Richard Curtis Says He Regrets These Offensive "Love Actually" Jokes
The writer and director also addressed the lack of diversity in his films.
In the 20 years since its release, the ensemble holiday movie Love Actually has become very divisive, and it's a given that think pieces and op-eds about the film will pop up online pretty much every December. Most of the criticism has to do with some dated jokes, its treatment of women characters, and the lack of diversity in the many love stories it features. In a recent appearance, Love Actually writer and director Richard Curtis addressed some of the backlash and expressed his regret over certain offensive jokes. He also commented on the lack of diversity in his movies and explained why he wishes he'd do things differently.
Read on to see what else Curtis—who's also the filmmaker behind Four Wedding and a Funeral, Notting Hill, and Bridget Jones's Diary—had to say about his controversial Christmas classic.
Love Actually has been reexamined over the years.
Love Actually, which was released in 2003, consists of multiple, interwoven love stories between characters who are in London—or from London—at Christmastime. However, most of the primary characters are played by white actors, with the notable exceptions Chiwetel Ejiofor, who plays Peter, and Olivia Olsen, who plays Joanna. Also, all of the love stories are heterosexual. As reported by The Independent, a scene featuring actors Anne Reid and Frances de la Tour as a lesbian couple was filmed but not included in the final edit.
The movie has also been criticized for several jokes about Martine McCutcheon's character Natalie's weight and for making her so-called "chubby-ness" her defining characteristic. Additionally, some viewers have also noted that it's the men in the relationships who display autonomy, and four of the 10 stories are about women who fall for men they work for.
Curtis said the jokes about Natalie's weight are no longer funny.
The director's daughter, Scarlett Curtis, interviewed her father at the recent Times and Sunday Times Cheltenham literature festival, as reported by the New York Post. During their talk, Curtis gave his evolved thoughts on the weight jokes in Love Actually.
"I remember how shocked I was five years ago when Scarlett said to me: 'You can never use the word 'fat' again,'" Curtis said. "Wow, you were right. In my generation, calling someone chubby [was funny]—in Love Actually, there were jokes about that. Those jokes aren't any longer funny."
He also said he'd been "stupid and wrong" about diversity.
Curtis also showed remorse for the mostly white, heterosexual, and cisgender characters in his films.
"Yes, I wish I'd been ahead of the curve," the 66-year-old said. "Because I came from a very undiverse school and bunch of university friends, I think that I've hung on, on the diversity issue, to the feeling that I wouldn't know how to write those parts." He added, "I think I was just sort of stupid and wrong about that."
He's aware his work feels "out of date" at times.
In November 2022, Curtis took part in the ABC News special The Laughter & Secrets of Love Actually: 20 Years Later along with some of the stars of the romantic comedy. He said that the movie is now "out of date" at parts, as reported by Entertainment Weekly.
"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," he said. "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."
The About Time director continued, "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. It makes me wish I'd made a documentary just to kind of observe it."
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