The Origins of 62 Last Names

SasinParaksa iStock via Getty Images
SasinParaksa iStock via Getty Images

Last names. You've probably got one or two, and they definitely came from somewhere. Whether it's ancient or modern, signifies the beauty of nature or an abstract concept or a job, or is something grandma came up with on the fly, last names are an intimate thing that anchor us to our heritage.

Here are the meanings and origins of 62 last names (maybe including yours).

1. Green

Welcome, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia fans. Did you know that the last name Green has been around since before the 7th century? You could have gotten that name by playing the role of "green man" on May Day, which involved dressing in green clothing and leaves. But people were also given the name Green if they just liked wearing the color green a lot. So if you're interested in changing your last name, maybe look no further than your closet.

2. Smith

Smith is an old English name given to those who worked with metal. It's probably related to a word that meant "to strike" or "to smite," which means it may have referred to a soldier or to the person hitting metal to form it into armor.

3. Schmidt

Similarly, Schmidt is basically the German version of Smith, which also derives from the word smitan, which pre-dates written history.

4. Lopez

The popular Spanish last name Lopez came Lupus, the Latin word for wolf.

5. Thomas

It's from the ancient Aramaic word תאומא, meaning twin, but you can use it on singles or all three triplets.

6. Hill

A small white house on a green hill in the sun.
Antonel iStock via Getty Images

Not all of these are gonna be big shockers, okay? Hill is an English name referring to, you guessed it, someone living on a hill. Other people got the name not from location, but from the name Hildebrand or Hilliard.

7. Lynch

In parts of England, Lynch meant someone who lived by a hill. In Ireland, though, it may have meant seaman. Please note the spelling there.

8. Murphy

Slightly different, Murphy comes from the Irish term for a sea warrior, which is basically a Lynch during war time? There's most likely a Viking connection here.

9. Novak

Novak comes from the Slovak word for new or newcomer. Good to know if people start calling you that as soon as you get to Serbia. 

10. Gomez

Gomo, which comes from old Spanish, meant man, and the "ez" at the end there makes it mean "Son of Man."

11. Cook
A male chef's hand seasons a rack of ribs.
Mikhail Spaskov iStock via Getty Images

If your last name is Cook, you probably have some ancestors who did that for a living.

12. baker.

Dating back before the 8th century, Baker could have referred to someone baking bread, running a communal kitchen, or owning a kiln for firing pottery.

13. Baxter

Baxter is the masculine version of the word Bakester, which originally meant a woman who bakes.

14. Becker

Bcker is the German word for baker, and the name might have sprung up for the same reasons Baker and Baxter did in England, but it's also possible that the last name denoted someone living by a stream or a "bach."

15. Hall is also named after an occupation.

They were the people who worked in a house or a hall. Or even if you just lived near one.

16. Adams means "son of adam" in england and scotland.

Stained glass depiction of Adam and Eve in the garden with a snake.
Richard Villalon iStock via Getty Images

They borrowed the Adam part from Hebrew, of course.

17. Rogers also means "Son of Roger."

Although Roger isn't like the first man in an alternate version of the Bible. His name comes from the legend of the Danish king Hrothgar, who can be found in Beowulf. Hrothgar, by the way, means "famous spear."

18. Thompson is celtic.

There are of course, a ton of these sons. Let's just get a bunch out of the way. Thompson means either "son of Tom" or refers to the place Thompson in Norfolk.

19. Robinson means "son of Robin."

Or Robert!

20. Roberts is "Son of Robert."

And Robert means "fame" and "bright."

21. There are at least two sons of john.

Statue of John the Baptist on the Charles Bridge in Prague
Vladimir Vinogradov iStock via Getty Images

Johnson and Jones both mean "Son of John." The name John comes from the Hebrew Yohanan, which means "Yahweh has been gracious."

22. Jacksons are in that same family.

The name Jack is also derived from Yohanan, so Jacksons and Johnsons are really kinda the same.

