The ‘Love Actually’ Cast: Then And Now
Find out where the "Love Actually" cast has ended up — more than 15 years after the film's debut.
When “Love Actually” came out in 2003, it received mixed reviews and decent box office receipts. But the British romantic comedy gradually gained in popularity. Fifteen-plus years later, the film may still have its haters but it also has a slew of fans who consider it both a cherished Christmas film and fun year-round viewing.
Many of the ensemble cast filmed a 10-minute “Love Actually” sequel for charity in 2017, which caught up on where their characters are today. So let’s do the same in real life and compare the film’s major players then and now.
(Rest in peace, Alan Rickman, who was a memorable part of the cast.)
British stage, TV and film actor Billy Nighy played aging rock star Billy Mack with great humor and comic timing.
“Bill came in and was so perfect from the first word, and it became so clear that he was the funniest part in the film that we cast him three minutes after his audition,” Richard Curtis, director and writer of the film, told The Daily Beast of Nighy’s casting.
Nighy added that one of his favorite scenes in the film was when he went through with his bet to perform naked on live television.
“I suppose it’s a fond memory,” Nighy told The Daily Beast, “of being naked with nothing but an electric guitar and a pair of cowboy boots, trying to mime playing the instrument while the producer, Duncan Kenworthy, shouted ‘Down with the guitar! Down with the guitar!’ every time I fully exposed myself when I got too enthusiastic about the song.”
After “Love Actually,” Nighy told Entertainment Weekly that he had no trouble getting auditions. He has continued to appear onscreen in a slew of roles. Notably, he crossed over into co-star Keira Knightley’s film world when he played Davy Jones in two “Pirates of the Caribbean” films.
Nighy still loves his Billy Mack persona though.
“My favorite line — the one they’ll write on my tombstone and the one kids still shout at me, is: ‘Hi kids! Don’t buy drugs — become a rock star and they give you them for free,'” he told The Guardian in 2013.
Colin Firth was already a Brit heartthrob in 2003 thanks in large part to “Pride and Prejudice” and “Bridget Jones’ Diary” (the latter of which was also written by Richard Curtis). So it was a fun change to see him in the role of Jamie, a hapless writer who bumbles his way into a relationship with Portuguese house cleaner Aurelia.
Script editor and Richard Curtis’ longtime girlfriend Emma Freud revealed in the Telegraph that “we’d only called Colin Firth’s character Jamie so that his screen nephews were able to shout ‘I hate Uncle Jamie’ which amused both Richard and his brother Jamie.”
Fifteen years after “Love Actually,” Firth’s had no dearth of major roles, including as King George VI in “A King’s Speech,” for which he won an Academy Award for Best Actor. He recently appeared as the villain in “Mary Poppins Returns” and will play Lord Archibald Craven in an upcoming remake of “The Secret Garden.”
Lúcia Moniz played Jamie’s love interest, Aurelia. The Portuguese actress and singer recently recalled what it was like to do the first read-through with the all-star cast in 2003.
“There was a feeling of you have to see this to believe this,” she told Entertainment Weekly in 2017. “I already knew after reading the script who the cast was. But the day I was sitting there and watching all these people walk into the room, all my heroes and idols and reference points for me in my life, that’s when I realized it was real. I was in awe.”
Since “Love Actually,” Moniz has continued to act, mostly in Portuguese films, while also focusing on her musical career.
But “Love Actually” keeps getting her recognition.
“It happened to me in London and Toronto,” she told Entertainment Weekly. “I’d be having lunch with my mother and daughter and someone comes up to us to say hello. They are extremely excited to meet me and ask questions. All because of ‘Love Actually.'”
Liam Neeson played Daniel, a broken-hearted widower with a young son, trying to get over his grief and parent his pre-teen through his first real crush. He remembered being amazed by the large number of plots and actors in the film.
“Thomas [Brodie-Sangster] and I felt like we were the stars of the film,” Neeson recalled. “But then Richard [Curtis] left us and made another whole movie with Hugh, with Emma, with Bill Nighy. We realized we were all sharing it.”
Neeson has gone on to star in a lot of action films and other movies since “Love Actually.” In reminiscing about that film, though, he can’t help but think of his late wife, Natasha Richardson.
“It’s 14 years ago now and we’ve all lived lives,” he told Entertainment Weekly. “Some of us have died. Oh, my dear old friend Alan Rickman, God rest him. Some have gotten divorced. I’ve lost my wife. And, oh, sure, plenty of times I’ve thought about this film and my own life. ‘Love Actually,’ that’s the way it is. That’s the tapestry of life.”
Thomas Brodie-Sangster played Daniel’s son, Sam. Richard Curtis said choosing Brodie-Sangster for the part was the best casting move in the whole film.
“I cannot tell you how much he was the only person who came in who could do it all,” Curtis told The Daily Beast. “We started thinking, ‘Oh no… we just can’t have a 10-year-old who’ll be in love because it’s not ringing true at all,’ and he just came in and did it perfectly.”
