In 2013, to mark the 10th anniversary of Love Actually, I spoke with the cast and crew about how this relentlessly sugary smorgasbord of 10 interconnected love stories has become a modern Christmas classic. We discussed their cherished memories from filming, the movie’s legacy, and of course, Hugh Grant’s killer dance moves. But when talk of a possible sequel arose, writer-director Richard Curtis (Notting Hill) pooh-poohed the idea.
“Can you imagine anything less likely than a reunion?” said Curtis. “It’s so interesting with people who are famous and busy. You sort of know we’d all enjoy it, but when the call came in, they’d probably think it was duty.”
What a difference a few years—and a good cause—makes.
On May 25th, NBC will premiere a short-film sequel to Love Actually. Titled Red Nose Day Actually, the 15-minute skit will air as part of Comic Relief’s Red Nose Day, a televised fundraising event whose stated aim is to end child poverty.
And Curtis, who co-founded Comic Relief back in 1985 with comedian Lenny Henry, says the cast couldn’t have been more game.
“I’m wondering if, three days beforehand, we were able to do it,” recalls Curtis. “Liam [Neeson] flew over, and Andy [Lincoln] was doing a PR tour for The Walking Dead but delayed that for a couple of days. But everyone was so happy to do it. Love Actually has sort of lingered.”
Nearly the entire cast has returned for the sequel—save the late Alan Rickman, Emma Thompson, Kris Marshall, and the body-double duo of Martin Freeman/Joanna Page. But there’s Keira Knightley and Chiwetel Ejiofor, still together; Andrew Lincoln and his infamous note cards; Liam Neeson and his not-so-young son, played by Thomas Brodie-Sangster (still madly in love with Olivia Olson’s Joanna); Colin Firth and Lucia Moniz, his Portuguese paramour; Bill Nighy’s hedonistic pop star; Laura Linney, with a hunky new beau in Patrick Dempsey; and, last but certainly not least, the U.K. prime minister and his wife, courtesy of Hugh Grant and Martine McCutcheon.
They shot the sequel back in March over a four-day period—with one additional day for Linney’s segment with Dempsey, which was added for the American version.
And this time around, Hugh Grant’s prime minister both takes shots at Piers Morgan in his galvanizing speech, lamenting how “Piers Morgan’s still alive” (“Piers was so hurt by that!” recalls Curtis), and shakes his moneymaker to Drake’s “Hotline Bling.”
“It’s a song I really like,” confesses Curtis, who recently took his young son to a Drake concert. “And to be unfair to Hugh, the single bit he most hated about doing the original film was the dance, because he was worried that it would stop him from being prime ministerial in the film—which it didn’t. But he was horrified when I came to him and said, ‘We’re doing the sequel, you’re dancing again.’ He behaved quite well in the first half of the day when he did the speech, and quite poorly in the second half when he had to do the dance. But those were all his moves!”
The idea to do a Love Actually sequel came about while Curtis and his partner, Emma Freud, who serves as script editor on Curtis’ films and helps run Red Nose Day, took in a midnight screening of the original film in Manhattan. They felt that, given the state of the world, the time was ripe for a jolt of positivity.
“I’m a great believer that there are always two stories going on—and I think that that’s true of this moment as well,” Curtis says. “So I’m really happy doing it this way, because the message of Red Nose Day is one of optimism.”
“Malaria deaths are in half, extreme poverty has dropped by 50 percent since 1990, so from my point of view, there are always amazing, positive things going on,” he continues. “There are refugees, but there are also people on the beaches waiting for the refugees. I think we’re making the same argument then that we were now: There are many more people who actually want to do good as opposed to just sit back and say we’re doomed.”
The Love Actually sequel isn’t the only highlight of Red Nose Day. There’s Julia Roberts navigating the wild with Bear Grylls, an American Ninja Warrior competition, Ben Affleck playing Christian Bale playing Batman, and plenty of surprises.
But Curtis understands that, given the film’s dedicated fan base—and the cast’s increased star power over the years—expectations are high for his cheery little movie.
“It was very magical,” offers Curtis. “Thomas was definitely a very little boy when we made it and now he’s a proper man, so I think that one was particularly touching because Liam hadn’t seen him since the premiere. Keira and Andrew was fun to do because that has been parodied so many times. It was nice to see him taking ownership of his cards again.”
One of the most famous parodies of Love Actually’s cards sequence occurred on Saturday Night Live, with Kate McKinnon’s Hillary Clinton arriving at the door of an elector to warn them against casting their vote for Donald Trump.
“I loved that,” says a chuckling Curtis. “I was just so impressed by how many jokes there were. They made me try hard! It made me feel insecure about ours.”
For more information about Red Nose Day or to donate please visit the following website.