December 27, 2023 | Emily Southey

Little Known Facts About Love Actually

Love Actually has everything that anyone could ask for from a Christmas movie: Romance. Comedy. A catchy song. A rousing speech by an authority figure. An adorable-yet-inexplicable "running through the airport in the name of romance" scene. Liam Neeson. In fact, that's really all you can ask for any movie. The ambitious film unites the romantic stories of dozens of characters across the holiday season, and is a guaranteed tear-jerker and heart-warmer. I dare anyone to watch that opening and closing Heathrow footage and not cry. It may not be the most critically acclaimed film, but for many, it's a beloved holiday tradition. From the iconic “To me, you are perfect” scene to Harry’s heartbreaking relationship, there is so much to love about this British romantic comedy. But no, we won't be explaining how young Sam managed to get away from security at Heathrow and run across the entire airport without getting tacked or shot in a post-9/11 world, because it's simply beyond belief. Sorry, Richard Curtis, but it's true. Here are 25 splendid facts about Love Actually.

Love Actually Facts

25. Love, Amour, Liebe, Zamilowanie

When you've got a hit formula, don't mess with it. At least that's what filmmakers across the globe must have been thinking when they either adapted Love Actually or made films debatably based on the same premise of intertwining love stories at holiday time. There's the Japanese It All Began When I Met You, the Hindi A Tribute to Love, the Polish Letters to Santa, and finally, the Dutch Love is All. 

Love Actually 2

24. VIP Tour

Though Hugh Grant plays the Prime Minister in Love Actually, filming did not take place in the real 10 Downing Street (otherwise known as the actual residence of the United Kingdom Prime Minister). Instead, the famous property was replicated in Shepperton Studios. However, in order to replicate it accurately, Curtis and production designer Jim Clay went on a two-hour tour of the building. The tour was given by Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown.

Love Actually factsWikimedia Commons

23. Time Change

After Sarah’s character admits to Harry (played by the late Alan Rickman) that she’s in love with Karl (played by Rodrigo Santoro), she is seen leaving his office. On the wall behind her are two clocks, one shows the time in New York City and the other shows the time in Brazil. This is a nod to the Linney’s American nationality and Santoro’s Brazilian nationality.

Love Actually factsLove Actually (2003), Universal Pictures

22. Mind Blown

Though Keira Knightley’s character Juliet is portrayed as a happily married adult in the film and Thomas Brodie-Sangster is portrayed as an adorable little kid, there's only a five year age gap between the two actors.

Love Actually factsLove Actually (2003), Universal Pictures

21. Bond Academy

The school Christmas concert at the end of the film was shot in an actual school. Filming took place on location at Elliott School (now Ark Putney Academy) in southwest London. This school was formerly attended by British actor Pierce Brosnan.

Love Actually factsLove Actually (2003), Universal Pictures

20. Kiddy Pool

Remember when the pages from Jamie’s book get blown away by the wind and fall into the lake, and Aurelia and Jamie jump into the lake after them? Turns out, the lake (or more aptly, the pond), was actually only 18 inches deep. Both actors were on their knees pretending that they were swimming in deeper water.

Love Actually factsLove Actually (2003), Universal Pictures

19. Medic!

To make matters worse, mosquitos were swarming the pond that Aurelia and Jamie jump into. This resulted in Colin Firth being bitten to the point that his elbow became extremely swollen and he had to see a doctor. Could they not just have found a normal lake?

Love Actually factsLove Actually (2003), Universal Pictures

18. An American in London

While most of the cast is British, there's one main character who's not played by an English actress: Sarah. Many British women auditioned for the role, but throughout the casting process, director Richard Curtis kept saying he wanted someone like Laura Linney. Eventually, the casting director suggested they ask Linney to audition and the rest is history!

Downton Abbey FactsWikimedia Commons, usbotschaftberlin

17. Pro Bono

Kris Marshall, who played Colin Frissell, had such a fabulous time filming the scene in which the three American girls take off his clothes in their house, that he decided to film the scene for free. At the end of the day, he returned the pay cheque he had been given. The scene took 21 takes. Fun is fun Kris, but what are you, crazy? Keep that money!

Love Actually factsLove Actually (2003), Universal Pictures

16. Double Risk

Olivia Olson (otherwise known as Joanna) has an amazing voice both onscreen and off! At the Christmas concert, the song “All I Want For Christmas is You” was sung entirely by her. In fact, her voice was so incredible that Richard Curtis was worried it didn’t sound enough like a child’s, so he made it sound more childish during the editing process.

Love Actually factsLove Actually (2003), Universal Pictures

15. Muppet Connection

The surprise rendition of “All You Need is Love” at Peter and Juliet’s wedding is one of the film’s most iconic moments. Turns out, the idea for this scene actually came from a funeral. Curtis attended Jim Henson’s funeral (Henson was the creator of the Muppets), which was attended by his fellow puppeteers. At one point, they spontaneously performed a live song with their puppets.

Love Actually factsLove Actually (2003), Universal Pictures

14. A Natural

Brodie-Sangster, also known as Sam, had no idea how to play the drums when he was cast in the role. Thus, he learned to play them (just like his character), thanks to the help of his dad, Mark Sangster, who just so happened to be an actual drummer.

