Emma Thompson: I 'so get' the enduring appeal of 'Love Actually'

Emma Thompson's classic Christmas film "Love Actually" was filmed 20 years ago. File Photo by Gabriele Holtermann/UPI
1 of 5 | Emma Thompson's classic Christmas film "Love Actually" was filmed 20 years ago. File Photo by Gabriele Holtermann/UPI | License Photo

Nov. 28 (UPI) -- Love Actually co-stars Hugh Grant, Emma Thompson, Bill Nighy, Laura Linney, Thomas Brodie-Sangster and Olivia Olson all reminisced about making the iconic holiday rom-com on an ABC special hosted by Diane Sawyer Tuesday night.

Written and directed by Richard Curtis, the 2003 British blockbuster followed numerous couples and friends whose stories intersect in the weeks leading up to Christmas.


Story lines involving all types of love -- adolescent, romantic, unrequited, newlywed, middle-aged, platonic, extramarital and familial -- are woven through the movie.

The ensemble also included Colin Firth, Liam Neeson, Keira Knightley, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Andrew Lincoln, Martine McCutcheon, Rowan Atkinson, Kris Marshall, Martin Freeman, Billy Bob Thornton, Rodrigo Santoro and the late Alan Rickman.


Curtis said in the one-hour special celebrating the 20th anniversary of the making of the movie that he wanted Love Actually to explore how "every day has the potential in all its simplicity to be gorgeous."

Thompson played a middle-aged, upper middle-class mom whose husband is cheating on her.

She told Sawyer she understands why people adore the film.

"I so get it," the actress said.

"Time and time again, we forget that love is all around us," she added. "It's all that matters. [Curtis] reminds us in a film that is very funny about love and all its messiness and its unexpectedness and that you'll find love in the weirdest places."

Nighy, who plays an aging rock star who will do anything to get back in the spotlight, agreed.

"I love films that emphasize how remarkable people can be. It was full of love and heart and all those words that you resist, perhaps, and why not?" he said of the film.

Linney, who plays a woman whose devotion to her troubled brother, thwarts any chance she has at romance, noted that love isn't always neat and comfortable.

"There was real, legitimate heartache [portrayed] in that movie," she said. "Love actually is not just positive love. It's also the repercussions of love and the responsibility of love and the heartbreak of love."


While death, disappointment, illness and infidelity sprinkled are sprinkled throughout the piece, most of the characters get well-deserved happy endings.

The film famously ends with three male characters played by Grant, Firth and Brodie-Sangster going to extraordinary lengths to track down the objects of their affections and publicly declare their love for them with a soaring, feel-good score playing in the background, which annually induces millions of viewers to tears of joy.

Thompson remembered thinking the film was "quite kind of out there" the first time she watched it at the premiere in London.

"Hugh came up behind me as we were walking out and said, 'Correct me if I'm wrong, but is that the most psychotic thing we've ever been in?'" Thompson laughed.

"Did I say that?" Grant cringed in mock horror. "Well, it is a bit psychotic. It's Richard on steroids. But the thing is, with him, what you have to remember is when he writes about love, he means it and that is quite rare."

He also discussed the dance his prime minister character does through the halls of 10 Downing Street to the Pointer Sisters hit, "Jump (For My Love,)" after a particularly triumphant day at the office.


"I saw it in the script and I thought: 'Well, I'll hate doing that,'" Grant said. "No Englishman can dance sober at 8 in the morning."

Curtis joked that Grant was "grumpy" on the day, but honored his "contractual obligation" by filming the embarrassingly awful scene, which is often imitated on TikTok.

"I will give myself credit. It was my idea to have that secretary lady catch me. Genius!" he laughed.

Promoting the film at a London press conference in 2003, Curtis explained that the structure of Love Actually was inspired by the works of Woody Allen, Robert Altman and Quentin Tarantino.

"I also was starting to find that films take me so long to write that I didn't want to just concentrate on two people for three years," he noted, "because my life has lots of bits of it: children, friends, people I work with, people I love, that I thought it would be nice to be able to deal with a wide range."

Grant said at the same event that he owed his film career to Curtis, who cast him not only in Love Actually, but also Four Weddings and a Funeral, Notting Hill and Bridget Jones's Diary.


"I am the lucky one here," Grant said. "I was saved entirely by the fact that he wrote Four Weddings and a Funeral and would still be doing four-part French miniseries if it wasn't for [Curtis]. It is entirely one way."

"I think it's the other way around," Curtis argued. "I think you're extremely lucky to find someone who can do what you want exactly and Hugh has done that."

Curtis and Grant weren't the only frequent collaborators to reunite on Love Actually.

"Alan and I, we are so married now that we actually had a row on set," Thompson told UPI about Rickman, with whom she also worked with on Sense and Sensibility, Judas Kiss, The Winter Guest and the Harry Potter franchise.

"Because I was saying, 'Oh, well, why don't you try this?' and he said: 'I'll do what I bloody well want. Don't tell me what to do!' I said, 'I wasn't telling you what to do!' We got very nippy with each other in the airport scene [of Love Actually]. It was hysterical. I just said, 'I am so glad I'm not married to you!'"

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