Hugh Grant and Emma Thompson admit they thought Love Actually movie was ‘out there’ and ‘psychotic’

Love Actually 20 years on! Hugh Grant and Emma Thompson admit they thought romcom was ‘out there’ and ‘psychotic’ after first screening as they reflect on enduring success of holiday classic for TV special

  • The ABC special The Laughter & Secrets of Love Actually: 20 Years Later was hosted by Diane Sawyer, 76
  • Love Actually was written and directed by Richard Curtis and premiered in November 2003 to mixed reviews from critics, but was well received by audiences and has since become a modern-day Christmas staple 
  • Sawyer at the start of the one-hour special noted that Love Actually has been viewed more than 4.6 billion minutes by audiences all over the world 
  • The special also included interviews with the film’s stars Bill Nighy, Laura Linney, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Olivia Olson and Martine McCutcheon 
  • Love Actually also featured English actress Keira Knightley, 37, who was shown participating in a table read of the movie before filming 
  • Curtis admitted the film’s lack of diversity makes him feel ‘uncomfortable’  and ‘a bit stupid’ 

Emma Thompson and Hugh Grant shared their rough first impressions of Love Actually during a 20th anniversary special on Tuesday celebrating the 2003 film.

The 63-year-old British actress during the ABC special The Laughter & Secrets of Love Actually: 20 Years Later hosted by Diane Sawyer, 76, was asked if she remembered what she thought when she saw the romantic comedy directed by Richard Curtis, 66, for the first time.

‘I do. I just sat there watching, thinking, ‘God, this is, uh, it’s quite kind of out there, isn’t it?’ And then Hugh came up behind me as we were walking out of the theater and says, ‘Correct me if I’m wrong, but is that the most psychotic thing we’ve ever been in?’,’ Thompson said laughing at the memory.

Twenty years: Emma Thompson and Hugh Grant shared their rough first impressions of Love Actually during a 20th anniversary special on Tuesday celebrating the 2003 film

Twenty years: Emma Thompson and Hugh Grant shared their rough first impressions of Love Actually during a 20th anniversary special on Tuesday celebrating the 2003 film

‘I just thought…what’s he talking about?,’ the actress added.

‘Did I say that? Well, it is a bit psychotic,’ said Grant, 62. ‘Like I said, it’s Richard on steroids. But the thing is with him, what you have to remember is, when he writes about love, he means it. And that is quite rare.’

Love Actually was written and directed by Curtis and premiered in November 2003 to mixed reviews from critics, but was well received by audiences and has since become a modern-day Christmas staple.

Sawyer at the start of the one-hour special noted that Love Actually has been viewed more than 4.6 billion minutes by audiences all over the world.

Psychotic movie: 'Did I say that? Well, it is a bit psychotic,' said Grant, 62. 'Like I said, it's Richard on steroids. But the thing is with him, what you have to remember is, when he writes about love, he means it. And that is quite rare'

Psychotic movie: ‘Did I say that? Well, it is a bit psychotic,’ said Grant, 62. ‘Like I said, it’s Richard on steroids. But the thing is with him, what you have to remember is, when he writes about love, he means it. And that is quite rare’

The host: The ABC special The Laughter & Secrets of Love Actually: 20 Years Later hosted by Diane Sawyer, 76

The host: The ABC special The Laughter & Secrets of Love Actually: 20 Years Later hosted by Diane Sawyer, 76

Beloved comedy: Love Actually was written and directed by Richard Curtis and premiered in November 2003 to mixed reviews from critics, but was well received by audiences and has since become a modern-day Christmas staple

Beloved comedy: Love Actually was written and directed by Richard Curtis and premiered in November 2003 to mixed reviews from critics, but was well received by audiences and has since become a modern-day Christmas staple

Christmas comedy: Thompson is shown in a still from the Christmas comedy with William Wadham

Christmas comedy: Thompson is shown in a still from the Christmas comedy with William Wadham

Popular film: Sawyer at the start of the one-hour special noted that Love Actually starring Grant, shown in a still, has been viewed more than 4.6 billion minutes by audiences all over the world

Popular film: Sawyer at the start of the one-hour special noted that Love Actually starring Grant, shown in a still, has been viewed more than 4.6 billion minutes by audiences all over the world

The special also included interviews with Bill Nighy, Laura Linney, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Olivia Olson and Martine McCutcheon.

