23 Things You Never Knew About 'Love Actually' (2024)

Table of Contents
1. Joe Alwyn auditioned to play Sam 2. Keira Knightley wore that big hat to cover up a zit 3. Yep, Alan Rickman's character definitely had an affair 4. Olivia Olson, who played the supremely-talented Joanna, was offered record deals after the movie 5. Colin Firth's epic kiss was choreographed (Spoiler: It WILL make you swoon) 6. Director Richard Curtis intended to cast a mix of well-known and up-and-coming actors 7. The iconic "To me, you are perfect" scene almost didn’t happen 8. Whose handwriting is on *those* signs? 9. People still quote Billy Mack at Bill Nighy 10. Billy Bob Thornton faced an unexpected phobia on set 11. The Spider-Man in the school Christmas pageant is Richard Curtis' son 12. Sam's race through the airport was even more epic than we thought 13. Laura Linney and Rodrigo Santoro both experienced relationship woes while filming 14. Hugh Grant was not about that dancing scene 15. Andrew Lincoln joked that his character is kind of a stalker 16. Keira Knightley's wedding dress was almost very different 17. January Jones helped out with her Wisconsin bar scene 18. Juliet and Sam were eerily close in age in real life 19. Thomas Brodie-Sangster “had no idea” the film would become so popular 20. Richard Curtis regretted the film’s lack of diversity 21. Bill Nighy wasn't aware he was auditioning for Love Actually 22. Olivia Olson had her first real-life kiss in the movie 23. The word "actually" is said more than 20 times throughout the movie FAQs

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.

The beloved Christmas rom-com, which was released in November 2003, features an ensemble cast comprised of the late Alan Rickman, Emma Thompson, Hugh Grant, Colin Firth, Liam Neeson and Bill Nighy, as well as then-rising stars like Keira Knightley, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, January Jones and Chiwetel Ejiofor.

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 22 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 in December 2018, Joe Alwyn revealed he auditioned to play the famous role.

"[The auditions] actually came about because of Zorro. I took fencing lessons, and they'll often send casting directors around to schools and community centers," Alwyn shared. "So this local community center where I took fencing lessons, this brilliant U.K. casting director, Shaheen Baig, she came around, and she saw me there."

The actor recalled taking time off school to audition for the part, which involved a series of workshops. "I didn't get it in the end, obviously, but I do remember meeting Hugh Grant and [writer-director] Richard Curtis and sitting down and reading some scenes.”

The role eventually went to 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 in 2018. "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

In December 2015, Love Actually scriptwriter Emma Freud answered fan questions on X (formerly Twitter), and it took our heartbreak to the next level. "DEFINITELY had an affair. I begged [director Curtis] just to make it a flirtation, but no. The whole way," Freud said of the relationship between Rickman and Thompson’s characters. As for their future, she also revealed, “They stay together, but home isn't as happy as it once was.”

4. Olivia Olson, who played the supremely-talented Joanna, was offered record deals after the movie

"It seemed kind of stupid and forced," Olson told the now-defunct blog Family That Geeks in 2016, per Self magazine. "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 revealed on X in 2015, explaining how it came together: "I 'designed' the kiss between Firth and the Portuguese girl. My signature move? His thumb on her lip before they snog. #boom.”

6. Director Richard Curtis intended to cast a mix of well-known and up-and-coming actors

And it worked — kind of. Many of the film’s unknown stars went on to find major success, like Jones on Mad Men, Ejiofor in 12 Years a Slave and Andrew Lincoln on The Walking Dead.

As for Knightley, Curtis told The Daily Beast in 2013: "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.'"

That “pirates movie,” of course, was 2003’s Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl — only the fourth highest-grossing movie of that year.

7. The iconic "To me, you are perfect" scene almost didn’t happen

(We know.) Speaking to Elle in November 2013, Curtis revealed that he workshopped five ideas and 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!" Lincoln told Entertainment Weekly in November 2013. "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 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 in December 2013.

10. Billy Bob Thornton faced an unexpected phobia on set

"Billy Bob Thornton is a curious man with curious phobias," Curtis told Elle in 2013. "[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 Richard 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 told The Daily Beast in 2013. "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 [parkour] all through the airport when he ran to find his girlfriend," Freud revealed on X.

13. Laura Linney and Rodrigo Santoro both experienced relationship woes while filming

One of the saddest moments in the film is the open end to Sarah (Laura Linney) and Karl's (Rodrigo 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 in 2013.