Love Actually factsLove Actually (2003), Universal Pictures

13. Arrival Terminal

You know the heartwarming footage of families, friends, and partners being reunited at Heathrow Airport that's shown at the beginning and end of the film? This footage was entirely real. The director hired a camera crew to go to Heathrow for one week and film the emotional reunions. Whenever the cameramen caught something they thought would work for the film, they introduced themselves to the people involved and asked for their permission to use the footage.

Love Actually factsLove Actually (2003), Universal Pictures

12. Thirteen Forever

They say Hollywood actors don’t age—and this clearly rings true for Brodie-Sangster, who was cast as a 13-year-old in Love Actually, and then again as a 13-year-old eight years later in Game of Thrones.

Hugh Grant FactsLove Actually(2003),Universal Pictures

11. Frequent Flyer

Love Actually wasn’t Linney’s only project in 2003. While filming scenes for beloved rom-com in London, she was also filming scenes for Mystic River in Boston. The actress had to fly across the Atlantic multiple times over the course of a few months in order to finish both films. Now there's two movies that couldn't be more different! 

Love Actually factsMystic River (2003), Warner Bros.

10. DIY Prop

Andrew Lincoln did more than just act in Love Actually—he also helped out the props department! The infamous “To me, you are perfect” signs actually feature Lincoln’s own handwriting. The props department initially created the signs, but Lincoln, who believes he has good handwriting, ended up asking if he could write on the signs himself. His signs made the final cut.

Love Actually factsLove Actually (2003), Universal Pictures

9. Off and On Again

Olson and Brodie-Sangster have played love interests twice on screen. First, as Joanna and Sam in Love Actually, and later as Ferb and Vanessa in the animated children’s series Phineas and Ferb.

Love Actually factsLove Actually (2003), Universal Pictures

8. Airport Body Double

Though the opening and closing scenes, as well the scene where the characters are running through the airport, were all real footage from Heathrow, the remaining airport scenes were shot on a set that was built to resemble Heathrow. Building this set was one of the most expensive aspects of the film.

Love Actually factsLove Actually (2003), Universal Pictures

7. Censorship

Love Actually aired in the United States on ABC Family Channel. However, given the sensual nature of John and Judy’s storyline, all scenes featuring them were cut from the version of the film that was broadcast on ABC. Despite the editing out of multiple scenes, the film still took up a three-hour time slot (including commercials).

Sammy Davis Jr. factsShutterstock

6. Cheque, Please!

In addition to writing the screenplay for Love Actually, Curtis wrote the screenplay for Four Weddings and a Funeral. In fact, one scene cut from the latter ended up making it into the former. It was the wedding reception scene in which Colin chats to a woman and insults the food without realizing that the woman he’s talking to is the event's caterer.

Rowan Atkinson factsGetty Images

5. Betrayal

Emma Thompson’s character had the most tragic story of the entire film: she ends up bereft and betrayed by her husband. But Thompson recently confessed that this storyline was also painfully close to her own hidden, heartbreaking scandal. Thompson was once married to fellow actor Kenneth Branagh, but in 1994, he started an affair with Helena Bonham Carter that eventually destroyed their marriage. As she said of the movie's saddest scene: "I had my heart very badly broken by Ken. 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."

Affairs factsGetty Images

4. Furniture Phobia

Billy Bob Thornton has a rather interesting fear of antique furniture. On set, Hugh Grant would tease him by bringing out a piece of antique furniture and showing it to him right before the cameras rolled. Naturally, Thornton would be frightened, to Grant's great amusement. Somehow, the only prank I can picture Hugh Grant pulling is one that involves antique furniture.

Love Actually factsLove Actually (2003), Universal Pictures

3. Love Actually is All Around

Given the title of the film, it’s no surprise that the word “actually” is said multiple times throughout the course of the film. The total number of times “actually” is uttered? 22. Actually.

Love Actually factsLove Actually (2003), Universal Pictures

2. Two Supermodels

The line where Liam Neeson's character, Daniel, tells his stepson his love life is done for, unless Claudia Schiffer calls, was written before Claudia Schiffer herself was cast in the part. Much like Laura Linney, they simply couldn't find another who could compare, and so, they cast her, but she doesn't play herself in the film. That means in the Love Actually universe, there are two women who look exactly like Claudia Schiffer. And possibly more! Not a bad place to be, actually.

Love Actually factsLove Actually (2003), Universal Pictures

1. Unfortunate Foreshadowing

One of the first scenes in the film is a funeral, where Daniel (Liam Neeson) is saying goodbye to his wife and Sam's mother. Daniel cues up a slideshow of photos of his late wife Jo as the Bay City Rollers "Bye Bye Baby" plays, everyone cries, and so on. Well, the scene is even sadder when you realize that, a few years after this film was made, Neeson had to go through a similar loss as his wife, actor Natasha Richardson, passed after sustaining a brain injury from a skiing accident, leaving him with two teenaged sons. The woman in the images in the slideshow is British writer and documentary filmmaker Rebecca Frayn, who bears more than a passing resemblance to Neeson's late wife.

Love Actually factsLove Actually (2003), Universal Pictures

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6


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