18 Things You Never Knew About Love Actually
From Colin Firth's proposal to "To me, you are perfect"
When it comes to holiday movies that will rip your heart out, tear it into a thousand pieces, then put it back together and somehow leave you with a restored faith in humanity, Love Actually is one of the best.
By now, you’re familiar with lots of trivia from the cult classic — yes, the opening scene in the airport features real people; yes, that is actually Olivia Olson belting “All I Want for Christmas Is You” — so we combed every corner of the internet to find 17 more things you need to know. Read it, re-watch Love Actually for the thousandth time, happy cry, then thank us.
1. Joe Alwyn auditioned to play Sam.
One of the most iconic scenes in the movie is when a lovestruck Sam goes running through the airport to say goodbye to his young love (we’re tearing up just thinking about it). While visiting Live with Kelly and Ryan, Joe Alwyn revealed he auditioned to play the famous role.
“It meant that I got time off of school to go to this audition, so I went to it,” he said. “I didn’t get it in the end, obviously, but I remember meeting Hugh Grant and [writer-director] Richard Curtis, and sitting down and reading some scenes.” The role eventually went to Thomas Brodie-Sangster.
2. Keira Knightley wore that big hat to cover up a zit.
“I had a massive spot in the middle of my forehead,” Knightley recalled to BBC Radio 1. “This is the problem with being 17 and being in films! It was humongous, so there was no choice but to find a hat to cover it — because there was no lighting or makeup that was going to cover it.”
3. Yep, Alan Rickman’s character definitely had an affair.
Love Actually scriptwriter Emma Freud answered fan questions on Twitter and it took our heartbreak to the next level. “DEFINITELY had an affair. I begged [director Richard Curtis] just to make it a flirtation, but no. The whole way,” Freud said of the relationship between Rickman and Emma Thompson’s characters. As for their future, she revealed, “They stay together, but home isn’t as happy as it once was.”
4. Olivia Olson, the girl who played the crazy-talented Joanna, got record deal offers after the movie.
“It seemed kind of stupid and forced,” Olson told the Family That Geeks blog. “Looking at the grand scheme of things, I could have been some child star and had a total breakdown by the age I am now, and I probably wouldn’t have had the opportunities I have now. I might have been a has-been by now instead of still trying to build up my career. So, I don’t regret it not working out that way.”
5. Colin Firth’s epic kiss was choreographed. (Spoiler: It WILL make you swoon.)
“In the restaurant in Portugal (was Marseille actually). I WAS THE KISSING CONSULTANT. And that is a real job,” Freud said, adding, “I ‘designed’ the kiss between Colin Firth and the Portuguese girl. My signature move? His thumb on her lip before they snog. #boom.”
6. Director Richard Curtis told Elle that he intended to cast a mix of well-known and up-and-coming actors.
It worked — kind of. Many of the unknown stars went on to find major success, like January Jones in Mad Men, Chiwetel Ejiofor in 12 Years a Slave and Andrew Lincoln in The Walking Dead. As for Keira Knightley? Curtis told The Daily Beast, “With Keira, it was only her second film and I remember talking to her while we were shooting and asking her what she was doing next and she said, ‘Oh, it’s going to be terrible and I’ve probably made a terrible mistake but I’m doing this pirates movie, but it will at least be a few fun months in the sun.’ ”
7. The iconic “To me, you are perfect” scene might not have happened.
(We know.) Curtis revealed that he workshopped five ideas and then ran them by women in his office: “I told them, ‘There’s this guy, he’s never told you he loved you. Which of these ideas are romantic and which are off-putting?’ [I had ideas like] filling the courtyard outside her house with roses, and they went ‘yuck, yuck, yuck, yuck,’ for the first four. Then I had the idea of the Bob Dylan signs … the scene was selected by group research.”
8. Whose handwriting is on *those* signs?
“It is my handwriting!” Andrew Lincoln told Entertainment Weekly. “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. [Laughs] Actually, it ended up with me having to sort of trace over the art department’s, so it is my handwriting, but with a sort of pencil stencil underneath.”
9. People still quote Billy Mack’s character at Bill Nighy.
“My favorite line — the one they’ll write on my tombstone and the one kids still shout at me, is: ‘Hi kids! Don’t buy drugs – become a rock star and they give you them for free,’ ” Nighy told The Guardian.
10. Billy Bob Thornton faced an unexpected phobia on set.
“Billy Bob Thornton is a curious man with curious phobias,” Curtis told Elle. “[He told us] ‘The strangest phobia I’ve got is I’m disturbed by photographs of Benjamin Disraeli. Specifically his facial hair.’ It was really unfortunate for him that this would be the only time in his life that there is a photograph of Disraeli on the stairs in a major film he’s going to do [at the Prime Minster’s home]. We just had to walk him past the photograph. [He said] ‘I’ll just turn away at that moment and I’ll be fine.’ ”
11. The Spider-Man in the school Christmas pageant is Curtis’ son.
His daughter is also in the play! “There’s a scene where they’re up onstage performing the Nativity play, and he’s got a Spider-Man mask on, and there’s a big close-up of a very perplexed-looking 5-year-old,” Curtis revealed to The Daily Beast. “And my daughter is one of the lobsters.”
12. Sam’s race through the airport was even more epic than we thought.
“In the original edit Sam did amazing parcour [sic] all through the airport when he ran to find his girlfriend,” Freud revealed on Twitter.
13. Laura Linney and Rodrigo Santoro both experienced relationship woes while filming.
One of the saddest moments of the film is the open end to Sarah (Linney) and Karl’s (Santoro) plotline. Off-camera, however, the stars had something in common. “We were both brokenhearted at the time and had gotten out of rough relationships, so it was just very sweet,” Linney recalled to The Daily Beast.
14. Hugh Grant was not about that dancing scene.
“He was hugely grumpy about it,” Curtis recalled. “He was so wanting his bit not to be fake; he wanted to feel as though he could be prime minister. Whenever I said, ‘Do it a bit sweeter’ or ‘Do it a bit more charming,’ he thought he was being tricked. I told him, ‘I’m going to mainly be giving you a very magisterial point of view, but I just want to make you a bit sweeter once in a while.’
“The fault line was the dance, because there was no way he could do that in a prime ministerial manner. He kept on putting it off, and he didn’t like the song — it was originally a Jackson 5 song, but we couldn’t get it — so he was hugely unhappy about it. We didn’t shoot it until the final day and it went so well that when we edited it, it had gone too well, and he was singing along with the words. When you edit a dance sequence like that, it’s going to be a third of the length, and the bit he’s singing the words to isn’t going to be the bit of that moment, so it was incredibly hard to edit.”
15. Lincoln joked that his character is kind of a stalker.
The actor told The Wrap: “That was my question to Richard Curtis, ‘Do you not think we’re sort of borderline stalker territory here?’ And he said, ‘No, no. Not with you playing it, darling. You’ll be all right.’ ”
16. Keira Knightley’s wedding dress was almost very different.
“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.”
17. January Jones helped out with her Wisconsin bar scene.
“January Jones wrote half of her lines,” Freud tweeted. “She was sooooo funny when we filmed that scene.”
18. Juliet and Sam were eerily close in age in real life.
A viral 2019 tweet pointed out that Knightley — who played a married woman — was 18 at the time of filming, while Brodie-Sangster — who played a young child — was 13, making them much closer than they appear in age to viewers.
“Yearly reminder that there is only a five-year age gap between Thomas Brodie-Sangster and Keira Knightley in Love Actually,” read a tweet featuring side-by-side photos of the two actors in the movie (they did not share any scenes together).