14. Hugh Grant was not about that dancing scene

Curtis recalled as much during , ABC News' one-hour reunion special with Diane Sawyer celebrating the film’s 20th anniversary.

“He kept saying no,” he explained. “I think he was hoping I’d get ill or something and we’d say, ‘Oh, well, what a shame, we’ll have to lose that dancing sequence.’ ”

“I saw it in the script, and I thought, ‘Well, I’ll hate doing that,’ ” Grant added. “I didn’t fancy doing the dance at all, let alone rehearsing it. ... To this day, there’s many people — and I agree with them — who think it’s the most excruciating scene ever committed to celluloid. Then some people like it. But I will give myself this credit … it was my idea to have that secretary lady catch me. Genius.”

15. Andrew Lincoln joked that his character is kind of a stalker

The actor told The Wrap in February 2016: "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 in November 2016. "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 in 2015. "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," the tweet read, featuring side-by-side photos of the two actors in the movie, though they did not share any scenes together.

19. Thomas Brodie-Sangster “had no idea” the film would become so popular

"I remember already having the part and going into the read-through and not knowing who else was in it," the Queen’s Gambit star told PEOPLE in October 2020. "I'd just go, 'Oh, it's another job. Great. I'm on another job.' And then all these faces started walking in through the door, and I realized that this is probably quite big."

"I felt a bit embarrassed, I asked [a runner], 'Is this coming out in the cinema?' And he's like, 'Yeah,' " Brodie-Sangster added. "I was like, 'Really? Oh, wow.' I had no idea what it was, and then they walked me through to the room, and I was sat down with maybe 50 very high-profile amazing actors all around this table. It was only then that I realized what I was a part of. All the way up until that point I had no idea whatsoever."

20. Richard Curtis regretted the film’s lack of diversity

Looking back on the movie for 2022’s The Laughter & Secrets of Love Actually: 20 Years Later anniversary special, Curtis admitted to feeling “uncomfortable and a bit stupid” about Love Actually’s “lack of diversity.”

“There are things you'd change but, thank God, society is changing, so my film is bound, in some moments, to feel out of date,” the director continued. “I think there are sort of three plots that have sort of bosses and people who work for them,” he added, speaking to the film’s story lines mostly involving white, heterosexual romances.

"There is such extraordinary love that goes on every minute in so many ways [in life], all the way around the world, and makes me wish my film was better," he said. "It makes me wish I'd made a documentary just to kind of observe it."

21. Bill Nighy wasn't aware he was auditioning for Love Actually

"I did a rehearsal reading of the script as a favor to the great casting director, Mary Selway, who had been trying to get me into a film for a long time," Nighy told The Daily Beast in 2013. "I thought it was simply to help her hear the script aloud and to my genuine surprise I was given the job."

22. Olivia Olson had her first real-life kiss in the movie

The up-and-coming actress had never been kissed before smooching costar Brodie-Sangster.

"It was my first kiss and on-screen kiss, too," Olson told E! News in 2016. "I was really nervous because I kind of had a crush on Thomas back in the day and I was also worried because I was taller than him."

23. The word "actually" is said more than 20 times throughout the movie

IMDb counted the word was used 22 times in Love Actually — well, 23 actually ... if you include the opening monologue.

23 Things You Never Knew About 'Love Actually' (2024)

FAQs

23 Things You Never Knew About 'Love Actually'? ›

Daniel and Sam

Things are complicated by the fact that Daniel is only Sam's stepfather. (Sam's real father's fate is never mentioned, he could be Tony Blair for all we know). The two negotiate their grief together as Sam is in love with a 10-year-old chanteuse named — heavy sigh — Joanna.

What happened to Sam's dad Love Actually? ›

Daniel and Sam

Things are complicated by the fact that Daniel is only Sam's stepfather. (Sam's real father's fate is never mentioned, he could be Tony Blair for all we know). The two negotiate their grief together as Sam is in love with a 10-year-old chanteuse named — heavy sigh — Joanna.

Is Thomas Sangster related to Hugh Grant? ›

Hugh Grant and Thomas Brodie Sangster are second cousins

It's a family affair! Their great-grandmothers were actually sisters (meaning they share a great great-grandmother). 'He'd call me cousin and ruffle my hair,' Sangster recalled to The Telegraph.