Thomas has kept acting since “Love Actually.” He’s done voiceover work for shows like “Phineas and Ferb” (he’s Ferb) and has had more grown-up roles in “Game of Thrones,” “Wolf Hall,” the “Maze Runner” films and “Godless.”
While she only had a few scenes in the film, Olivia Olson certainly stole the talent show when she belted out “All I Want For Christmas Is You” as American student Joanna Anderson. Olson’s singing was so stellar, in fact, that “flaws” were added to her song track in post-production so people would believe it was really her voice.
“It was the first thing I ever auditioned for,” Olson recalled of trying out for “Love Actually.”
Since “Love Actually,” Olson has done mostly voiceover roles and has released four albums. She also appeared in the “Red Nose Day Actually” sequel.
Recently, a humorous theory has popped up that Sam and Joanna’s relationship foretold Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s coupling due to the resemblance between the two pairs.
Longtime Richard Curtis collaborator Hugh Grant played the British prime minister in “Love Actually.” He famously danced through his official home’s hallways in the film, and Grant has often said he hated the idea of doing the scene, especially at the “idea of having to freak out without a drink inside of me at 7 in the morning in front of a grumpy crew.”
“People do like it and I’m proud of the fact that I did it without any stimulants,” he joked to People of dancing away to the Pointer Sisters.
Grant has continued to act in romantic comedies and more serious roles. He recently won accolades for his role in “A Very English Scandal.”
He also is a bit puzzled at “Love Actually” being such a long-term success.
“I don’t know why ‘Love Actually’ is still so popular,” he said. “Everyone watches it at Christmas, which is nice. Do I remember anything from filming? I mean, there was the horror of that scene where I had to dance around. I suspect that was the most excruciating scene ever committed.”
Prior to “Love Actually,” actress Martine McCutcheon had become well-known in Britain for her role on the popular British TV show “EastEnders.”
In fact, Richard Curtis said he wrote the part of Natalie, the prime minister’s assistant/love interest, with McCutcheon in mind.
“I even called the character Martine,” he recalled, “though I had to change it before the read-through so she didn’t think she’d already got it.”
McCutcheon switched her focus from acting to singing in the years after “Love Actually,” but the film still holds a special place in her heart. In Dec. 2018, she shared a throwback picture on Instagram of her and Hugh Grant at the film’s 2003 French premiere.
“We were staying at the Ritz and we were treated like royalty – Even our dressing gowns and slippers had our names beautifully embroidered on them,” she wrote. “The cast had a wonderful dinner in Paris after the film was shown and we all talked and laughed into the wee small hours… I felt like I was living in a fairytale.”
Emma Thompson played Karen, a wife and mother who realizes her husband (played by Alan Rickman) is cheating on her with his secretary.
Both Richard Curtis and Emma Freud said it was “an acting masterclass” watching Thompson film the bedroom scene where she cries while listening to Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now” after realizing her husband’s infidelity. Thompson did take after take of the emotional scene with little difficulty.
She later said she had personal experience to help put her in Karen’s place.
“I’ve had so much bloody practice at crying in a bedroom, then having to go out and be cheerful, gathering up the pieces of my heart and putting them in a drawer,” Thompson told the Telegraph in 2018, referencing the affair of her ex-husband, actor Kenneth Branagh.
Since “Love Actually,” Emma Thompson continues to be, well, Emma Thompson, actress extraordinaire. She became a Dame Commander of the British Empire in Nov. 2018.
She didn’t return for the Comic Relief sequel of “Love Actually,” however, because of her friend and co-star Alan Rickman’s death.
“It’s too soon,” she told The Guardian. “It’s absolutely right [not returning] because it’s supposed to be for Comic Relief but there isn’t much comic relief in the loss of our dear friend, really, just over a year ago.”
Keira Knightley was only 17 when she played Juliet in “Love Actually.” Prior to the film, she’d co-starred in “Bend It Like Beckham” and played Natalie Portman’s decoy in “Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace.” Around the same time “Love Actually” came out, Knightley became a star in “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.”
One fun behind-the-scenes tidbit Knightley recently revealed is why she wore a hat in the scene where she comes over to the home of Mark, her husband Peter’s best friend, looking for her wedding video.
“I had a massive spot [pimple] in the middle of my forehead,” she said. “This is the problem with being 17 and being in films. I mean, it was humongous, so there was no choice but we had to find a hat to cover it ’cause there was no lighting, there was no makeup that was going to cover it.”
Since “Love Actually,” Knightley has become a movie star in her own right with “Pride and Prejudice,” “Atonement” and “The Imitation Game” among her most acclaimed roles. Most recently, she’s starred in “The Nutcracker and the Four Realms” and “Colette.”
She’s also forgotten a lot about her character Juliet, as a recent Wired interview revealed.
