Richard Curtis's latest is a labor of love, actually
It's hard not to smile when writer/director Richard Curtis says that he has never made a genre movie. Because after all, he's pretty much cornered the market for romantic comedy in his home country - and has little serious competition in the US, for that matter.Skip to next paragraph
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That said, his latest film, "Love Actually," doesn't conform to the romantic-comedy template. True, Hugh Grant does star in it. There are romantic first kisses. And Mr. Curtis hasn't dispensed with the usual plotline of boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy wins girl back at the airport before she boards a plane.
But in "Love Actually" there are 22 main characters and nine parallel storylines. Furthermore, the movie is about the many faces of love - platonic, parental, unrequited, and adulterous, among others. It may be a romantic comedy but, notes producer Tim Bevan, "nobody in this film actually says, 'I love you.' "
Yet after three major hits in the genre - "Four Weddings and a Funeral," "Notting Hill," and "Bridget Jones' Diary" - Curtis says he never set out to fit into a comfortable label. "Even when I was doing 'Four Weddings and a Funeral,' " he says of the film that launched Hugh Grant's career and lifted Curtis onto the international A-list of screenwriters, "I thought of it as a small, observational movie along the lines of 'Breaking Away,' or 'Gregory's Girl.' "
These days, his interests are drifting further in that direction. "Maybe it's because I'm getting deeper into my own family life," says the bespectacled, gray-haired writer. He says the kinds of films that interest him now deal with the parts of life that usually occur before or after the credits of a mainstream movie. "I'm interested in ... the everyday details that make up a real life," he says.
Attention to detail and a desire to paint a broad canvas of "regular life" have been evident in Curtis's writing from the outset, says Mr. Bevan, who calls Curtis's work "a great chocolate box of life with all the best bits tucked in."
He takes his time with scripts. His last original script, "Notting Hill," was nearly five years ago ("Diary" was an adaptation of the bestselling book). "Actually" is his first outing as director of his own work. "It was about time," he says.
Unlike the situation with many Hollywood films, Curtis had been on the set of most of his earlier films. The writer has always been allowed to sign off on the final cut of his movies but, even so, he'd reached the point where he was so sure of what he wanted in a shot that it was useless to keep "hammering someone else into getting it right," he says.
This labor of love was inspired by the films such as "Hannah and Her Sisters" and "Nashville," of American filmmakers Woody Allen and Robert Altman, which Curtis describes as crowded with the details of everyday anguish.
Although the opening narration sequence in his film refers to 9/11, Curtis began work on it long before the disaster. But, he says, that event served to focus his contention that, even in the face of the worst human conditions, love is the most consistent emotion we have.