23. Evans means "Son of Evan" but has multiple meanings.

Evans is a name which changes meaning depending on your background. In Welsh, it also evolved from Yohanan. In Celtic, it means "young warrior." We're learning a lot about what people used to value: warriors, fame, religion, hills.

24. Martinez Means "Son of Martin."

It's a Spanish last name, and "Martin" comes from the Roman God of War, Mars.

25. Anderson means "son of Manly."

The Greek word for "manly" gave us Anders and Andrew, and therefore Anderson, the son of Anders.

26. And Wilson Means "Son of Desire."

A man looks at another woman over his shoulder while walking with his girlfriend
AntonioGuillem iStock via Getty Images

Since the Will part of Wilson is from the Germanic word meaning "desire." Gives an even deeper meaning to the Tom Hanks' best friend in Castaway.

27. Olsen Means "Sone of Ole."

The name Ole came from an Old Norse word meaning "ancestors' descendants". So I guess the Olsens of the world are the sons of ancestors' descendants. Phew.

28. Philips, of course, means "Son of Philip.

The Greek name Philippos, meaning "lover of horses", gave us the name Philip. Therefore every Philips in your life is the son of a horse lover.

29. Fox started as a nickname.

The name Fox was taken from the animal's name. It's one of those last names that started out as a nickname. Usually, people who were called Fox were clever or else had red hair or both (probably just one or the other).

30. Russell was the anglo-norman word for ginger.

An intricate braid in the hair of a redheaded woman.
sUs_angel iStock via Getty Images

Then there's the name Russell, which is an Anglo-Norman word meaning "red haired" or even "red-skinned."

31. White was also a nickname first.

It probably referred to a person who had white hair or a very light complexion. It's also referred to people living near the bend in a river.

32. Brown referred to someone with brown hair.

Or who wore a lot of brown clothes. But really, wasn't that everyone in like the 5th century? I guess that explains why there are so many Browns.

33. Kim Means "Gold."

It's also the most popular surname in South Korea. One in five people living there is a Kim.

34. Li can also mean "Plum."

Or someone who lived near a plum tree. It's the second most popular surname on the planet.

35. Lee means "Meadow."

A meadow filled with purple wildflowers
Raphael Comber iStock via Getty Images

The direct translation from Old English is "an open place," so it also might have referred to a water meadow.

36. Stewart Means "household guardian."

The Scottish name would have denoted the person who handled administrative tasks for a big royal household. It comes from the ancient word "stigweard."

37. Clark was a professional scribe.

I live near a hill and I'm something of a scribe, so I guess I would be a Lynchclark?

38. Walker was a fuller.

Walker could have been someone who did fulling, which was walking on cloth to improve its quality.

39. Or another professional walker.

Another occupation related to that name: military officers who would monitor a forest area by, you know, walking.

40. Allen means "Little Rock" Or "Harmony."

So please enjoy using your Harmony Wrench to build your next swanky piece of IKEA furniture.

41. In English, Myers denoted the son of the mayor.

A black sign with golden letters reading City Hall
pabradyphoto iStock via Getty Images

It may have also been used as a nickname for someone pompous.

42. Singh Means "Lion."

Sikh in origin, it's given to a son on achieving manhood.

43. COHEN is hebrew for "Priest."

But the name might also come from Gaelic Irish where it meant "Son of Wild Goose."

44. PARKER was a gamekeeper.

Or maybe a park keeper. Makes sense.

45. Wright was a craftsman.

The name comes from an Old English word for "craftsman," and usually denoted someone who made things with wood, like windmills or wheels.

46. Carter moved goods.

A donkey in front of a green cart that has a sack in it
tom-ster iStock via Getty Images

Carter is also English. It originally referred to a job in which someone would transport goods via cart, hence Cart-er.

47. Schneider means "Tailor" in german.

The English version is, of course, Taylor.

