits that his affection for writer-director Rebecca Frayn led to a heartbreaking scene. Frayn is never credited in the film as she never performed, but when Curtis had to create a slideshow of Sam’s mum he used images of Frayn. He simply asked her for “the prettiest pictures of her from her whole life.” Frayn is married to Andy Harries, the Oscar-nommed producer.

39. When two become one

The film was originally two separate movies. The first was for Hugh Grant, the second for Colin Firth.

“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,’” Curtis told Vulture.

Andrew Lincoln in Love Actually
Andrew Lincoln in Love Actually

40. Andrew Lincoln wrote the Love Actually cards

The ‘To Me, You Are Perfect’ signs were written by the actor in that distinct scrawl because he thought his “handwriting was really good”.

41. It took 45 minutes to pick out Aurelia’s underwear

When Jamie’s pages fly into the nearby lake and Aurelia strips off to go rescue them we see her in her underwear. Curtis admitted there was a big debate over what she should wear under her jumper. The meeting to decide it took 45 minutes and they looked at 20 sets of bras and knickers.

42. Joanna’s All I Want For Christmas Is You version was too good

Curtis made her re-sing it as it was far too good. He needed it to sound more like a child singing.

43. Ken cameos in drag

Emma Thompson holds up Barbie dolls, which are actually Ken dolls in drag.

44. The film has been remade three times

Tribute to Love was the unofficial remake in Hindi, while Poland also has a go with Letters to St Nicolas. Japan has remade the film as It All Began When I Met You.

45. There was (sort of) a sequel

For Red Nose Day in 2017 the cast got back together for a short film called Red Nose Day Actually that revealed what had happened to all the main characters.

“I would never have dreamt of writing a sequel to Love Actually, but I thought it might be fun to do 10 minutes to see what everyone is now up to,” Curtis said when it was announced. “Who has aged best?—I guess that’s the big question … or is it so obviously Liam?”

Emma Thompson couldn’t star as Alan Rickman sadly died in 2016. Curtis said he left their story out, out of respect for Rickman.

Thompson said: “Richard wrote to me and said, ‘Darling we can’t write anything for you because of Alan,’ and I said, ‘No of course, it would be sad, too sad.'”

Never fear though, we know what happened. Emma Freud’s tweets also revealed: “They stay together but home isn’t as happy as it once was.”

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46. How many times is ‘actually’ said in Love Actually?

Actually is actually said 23 times in the film. 22 by the characters, once in the monologue… but who’s counting?