Love Actually also featured English actress Keira Knightley, 37, who was shown participating in a table read of the movie before filming.

‘I remember sitting down with Keira while we were shooting, and saying, ‘What are you doing next?’ And she said, ‘Oh, I don’t think it’s going to work. It’s a pirate film and they always fail,”,’ Curtis recalled as a clip was shown of Knightley starring in the 2003 blockbuster Pirates of the Caribbean.

Wedding scene: Love Actually also featured English actress Keira Knightley, seen in a still, who was shown participating in a table read of the movie before filming

Wedding scene: Love Actually also featured English actress Keira Knightley, seen in a still, who was shown participating in a table read of the movie before filming

Curtis acknowledged that the multi-layered story featuring British actors was a gamble at the time.

‘I think the 20 years shows what a youthful optimist I probably was when I wrote it,’ Curtis said.

Sawyer told the audience that Curtis wants to continue writing upbeat movies.

Youthful optimist: 'I think the 20 years shows what a youthful optimist I probably was when I wrote it,' Curtis said

Youthful optimist: ‘I think the 20 years shows what a youthful optimist I probably was when I wrote it,’ Curtis said

‘We get thousands of films about serial killers and there’s only ever been about nine of them. And yet there’ll be a million people falling in love, feeling it’s the most interesting moment of their lives. Good deeds inside families, and good deeds inside communities,’ Curtis said.

‘If you look at what happened during COVID and the extraordinary sort of bravery and heroism. I do think the way to think about life is that every day has the potential, in all its simplicity, just to be gorgeous,’ he added.

Sawyer also asked about the cultural differences since the film was made particularly in regard to inclusion and relationships in the workplace.

Staying positive: 'We get thousands of films about serial killers and there's only ever been about nine of them. And yet there'll be a million people falling in love, feeling it's the most interesting moment of their lives. Good deeds inside families, and good deeds inside communities,' Curtis said

Staying positive: ‘We get thousands of films about serial killers and there’s only ever been about nine of them. And yet there’ll be a million people falling in love, feeling it’s the most interesting moment of their lives. Good deeds inside families, and good deeds inside communities,’ Curtis said

‘There are things you’d change, but thank god, society is, you know, changing. So, my film is bound, in some moments, to feel, you know, out of date,’ Curtis said.

‘What’s the one that makes you wince?,’ Sawyer asked.

‘I mean, there are things about the film, you know, the lack of diversity makes me feel uncomfortable and a bit stupid. You know, I think there are sort of three plots that have sort of bosses and people who work for them,’ Curtis answered.

Cultural shift: 'I mean, there are things about the film, you know, the lack of diversity makes me feel uncomfortable and a bit stupid. You know, I think there are sort of three plots that have sort of bosses and people who work for them,' Curtis answered

Cultural shift: ‘I mean, there are things about the film, you know, the lack of diversity makes me feel uncomfortable and a bit stupid. You know, I think there are sort of three plots that have sort of bosses and people who work for them,’ Curtis answered

Sawyer also interviewed English actor Brodie-Sangster, 37, who played young Sam in the film and Olson, 30, who played the boy’s crush Joanna.

Brodie-Sangster said he bonded with Liam Neeson, 70, who played his stepfather in the film.

‘Liam was amazing. He treated me like his son. He was absolutely loving to me. He just created this environment where I was very comfortable. At the time I thought, you know, I was pretty much a grownup and I’d been doing this a few years now and I knew what I was doing. I was very serious about it. But looking back, I’d forgotten how small and new I was,’ he said.

Child actor: Sawyer also interviewed English actor Thomas Brodie-Sangster, 37, who played young Sam in the film

Child actor: Sawyer also interviewed English actor Thomas Brodie-Sangster, 37, who played young Sam in the film

Sawyer interviewed Brodie-Sangster at the same London park bench where he filmed a scene with Liam.

The actor admitted that he mostly remembered the pizza he ate when filming. 

The special included the moment when their interview was cut short by local police questioning if they had the proper permits.

Cut short: The special included the moment when their interview was cut short by local police questioning if they had the proper permits

Cut short: The special included the moment when their interview was cut short by local police questioning if they had the proper permits

‘Now we run,’ Sawyer joked as they fled the scene.