48. In german, Muller meant someone who operated a mill.

The English version of that one is, also of course, Miller, and they both would have needed a wright to build their mill.

49. In England a Cooper was someone who made barrels.

If you get a bunch of barrel makers together in tiny cars you have many coopers in Mini Coopers.

50. Moore has multiple meanings.

 It may have meant someone who lived by a moor or someone who worked on boats, or someone who was dark-skinned, like Othello.

51. In Old English, Spending time near a pear tree got you called Perry.

Close-up of a bunch of golden pears on the branch of a pear tree
PaulGrecaud iStock via Getty Images

That sort of feels like a lazy nickname situation. In French, it was someone who worked in a quarry.

52. Turner might mean you're fast or spin things.

Turner also has a couple different origins. It might mean "turn hare," or someone who can run faster than a hare. It could also mean "one who works with a lathe".

52. In portuguese and spanish, torres means "tower."

So, someone with that last name was someone who lived by a tower.

53. In German, Hoffman meant someone who was a steward on an estate.

Or someone associated with a farm. Either way, do not hassle the Hoffman. 

54. LEWIS COMES FROM MANY DIFFERENT CULTURES.

Thus, it has a few different meanings. Like, an English Lewis was the son of a Lowis. Lewis also developed various first names in France and Germany and Normandy and so on. Those with the last name Llewellyn, in Welsh, usually becomes Lewis' in English. They all came from the Frankish name "Hludwig" which meant "Famous Battle."

55. Young was for for the youngest child.

You might also might have earned the surname if you were young at heart.

56. Weber is german for weaver.

A woman weaving at a hand loom.
WichitS iStock via Getty Images

It probably stemmed form the Old English word "webbe," which meant "to weave."

57. King means ruler.

In English, King obviously means leader, but many people adopted it who weren't rulers, and it was used as a nickname quite often. You'll notice, for instance, that the Queen of England is not named Elizabeth Queen. But the name became popular among American immigrants from Ireland, and in the 16th century it was also common to give orphans in France the last name Roi, meaning "king."

58. Garcia might have something to do with a bear.

The etymology of Garcia isn't certain but most believe it came from a Basque word meaning "bear," or else "young bear."

59. Rodriguez means "Famous Chief."

But it may also have come from a word meaning "The red-haired one." So, if you're a famous red-haried chief, you're all set.

60. Campbell is a combination of terms.

It's two Scottish-Gaelic words: "Cam" meaning "Crooked," and "Bell" meaning "Mouth." Shout out to all the crooked mouths out there.

61. Abdullah means "Servant of God."

It's popular among Arabic Jews, Christians, and Muslims.

62. Mwangi is the most popular surname in Kenya.

And it means "rapid expansion."

In this week's episode, John Green examines the origins of 62 surnames. For a transcript, click here.

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10 Forgotten Rankin/Bass Christmas Specials

A scene from Rudolph's Shiny New Year (1976).
A scene from Rudolph's Shiny New Year (1976).
Rankin/Bass Productions

If you're prone to picturing your favorite Christmas characters as stop-motion puppets, you can thank Rankin/Bass. The production company founded by Arthur Rankin Jr. and Jules Bass found success in transforming holiday songs and myths into fully-developed television specials in the 1960s, '70s, and '80s. Their most popular specials, like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Frosty the Snowman, are still staples of holiday programming decades after they first aired.

But not every holiday film that played under the Rankin/Bass banner was an instant success. After adapting the most beloved Christmas stories, the company broadened its definition of holiday material, with varying degrees of success. Some films were forgettable, and others were so strange and unsettling that young viewers forced themselves to forget. Here are some Rankin/Bass specials that may be missing from holiday television marathons this year.