“I mean, I’m with my husband, aren’t I?” she responded when quizzed on whom she ended up with in “Love Actually.” “Aren’t I with Chiwetel Ejiofor? I’ve only seen it once, and it was a really long time ago.”
Andrew Lincoln plays Mark, the best friend of Juliet’s husband, Peter.
“He is a stalker,” he joked with The Wrap in 2016 of fan theories over his character. “That was my question to Richard Curtis, ‘Do you not think we’re sort of borderline stalker territory here?’ And he said, ‘No, no. Not with you playing it, darling. You’ll be alright.'”
Lincoln’s most memorable scene had him showing up at Juliet’s door and telling her he loved her through handwritten cards.
“It was very sweet and honest,” he told Entertainment Weekly of the scene. “I mean, there’s no acting required, really. I just had Richard Curtis’ brilliant words, which I didn’t even have to say. And then I had to be infatuated with Keira Knightley’s character. It’s not one of the greatest challenges I’ve been posed as an actor.”
Lincoln was not a well-known actor at the time the movie debuted, though he went on to stardom as Rick Grimes in the popular TV show “The Walking Dead.”
When he was interviewed 10 years after “Love Actually” premiered, he said of being in the film, “There are certain roles in my career that I have jumped with joy when I found out I had been cast—this was definitely one of those.”
Chiwetel Ejiofor was a fairly unknown actor in 2003 when he was cast in “Love Actually” as Peter, the husband to Keira Knightley’s character. Prior to the role, his biggest part was starring alongside Audrey Tautou in “Dirty Pretty Things.”
As Ejiofor pointed out, his character’s friend, Mark, was really a junk friend.
“That would not be a good moment,” he said of the famous cards at the door scene. “If I had opened the door, it would’ve been really awkward.”
After “Love Actually,” Ejiofor had memorable roles in films like “Serenity,” “Kinky Boots” and “The Martian.” And ten years after “Love Actually,” he received critical acclaim for his starring role in “12 Years a Slave.” He’s soon to be the voice of Scar in the new live-action “The Lion King.”
Director/writer Richard Curtis kept looking for a “Laura Linney type” to play the role of the lovelorn Sarah, who was originally supposed to be British, during the film’s casting. In the end, he was convinced to just ask Linney to play Sarah, who became an American like the actress herself.
Linney was well-known at the time of filming but brought an extra dose of realism to her role as a woman with a crush on her hot officemate, Karl, played by Rodrigo Santoro.
“We were both brokenhearted at the time and had gotten out of rough relationships, so it was just very sweet,” Linney said of her and Santoro’s headspaces at the time of filming.
Laura Linney continues to have a successful acting career, recently starring in the TV show “Ozark.”
She said that although she doesn’t get the guy in the film, her “Love Actually” makeout scene with Rodrigo Santoro was still a highlight of filming.
“People feel sorry for me, but they shouldn’t,” she told Graham Norton. “I really believe I got the best kiss in that movie, hands down.”
Linney also said she cherished the relationships that came out of the film.
“I had worked with Liam before,” she told Entertainment Weekly. “Alan Rickman and I became really good friends and he was as much of a mentor in my career as anyone. Colin and I did a movie [in 2016].”
Hot officemate Karl asks Sarah out at the office holiday party and things are going well until they’re interrupted by Sarah’s mentally challenged brother calling repeatedly.
Brazilian actor Rodrigo Santoro got the part of Karl after impressing the film’s casting director, Mary Selway, at a film festival.
“My character, Karl, was supposed to be British—the cast was supposed to be all-British—but apparently they couldn’t find the right actor,” he said. “She asked me to put myself on tape, so I got a friend of mine to help me and sent it to London.”
Santoro’s roles since “Love Actually” have included a recurring part on “Lost,” “300” and, most recently, “Westworld.”
He recently addressed fan criticism of his “Love Actually” character, Karl, not being able to deal with Sarah’s family situation.
“No, I think Karl was in love with Sarah, and he wanted to have a relationship with her very badly,” Santoro said. “But…let’s see if I remember the line… Life is full of complications.”
Before she made it big as Betty Draper in “Mad Men,” January Jones had a small role in “Love Actually.” At the time of the film’s release in 2003, her most notable roles were as the sister of the bride in “American Wedding,” as a patient in “Anger Management” and a small part in Steven Soderbergh’s “Full Frontal.”
Jones made the most of her brief screentime as “Jeannie – American Angel” in the Wisconsin bar scene with dorky but girl-crazy Brit Colin Frissell.
“She was sooooo funny when we filmed that scene,” tweeted script editor Emma Freud, adding that Jones wrote many of her lines.
After “Love Actually” — and before “Mad Men” made January Jones a household name — Jones also had notable parts in “Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights,” “We Are Marshall,” “X-Men: First Class” and “Good Kill.”
More recently, she’s had major roles in “Last Man on Earth” and “The Politician” and has started work on an ice skating TV show, “Spinning Out.”