Olivia as Joanna in the film delivered a beautiful rendition of All I Want For Christmas Is You that was included in the film’s soundtrack.

She sang a few lines from the Christmas song alongside video of her performance from the movie.

Christmas song: Olivia Olson  as young Joanna in the film delivered a beautiful rendition of All I Want For Christmas Is You that was included in the film's soundtrack.

Christmas song: Olivia Olson  as young Joanna in the film delivered a beautiful rendition of All I Want For Christmas Is You that was included in the film’s soundtrack.

Still singing: She sang a few lines from the Christmas song alongside video of her performance from the movie

Still singing: She sang a few lines from the Christmas song alongside video of her performance from the movie

Sawyer relayed that Olson was still a musician living in California.

‘I mean, when I look back at it, I’m really proud that I was part of something so massive,’ Olson said. ‘Every Christmas, I get the calls and the texts. ‘Hey, look what I’m watching.’ I think it’s grown so much and it’s become such this, like, nostalgic piece of our holidays.’

Olson showed the original script that she kept autographed by actors on the set.

Fan favorite: Love Actually has been a fan favorite for 20 years

Fan favorite: Love Actually has been a fan favorite for 20 years

‘I’m so glad that I hung on to this for so long,’ Olson said.

McCutcheon, 46, also dished on the big kissing scene at the end of the movie between her character Natalie and Hugh’s character David, the recently elected Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.

She told Sawyer that many in the audience were ‘ordinary people who had no idea they’d see Hugh Grant kissing someone.’

Kissing scene: Martine McCutcheon, 46, also dished on the big kissing scene at the end of the movie between her character Natalie and Hugh's character David, the recently elected Prime Minister of the United Kingdom

Kissing scene: Martine McCutcheon, 46, also dished on the big kissing scene at the end of the movie between her character Natalie and Hugh’s character David, the recently elected Prime Minister of the United Kingdom

Ordinary people: She told Sawyer that many in the audience were 'ordinary people who had no idea they'd see Hugh Grant kissing someone'

Ordinary people: She told Sawyer that many in the audience were ‘ordinary people who had no idea they’d see Hugh Grant kissing someone’

‘The shock when they opened the curtains for the first time, and they saw us kissing. Their reactions was just amazing. It just felt magical,’ McCutcheon said.

Grant also commented on his famous scene that saw him as PM dancing around 10 Downing Street to The Pointer Sisters’ song Jump before realizing someone was watching him and quickly stopping.

‘I saw it in the script and I thought, ”Well, I’ll hate doing that”. I didn’t fancy doing the dance at all, let alone rehearsing it,’ Grant said.

Dancing scene: Grant also commented on his famous scene that saw him as PM dancing around 10 Downing Street to The Pointer Sisters' song Jump before realizing someone was watching him and quickly stopping

Dancing scene: Grant also commented on his famous scene that saw him as PM dancing around 10 Downing Street to The Pointer Sisters’ song Jump before realizing someone was watching him and quickly stopping

‘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”,’ Curtis quipped.

Curtis said he reminded Grant that he was contractually obligated and he grumpily agreed.

Grant proudly said that he came up with the idea of having the Prime Minister’s secretary catch him dancing around.

Great idea: Grant proudly said that he came up with the idea of having the Prime Minister's secretary catch him dancing around

Great idea: Grant proudly said that he came up with the idea of having the Prime Minister’s secretary catch him dancing around

‘And to this day, there’s many people — and I agree with them — who think it’s the most excruciating scene ever committed to celluloid. But then some people like it!,’ Grant added.

Sawyer at the end asked what ‘Love actually’ is and Grant quipped, ‘Ah. Dead. Dead.’

‘Well, I mean, there’s, …I don’t see any romance anywhere, even in the cities where you could guarantee to see couples snogging in the streets, Paris, Rome. No, they’re just staring at their phone, eating,’ Grant said.

Curtis meanwhile said love was ‘all around’.

Excruciating scene: 'And to this day, there's many people — and I agree with them — who think it's the most excruciating scene ever committed to celluloid. But then some people like it!,' Grant said of his dance scene

Excruciating scene: ‘And to this day, there’s many people — and I agree with them — who think it’s the most excruciating scene ever committed to celluloid. But then some people like it!,’ Grant said of his dance scene

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