1. Rudolph’s Shiny New Year (1976)

Scene from Rudolph's Shiny New Year.
Rankin/Bass Productions

After the stressful events of his 1964 Christmas special, Rudolph deserved a vacation. In Rudolph's Shiny New Year (1976), the red-nosed reindeer barely has a day to rest before being sent on his next adventure. When Santa Claus and his reindeer return home to the North Pole after delivering presents on Christmas, they learn that Happy the Baby New Year is missing. It’s up to Rudolph to bring him home before midnight on New Year’s Eve or else the calendar will be stuck at December 31. And because it wouldn’t be a Rankin/Bass cartoon without a terrifying villain, a vulture named Eon the Terrible is racing to catch Happy first so he can live forever. Thankfully, Rudolph has a caveman, a Medieval knight, and Benjamin Franklin on his side.

2. The Little Drummer Boy, Book II (1976)

Scene from The Little Drummer Boy, Book II.
Rankin/Bass Productions

The Little Drummer Boy from 1968 ends with the birth of Jesus Christ, a.k.a. the events of Christmas. This meant that Rankin/Bass’s most overtly religious Christmas special wasn’t an obvious choice for a follow-up, but the studio still released one in 1976. The Little Drummer Boy, Book II is inspired by "Silver Bells"—a song whose lyrics have nothing to do with the first Christmas at Bethlehem. In the sequel, the drummer boy Aaron and the wise man Melchior join forces to protect silver bells made for baby Jesus from the Roman soldiers plotting to steal them.

3. Nestor, the Long-Eared Christmas Donkey (1977)

Scene from Nestor, the Long-Eared Christmas Donkey.
Rankin/Bass Productions

By the late 1970s, it was apparent that Rankin/Bass was running out of Christmas myths to expand into television specials. Nestor, the Long-Eared Christmas Donkey, their 1977 stop motion film, tells the story of an outcast donkey who experiences a series of traumatic events during the Roman Empire. After being bullied by other animals, left for dead by his owner, and suffering the loss of his mother, Nestor becomes a hero by carrying a pregnant Mary to Bethlehem, where she gives birth to Jesus. Needless to say, Nestor, the Long-Eared Donkey didn’t have the same cultural impact as Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

4. The First Christmas: The Story of the First Christmas Snow (1975)

Scene from The First Christmas.
Rankin/Bass Productions

It may have a happy ending, but The First Christmas (1975) is the bleakest movie on this list. An orphaned shepherd named Lucas is taken in by a group of nuns after he’s blinded by lightning. When snow falls during the abbey’s Christmas pageant, Lucas miraculously regains his eyesight and sees snow for the first time. The story swaps Rankin/Bass's signature humor and fantasy for heavy-handed sentimentality, which may be why it didn’t land as well with kids as the company’s other holiday specials. One highlight is a voice performance by Angela Lansbury as the narrator.

5. Jack Frost (1979)

Scene from Jack Frost.
Rankin/Bass Productions

So this film from 1979 is technically a Groundhog Day special, but its connection to winter means it’s usually lumped in with the rest of Rankin/Bass’s Christmas programming. A groundhog named Pardon-Me-Pete (voiced by Buddy Hackett) narrates the story of Jack Frost. After Jack Frost falls in love with a woman on Earth, Father Winter agrees to make him human, with the catch that Jack will turn back into a sprite if he fails to obtain a house, a horse, a bag of gold, and a wife by the first sign of spring. The special is notable for its weird characters, including a villain with a clockwork horse and henchmen. And—spoiler alert!—because Jack doesn’t get the girl at the end, it’s one of the few Rankin/Bass films that doesn’t have a happy ending.

6. Rudolph and Frosty's Christmas in July (1979)

Scene from Rudolph and Frosty's Christmas in July.
Rankin/Bass Productions

In 1979, Rankin/Bass gave two of its most iconic Christmas characters—Frosty the Snowman and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer—their own movie. The studio was so confident in the product that Rudolph and Frosty's Christmas in July even had a brief theatrical release overseas. But the film has failed to take the place of the original specials in the public consciousness—maybe because seeing snow snakes terrorize Rudolph and watching an evil wizard transform into a tree were too much for younger viewers to handle.

