Love Actually | 2003
- DIRECTOR |
- Richard Curtis
The movie opens and closes at London's major air terminal, Heathrow Airport, with Hugh Grant's voiceover reassuring us of the ubiquity of warm, fuzzy feelings. The shots of emotional travellers were grabbed documentary-style. Don't worry. Your furtive assignation won't be up there on the big screen – everyone who's featured gave permission to be in the film.
This is a London romcom, so we get inevitable establishing shots of the city. The galleried atrium, decked out for Christmas, is that of Whiteley’s, the vast Bayswater department store and cinema complex – it's where Julia Roberts holds her photographic exhibition in Mike Nichols’ film of Closer.
The central court of Somerset House in the Strand, saw sterling service as a movie location over the years (GoldenEye, Tomorrow Never Dies, The Duchess etc) when it was a rather dull parking lot. Since the building’s renovation, it has been transformed into a pleasant fountain court and, in winter, a skating rink, which is how it appears in the film’s opening montage. In the summer, there are outdoor movie screenings.
Oxford Street, an inexplicably crowded shopping hell, is expensive to close down on a weekday, or open up on a Sunday, it's rarely seen on screen, though it’s featured in Alfred Hitchcock’s Frenzy – but the magic name of Richard Curtis coaxed Selfridges & Co, 400 Oxford Street, W1, to open its doors for filming.
After meeting up with his wife Karen (Emma Thompson) at nearby St Christopher’s Place, Harry (Alan Rickman) furtively buys a necklace for flirtatious Mia (Heike Makatsch) in the store. The shop assistant character (Rowan Atkinson), who makes such an elaborate job of wrapping the gift, was originally meant to be a recurring deus ex machina angel character (which is why he reappears with an unexplained knowing smile at the airport towards the end of the film).
One of the first great department stores, there's been a Selfridges on this site since 1909. If you find the sculptural frontage too modest, you’ll be disappointed to learn that a plan to crown the building with a gigantic tower was never realised. But you probably know all about the store from TV series Mr Selfridge, with Jeremy Piven as the business's founder.
Over in the suburbs of West London, the private house at 2a Blenheim Road, Turnham Green, W4, was home to writer Jamie Bennett (Colin Firth), where he discovers his girlfriend in flagrante with his brother before fleeing to his cottage in France.
Not quite so far west, the recording studio, where Billy Mack (Bill Nighy) records his cheesy Christmas record, is Westway Studios, Ladbroke Grove in Notting Hill.
Mack's record company office is unmistakably City Hall, the London Assembly Building on the South Bank alongside Tower Bridge.
And the radio studio, where Billy Mack finally reveals that his record is crap and that Britney Spears was a lousy shag, is Heat Radio, Mappin House, 4 Winsley Street, London W1.
The ‘South Bank’ gallery run by Mark (Andrew Lincoln) isn't on the South Bank at all, of course. It was an empty office – now a solicitors – at 26-27 Great Sutton Street, in trendy Clerkenwell – which was Hugh Grant's neighbourhood in the 2002 film of Nick Hornby's About A Boy.
What really is on the South Bank, east of Waterloo Bridge and the National Theatre, is Gabriel’s Wharf, a section of Queen’s Walk (the walking path running alongside the south bank of the River Thames). It's here, in front of the Riviera Restaurant, 56 Upper Ground, you’ll find the bench on which widowed Daniel (Liam Neeson), during a heart-to-heart chat, discovers that his distracted son (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) is – actually – in love.
Slightly further east along the walk is the Oxo Tower Wharf complex, home to Mark, where he embarrassedly leaves Juliet (Keira Knightley) with the wedding video. He exits the flat by the rear entrance of the wharf building on Barge House Street, through the courtyard to Oxo Tower Wharf itself. The tower houses the Oxo Brasserie, featured in Thor: The Dark World. It’s also on the Thames pier here that disgracefully ageing actor Maurice (Peter O’Toole) recites a speech from Macbeth for an unappreciative Jessie (Jodie Whittaker) in Venus.
The funeral for Daniel's wife is held at St Paul’s Church, Rectory Grove, in Clapham, SW4, south of the Thames.
Much happier times are enjoyed at a church in the exclusive Mayfair district, as Peter (Chiwetel Ejiofor) marries Juliet to the unexpected strains of All You Need Is Love, in the Grosvenor Chapel, South Audley Street, just behind the posh Dorchester Hotel on Park Lane. Regular music concerts are held here – but don't expect them to be staged as elaborately as in the film.
In these days of strict security, ‘10 Downing Street’, the official residence of the Prime Minister (Hugh Grant), was represented by a set built onstage at Shepperton Studio.
In a fairytale development, the PM realises he's in love with new staff member Natalie (Martine McCutcheon), and on Christmas Eve, races off to search for her in ‘the dodgy end of Wandsworth’. It's really at 102 Poplar Road, Herne Hill that he eventually finds her.
It's during the a school concert at Elliott School, Pullman Gardens, Putney, southwest London, that their relationship is revealed to an astonished public.
You won’t find planes at the ‘airport’ from which Colin (Kris Marshall) departs to find fulfillment in Wisconsin. It’s not an airport at all, but Sandown Park Racecourse in Esher, about 15 miles southwest of London, in Surrey. What is it with racecourses standing in for airports? Sandown previously stood in for ‘Johannesburg Airport’ in Richard Attenborough's Cry Freedom, and ‘St Petersburg Airport’ in GoldenEye is Epsom Racecourse. The ‘Wisconsin’ bar itself, by the way, was no further away than a set built on the Shepperton backlot.
In the heart Notting Hill, the home of newlyweds Peter and Juliet – where sadly lovestruck Mark silently declares his love with cue cards, is 27 St Luke’s Mews. W11. The original script called for him to carpet the mews with rose petals – a gesture which surely would have had every female in the audience shoving a finger down her throat and gagging.
This is a popular area – it’s in the same Mews that Bill Murray gets mugged, all the while assuming it’s part of the ‘Theatre of Life’ experience, in Jon Amiel’s comedy thriller The Man Who Knew Too Little. And a couple of minutes away stood the pub which became ‘The Mother Black Cap’ in cult favourite Withnail & I (finally demolished in 2010).
And, away from London, the French restaurant, where writer Jamie finally declares his love for Aurelia (Lucia Moniz) is Le Bar de la Marine, 15 quai de Rive Neuve, the Old Port in Marseille, in the South of France, which was also the setting for Marcel Pagnol’s 1931 film Marius.