Who is Billy Bob Thornton supposed to be in Love Actually? ›

Billy Bob Thornton: The US President. Jump to: Photos (7) Quotes (4)

Was Rowan Atkinson an angel in Love Actually? ›

Rowan Atkinson's role in Love Actually isn't big, but he was supposed to have a deeper meaning. His character, Rufus, was a jewelry sales agent who was originally supposed to be an angel. Rufus has one of the best Love Actually quotes, and his character is one of the funniest.

Is Daniel really Sam's father Love Actually? ›

Daniel wasn't Sam's biological father, but he looked after Sam as if he was his own. Daniel supported Sam through his grief and the "... total agony of being in love." Sam's crush on his school friend Joanna consumed his attention, and he wanted to find ways of getting him to notice her.

How are Karen and Daniel connected in Love Actually? ›

How Are Daniel and Sam Related in 'Love Actually'? Throughout the movie, Karen keeps in touch and supports her friend Daniel (Liam Neeson). He has recently lost his wife, taking charge of looking after his stepson Sam (Thomas Brodie-Sangster).

Are Colin Firth and Hugh Grant friends? ›

They famously came to blows in that ridiculous fight scene in Bridget Jones' Diary, but it seems Hugh Grant might still be holding a bit of grudge against his former co-star Colin Firth.

What is the last line in Love Actually? ›

The final lines of LOVE ACTUALLY, are the Prime Minister telling his new lover, who is fit but about whom fat jokes have been made throughout, "God, you weigh a lot," to which she replies, "Oh shut your face." That's it. That's the end of the movie.

Who is Billy Mack based on? ›

However, during an appearance in a Vanity Fair video, Nighy addressed the influences for his Love Actually character, saying Billy Mack wasn't necessarily based on any actual rock stars. See what he had to say below: “Rock and roll veterans were a new genre, there was, you know, they were only just becoming, so…

Who has the most screentime in Love Actually? ›

The Definitive Analysis Of 'Love Actually'
CHARACTERACTORSCREEN TIME
The PMHugh Grant31
JamieColin Firth24
AureliaLúcia Moniz18
JulietKeira Knightley15
21 more rows
Dec 22, 2016

Was Simon Pegg in Love Actually? ›

Simon Pegg auditioned for Love Actually.

However, Curtis ended up casting Rowan Atkinson, who was not only a bigger star but a longtime friend from their college days; the two had previously worked together on Four Weddings and A Funeral, Mr. Bean, and Black Adder.

What was Hugh Grant's job in Love Actually? ›

David (Hugh Grant), Karen's brother and the recently elected Prime Minister, is single. Natalie (Martine McCutcheon) is a new junior member of the household staff at 10 Downing Street.

Why did Rowan Atkinson take so long to wrap a gift in Love Actually? ›

The real reason behind the lengthy gift-wrapping scene in Love Actually. As it turns out, Atkinson's/Rufus's elaborate gift-wrapping was actually a ploy to try and deter Rickman/Harry from going through with his purchase - a gold necklace for his workplace mistress.

Whose funeral is in Love Actually? ›

Love Actually: Joanna's funeral - what would it look like today? - Freeman Brothers.

What was the point of the movie Love Actually? ›

The overriding message is that the holidays are better when you spend them with the people who care about you and that's good enough for us. Some of the film's most powerful storylines involve platonic love – including Billy Mack and his manager, Daniel and his son and Sarah and her ill brother.

Who is Sam's stepdad in Love Actually? ›

Daniel, Sam, Joanna, and Carol

Daniel (Liam Neeson), Karen's close friend, mourns the recent death of his wife, Joanna, as he tries to care for his stepson Sam (Thomas Sangster).

What happened to Karen in Love Actually? ›

One fan of the movie decided there was no better time to ask THAT question, and Freud's response finally tied up that old loose end. So yes, Karen and Harry stayed together. But their home was NEVER EVER the same again. We still think she should have run off with Liam Neeson.

Who was Sam's crush in Love Actually? ›

Who was Olivia Olson in Love Actually? In the Christmas film, Olivia played Joanna, the crush of schoolboy Sam who learned to play the drums to impress her after his mother died.

What was cut from Love Actually? ›

Love Actually originally featured two additional plotlines: one featuring a lesbian couple, and the other a man and woman in Africa. Neither ever made it to the final cut. It's a disappointing decision, in hindsight, and we'd love to see a new edit that put them back where they belonged.

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