7. Pinocchio's Christmas (1980)

Scene from Pinocchio's Christmas.
Rankin/Bass Productions

The story of Pinocchio may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Christmas, but that didn’t stop Rankin/Bass from turning the classic Italian fairytale into a holiday special. Pinocchio's Christmas (1980) features many of the same themes and characters as The Adventures of Pinocchio—only this version of the tale centers around the puppet’s first Christmas. Santa Claus even makes a cameo appearance.

8. The Stingiest Man in Town (1978)

Scene from The Stingiest Man in Town.
Rankin/Bass Productions

Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol is one of the most widely adapted stories of all time, so of course it shows up in Rankin/Bass’s filmography. An insect named B.A.H. Humbug narrates this musical retelling from 1978, with Walter Matthau starring as Ebeneezer Scrooge. The Stingiest Man in Town joins Frosty the Snowman as one of the few Rankin/Bass Christmas productions made with traditional 2D animation instead of stop-motion.

9. The Leprechauns' Christmas Gold (1981)

Scene from The Leprechaun's Christmas Gold.
Rankin/Bass Productions

Rankin/Bass’s streak of mashing up Christmas with other holidays reached peak weirdness in 1981. That’s when the studio released The Leprechauns' Christmas Gold—a story that follows a young Irish sailor who helps a clan of leprechauns protect their gold from an evil banshee named Old Mag the Hag. By trying to create a special that could air around Christmas and St. Patrick’s Day, the filmmakers ended up with something that made little sense at any time of year.

10. The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus (1985)

Scene from The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus.
Rankin/Bass Productions

In 1970, Rankin/Bass explored how Kris Kringle became Santa Claus with Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town. Fifteen years later, the studio produced a film that provided an alternate origin story for the character, based on L. Frank Baum's 1902 children's book of the same name. This second special wasn’t as well-received as the first. It starts with an antler-sporting sorcerer called the Great Ak finding an abandoned baby in the forest. The child is taken in and raised by wood nymphs, eventually growing up to become a jolly man who delivers toys to children—all while fighting monsters called Awgwas on the side. It ends with a council of mythical beings granting Santa Claus immortality. What was arguably Rankin/Bass’s most unusual Christmas special was also the last to use stop-motion animation.

25 Surprising Facts About Love Actually

Bill Nighy stars in Love Actually (2003).
Bill Nighy stars in Love Actually (2003).
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Though it’s officially classified as a romantic comedy, Love Actually—Richard Curtis’s intertwining tale of love and loss in London in the midst of the Christmas season—has become a staple of holiday movie marathons everywhere. Here are 25 things you might not have known about the hit 2003 film.

1. Love Actually‘s airport footage was shot with hidden cameras.

Footage of passengers being welcomed and embraced by loved ones at Heathrow Airport was shot on location with hidden cameras for a week. In the film’s DVD commentary, writer-director Richard Curtis explains that when something special was caught on camera, a crew member would race out to have its subjects sign a waiver so the moment might be included in Love Actually. This was a fitting production device, as Curtis claims that watching the love expressed at the arrival gate of LAX is what inspired him to write the ensemble romance in the first place.

2. Four plot lines were cut from Love Actually.

Curtis initially aimed to include 14 love stories in the film. Two were clipped in the scripting phase, but two were shot and cut in post. Those lost before production involved a girl with a wheelchair, and one about a boy who records a love song for a classmate who ultimately hooks up with his drummer. Shot but cut for time was a brief aside featuring an African couple supporting each other during a famine, and another storyline that followed home a school headmistress, revealing her long-time commitment to her lesbian partner.

