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21 Behind-the-Scenes Secrets from the Set of ‘Love Actually’

An all-star cast, a heartwarming storyline (or should we say, storylines), Christmas cheer—It’s no wonder the 2003 film is now a modern classic. Plus, we now have a mini sequel to look forward to, slated to air in the U.S. on May 25. Here’s what you didn’t know about your favorite flick.


It was supposed to be two different movies

Director and writer Richard Curtis was writing two separate movies, one about Hugh Grant’s character and one about Colin Firth’s character, but then realized the plots were incredibly similar. So he made the movie we know today.

One working title was “Love Actually Is All Around”

The name was taken from the song “Love is All Around,” originally by The Troggs. In 1994, the band Wet Wet Wet released a cover—and it stayed number one on the U.K. charts for 15 weeks. Curtis thought it’d be funny to start Love Actually with this song, especially since it was featured in another film he wrote, Four Weddings and a Funeral. Instead, Bill Nighy’s character, rockstar Billy Mack, remade it as the Christmas song, “Christmas is All Around.” According to IMDB, that holiday tune was actually released in England, in hopes it would be the “Number 1 for Christmas 2003.”

Those airport scenes are real

The film’s camera crew spent a week shooting footage at Heathrow airport. When they saw something they liked, they asked the people in the shots for permission to be included in what would be the beginning and final scenes. Anyone who said no probably regrets that decision every day.


Kris Marshall worked for free

Well, just for one scene. Marshall, who plays desperate-for-love Colin, had such a great time filming the scene where the three Wisconsin girls undress him, he said he’d just do it for free. All 21 takes. So he returned his check for that day.


Colin Firth got a nasty mosquito bite

The lake he and Lucia Moniz (the maid Aurelia) jumped in to save Jamie’s manuscript was infested with mosquitoes, and one bite on his elbow reportedly swelled up to the size of an avocado. Needless to say, he needed medical attention. Maybe he’s just one of those people that mosquitoes love.

And about that lake…

It was only 18 inches deep. Firth and Moniz had to kneel and pretend it was really deep. Good acting, right?

The crew took underwear very seriously

It took 45 minutes for Curtis and the production team to decide what color underwear Lucia’s character would wear when she jumps in the lake. (It’s light blue, in case you were wondering.)

Thomas Brodie-Sangster didn’t know how to play drums

Who wasn’t proud of Sam for mastering the drums and performing at the school Christmas concert, all to impress his crush Joanna? Turns out, the actor who played Sam had to learn the instrument too. Luckily, his dad (film editor and actor Mark Sangster) taught him how to play after he got cast.

Joanna can really sing

Yes, actress Olivia Olson did all of her own singing for “All I Want for Christmas Is You” at the school Christmas concert. In fact, Curtis had to edit her vocals to sound more like a kid’s because she sounded so professional.


Emma Thompson wore a fat suit

Since she’s thin in real life, Thompson had to wear a fat suit to look heavier in her role as Karen. Even then, she looked great.

Look out for toothpicks

Apparently, Liam Neeson had recently quit smoking when he shot the film, and he had to have toothpicks on hand in place of cigarettes. They make several cameos in the film.


The Barbie dolls weren’t Barbie dolls

The dolls Karen talks about giving her daughter’s friend weren’t actually Barbie dolls. They were Ken dolls dressed in drag. At first, Thompson had a lot of difficulty filming the scene knowing the Barbies weren’t actually Barbies, but she shot it anyway.

Curtis stole a scene from another movie

The scene where Colin insults the wedding caterer’s food to her face was originally written for Four Weddings and a Funeral. Hugh Grant’s character in that film was supposed to say the line. However, it got cut, so Curtis put it in Love Actually instead. Is that even legal? Probably, he did write both movies.

Andrew Lincoln wrote those cards

Lincoln wanted to write out the romantic cards his character Mark would show to Juliet (Keira Knightley). When he found out the art department had already finished the job, he traced over the original writing. So it is technically his own handwriting, just with some guidelines underneath. (See what your handwriting says about you.)

Remember when the Prime Minister was dancing?

Hugh Grant hated that scene. He thought it was definitely not something a real PM would do.


Colin ordered the wrong beer

When Colin arrives in Milwaukee, he heads to a bar and orders a Budweiser. The thing is, Milwaukee was home to Bud’s three major competitors: Miller, Pabst, and Schlitz. Rookie mistake, Colin.

The full movie is not TV-friendly

When the film first aired on ABC Family in the U.S., the subplot with porn stars John (Martin Freeman) and Just Judy (Joanna Page) was completely cut out. The movie still ran three hours with commercials.

Martine almost played Martine

Curtis wanted Martine McCutcheon (then best known for her role in BBC’s EastEnders) to play the Prime Minister’s love interest in the film so badly, he named the character “Martine” in the script. Once she joined the cast, her character became “Natalie” so, as Curtis says in the DVD commentary, “she wouldn’t get too cocky.”

Laura Linney’s role was made for her—kinda

During casting, Curtis repeatedly said he wanted someone “like Laura Linney” to play Sarah, the woman desperately in love with her coworker Karl but too scared to make a move. Apparently, the casting director eventually said, “Oh for f–k’s sake, get Laura Linney then.” So they did.

The cast reunited in another famous film

Nighy, Thompson, and Alan Rickman all went on to have roles in the Harry Potter series, as Rufus Scrimgeour, Professor Trelawney, and Snape, respectively. In Love Actually, Hugh Grant’s Prime Minister says Harry Potter is one of the great things about Britain in his press conference following a meeting with the U.S. president. Grant was supposed to play Gilderoy Lockhart in the second HP film, but had to leave because of scheduling conflicts.

How many times, actually?

The word “actually” is said 22 times throughout the movie.