Culture / Film

On its 20th anniversary, we’re sharing 14 things you didn’t know about the iconic Christmas film ‘Love Actually’

Love Actually things you didn't know

As the year winds to a close and the days creep closer and closer to Christmas, there's nothing that brings us more joy than settling in for a marathon re-watch of all our favourite Christmas movies. Although there's certainly a plethora to choose from, there's something about the storyline of Love Actually that we can't seem to move past. In this post-COVID world, it hits a little harder to see a film about loved ones separated by borders, long distance romances and plenty of chaos. While like most of us, you may have watched the iconic Christmas film more times than you can count, we can guarantee there are some things you didn't know about Love Actually.

This year marks the film's 20th anniversary – yes a full 20 YEARS (!!) since the moment the romantic blockbuster comedy hit our screens, so we're celebrating the film's legacy by sharing 14 surprising things you didn't know about Love Actually ahead of the festive season and our culturally mandated re-watch.


1. The footage in the final airport scene is real, and it was filmed before any other part of the film

Arguably one of the most joyful scenes of the whole film, the footage of loved ones reuniting in Heathrow Airport at the end of Love Actually is entirely real. The camera crew set-up shop at the bustling airport for a week, filming friends and families meeting once again.

In an interview, Martine McCutcheon – better known as Natalie – revealed that the memorable scene was actually the first part of the film the cast shot.

"The reunion at Heathrow Airport scene is my favourite,” she said. “It brings back the happiest memories because it was our first day of filming… We were all really excited that we were all working together on our first day rather than it just being me and Hugh [Grant] or Emma [Thompson] and Alan [Rickman].”


2. Hugh Grant wasn't keen on the iconic dance scene


Love Actually things you didn't know

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Despite his dreamy and extremely convincing performance, Hugh Grant was not originally onboard with his The Pointer Sisters routine. Rumour has it the actor purposely put off filming the scene for as long as possible.

According to director Richard Curtis, Grant was "hugely grumpy about it […] He kept on putting it off, and he didn't like the song. It was originally a Jackson F5 song, but we couldn't get it – so he was hugely unhappy about it."


3. Emma Thompson filmed 12 takes of that heartbreaking Joni Mitchell scene

Despite the number of times we've sat through this harrowing scene, our heart breaks every time for Thompson's character, Karen. Apparently, the actor filmed the scene a total of 12 times and her crying was entirely unscripted. "I've had so much bloody practise at crying in a bedroom and then having to go out and be cheerful, gathering up the pieces of my heart and putting them in a drawer," Thompson later revealed.


4. Andrew Lincoln wrote his own flashcards


Love Actually things you didn't know

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A moment that will forever be immortalised as the ultimate expression of love, Andrew Lincoln, who portrays Mark, wrote the flashcards for his scene with Keira Knightly. "It’s funny, because the art department did it, and then I said, 'Well, can I do it?' because I like to think that my handwriting is really good," shared Lincoln in an interview with Entertainment Weekly.

Curtis also later revealed that there were five variations to Mark's profession of love, with the women on Curtis's team asked to select the one which felt the most authentic and least embarrassing.


5. Claudia Schiffer's cameo was never meant to happen

Originally, Curtis had planned to cast a lookalike to the legendary supermodel, but was unsuccessful. Where to next? Schiffer herself, of course.


6. Keira Knightly was barely an adult when Love Actually was filmed


Love Actually things you didn't know

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Keira Knightly was only 18 when Love Actually was filmed, despite her character appearing much older. Thomas Brodie-Sangster, who plays Sam, was 13 at the time, meaning there was only a five year age gap between the two actors.


7. There were originally 14 overlapping storylines in the film

As revealed by Buzzfeed, the film was apparently written with 14 storylines, rather than the final 12. Despite the two additional plots already having been filmed, the film's creators decided it was too confusing. One was "about an African couple supporting each other through a famine" and the other was about "a stern headmistress who was nursing her lesbian partner through cancer."


8. Olivia Olson's rendition of All I Want For Christmas Is You was seen as too unrealistic


Love Actually things you didn't know

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Olivia Olson, who portrays Sam's American love interest, Joanna, can certainly sing. Apparently, Curtis was so blown away by her vocals, he was afraid audiences wouldn't believe that a child was actually singing; reportedly asking her to to “do it a little less good" and add some breaths in to make it more “realistic” on the second take.


9. Hugh Grant and Colin Firth’s storylines were originally intended as two separate, standalone films

We'd be lying if we said we wouldn't be entirely invested in a seperate Jamie and David film. The character's storyline's were originally created as two seperate films, something we wouldn't have been entirely opposed to, in all honesty.


10. Colin Firth's character Jamie has a bizarre link to the director's brother


Love Actually things you didn't know

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Colin Firth's endearing character Jamie is actually a dig at Curtis's brother; Jamie. The director later explained that he specifically named Firth's character after his sibling in order to have the iconic line, "I hate uncle Jamie," cemented in cinematic history.

11. Keira Knightley's wedding dress was almost entirely different

One of the most iconic on screen wedding dress almost didn't happen – and thank god costume designer Joanna Johnston put her foot down. "Richard Curtis wanted [Keira's] character to be kind of sexy, even as a bride," costume designer Joanna Johnston told Grazia. "He wanted her to be dressed ready for the end of the scene where they're partying, so he had this idea of a crop top, with a bare tummy … I told Richard, 'You don't want a bare tummy going into church!' So I went for a sheer, layered style instead with petal details underneath; gauzy and multi-layered."


12. The awkward scene with Kris Marshall and the wedding caterer wasn’t originally written for Love Actually

We all know that scene – and boy does it make us cringe. The line was originally written for one of Curtis' other films, Four Weddings and a Funeral, but was cut from the 1994 film and injected into this one.


13. Rowan Atkinson’s cameo appearance was filmed at midnight in Selfridges

Because when else would you be able to squeeze an entire camera and production crew into that place? Unsurprisingly, the team wanted to avoid tourists and high-volume crowds normally found in the department store, and asked if the store could remain open late at night.


14. 'Actually' was said a total of 23 times throughout the film

To finish off our round-up of 14 things you didn't know about Love Actually, the word actually is said a total of 23 times throughout the film. Which, makes quite a lot of sense, actually...


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