3. A fifth of Love Actually is commonly cut from television broadcasts.

Martin Freeman in ‘Love Actually’ (2003)
Universal Studios

It might be of little surprise that the raciest element of this holiday movie rarely makes it on TV. The love story of John and Judy has Martin Freeman and Joanna Page playing a pair of stand-ins on an erotic drama. Their scenes have the pair mimicking sex acts, but even as simulations of simulated sex, their storyline is usually deemed too hot for TV.

4. Martine McCutcheon’s role in Love Actually was penned just for her.

Curtis wrote his screenplay with some stars in mind, including Hugh Grant, Emma Thompson, and McCutcheon, the charismatic English ingénue best known for her role on BBC drama EastEnders. So sure was Curtis that he wanted McCutcheon for the role of the love interest to the Prime Minister that he had the character’s name as "Martine" in early drafts. Curtis explained in the DVD commentary that the name was changed to "Natalie" before McCutcheon’s audition, "so she wouldn’t get cocky."

5. Richard Curtis sent request letters to his American talent.

Laura Linney, Billy Bob Thornton, and Denise Richards received letters asking them to consider a role in the film. Both actresses were impressed by the unconventional move, but Linney told The Daily Beast she was even more flattered by its contents.

"I got a letter in the mail from Richard Curtis saying that he’d been trying to cast this part, and he’d kept saying to his partner, Emma Freud, that he’d been looking for a ‘Laura Linney-type,’ and she said, ‘Why don’t you ask Laura Linney?’"

6. Bill Nighy didn’t realize he had auditioned for Love Actually.

Bill Nighy in ‘Love Actually’
Peter Mountain, Universal Pictures

This was the first collaboration between Nighy and Curtis, with the former playing the shameless, comeback-seeking rocker Billy Mack. On the film’s 10-year anniversary, Nighy recalled to The Daily Beast, "I did a rehearsal reading of the script as a favor to the great casting director, Mary Selway, who had been trying to get me into a film for a long time. I thought it was simply to help her hear the script aloud and to my genuine surprise I was given the job."

7. Love Actually‘s actors had their own trailer park village during production.

"We didn’t all film together, but we had a big trailer park for all the cast," Nighy told The Guardian. "There were so many famous people in there, we used to talk about being on Liam Neeson Way or Emma Thompson Road or Hugh Grant Avenue. And it was a masterpiece of diplomacy, too; we all had the same size and type of trailer." Linney remembered the place having a warm sense of community.

8. One scene from Love Actually was lifted directly from Four Weddings And A Funeral.

In Four Weddings and a Funeral, also penned by Curtis, there was a scene where Hugh Grant’s character Charles flirts with a woman at a wedding by mocking the terrible catering, only to discover that she is the caterer. The scene was cut from the 1994 film, but was reshot nearly a decade later with Kris Marshall acting out the flirtatious faux pas. In the commentary track, Curtis admits that some drafts of the Love Actually script still had Charles’s name on portions of the scene.

9. The late Joanna was played by a real-life Richard Curtis crush.

In the commentary, Curtis also confessed his affection and admiration for writer-director Rebecca Frayn and how it led to a heartbreaking scene in Love Actually. She’s uncredited in the film because she never has a scene to perform. But when Curtis needed images to create a slideshow of Sam’s beloved mum/Daniel’s departed wife, he turned to Frayn, asking for "all the prettiest pictures of her from her whole life." In real-life, Frayn is married to Oscar-nominated Scottish producer Andy Harries.

10. Emma Thompson shot her crying scene 12 times.

Arguably the saddest moment in Love Actually is when Thompson’s character realizes her husband has been unfaithful. In the privacy of their bedroom, she listens to Joni Mitchell’s "Both Sides Now" and weeps.

"We decided to do it like how Mike Newell did it in Four Weddings—I shot in medium-wide, and didn’t move the camera," Curtis recalled. "We just let it happen, and Emma walked into the room 12 times in a row and sobbed. It was an amazing feat of acting." He also noted this was the only scene she was asked to perform that day.

11. Hugh Grant did not want to dance.

Though Grant and Curtis had worked together on Notting Hill, Bridget Jones’s Diary, and Four Weddings and a Funeral, they had a deep disagreement on how the Prime Minister should be played. Grant wanted it to be a grounded performance and resented Curtis’s push to make the part more whimsical. This came to a head when shooting Grant’s dance number, which the actor refused to rehearse.

"He kept on putting it off, and he didn’t like the song—it was originally a Jackson 5 song, but we couldn’t get it—so he was hugely unhappy about it," Curtis explained. "We didn’t shoot it until the final day and it went so well that when we edited it, it had gone too well, and he was singing along with the words!" It was a tricky thing to cut, but the final result with Girls Aloud’s cover of “Jump (For My Love)” speaks for itself.

12. Tony Blair found it impossible to live up to Hugh Grant’s fictional prime minister.

In 2005, when facing criticism for his dealings with the United States, then-Prime Minister Tony Blair responded by saying, "I know there’s a bit of us that would like me to do a Hugh Grant in Love Actually and tell America where to get off. But the difference between a good film and real life is that in real life there’s the next day, the next year, the next lifetime to contemplate the ruinous consequences of easy applause."

13. It took 45 minutes to pick out Aurelia’s underwear.

When the loose pages of Jamie’s (Colin Firth) in-progress novel blow into a nearby lake, Aurelia (Lúcia Moniz) is quick to strip down and dive in to rescue them. But in the DVD commentary, Curtis admits that what she wore beneath her cozy sweater was a major matter of debate that involved a lengthy meeting with his producers and 20 different sets of bras and panties to be considered.

14. Simon Pegg auditioned for Love Actually.

Before he broke out with 2004’s Shaun of the Dead, Simon Pegg was best known for his work on the British sitcom Spaced. It was in this stage of his career that he was eyed for the role of Rufus, the jewelry salesman in Love Actually. However, Curtis ended up casting Rowan Atkinson, who was not only a bigger star but a longtime friend from their college days; the two had previously worked together on Four Weddings and A Funeral, Mr. Bean, and Black Adder.

15. Rowan Atkinson’s character was meant to be an angel.

Rather than just an overenthusiastic gift wrapper with a good Samaritan streak at the airport, Atkinson’s Rufus was initially written as a heavenly helper in disguise. A scene was even shot were he’d evaporate after helping Sam get past security at Heathrow. "But in the end," Curtis said in commentary, "the film turned out so sort of multiplicitous that the idea of introducing an extra layer of supernatural beings was (too much)."

16. Sarah’s apartment is based on Helen Fielding’s.

When Sarah (Laura Linney) takes her office crush Karl (Rodrigo Santoro) back to her flat, a crane shot reveals that her bedroom is perched above the first floor, with a half-wall serving as a sort of balcony. In the DVD commentary track, Curtis mentioned this layout was poached from the Bridget Jones’s Diary author’s home. To him, it seemed a charming staging place for this tender seduction scene.

17. Test audiences spurred a change to the ending of Sarah’s story.

Curtis originally intended for Sarah and Karl’s love story to fizzle out after the phone call from her brother. However, when Love Actually was screened to test audiences, the feedback begged for a clearer resolution. So Curtis provided it, creating an extra scene in reshoots that made it unmistakable that Sarah and Karl would not end up together. "Be careful what you wish for," he warned on the DVD commentary.

18. Andrew Lincoln hand-wrote those romantic signs.


Peter Mountain, Universal Pictures

In 2013, The Walking Dead star reminisced about his climactic gesture in Love Actually with Entertainment Weekly, and revealed, "It is my handwriting! It’s funny, because the art department did it, and then I said, ‘Well, can I do it?’ because I like to think that my handwriting is really good. Actually, it ended up with me having to sort of trace over the art department’s, so it is my handwriting, but with a sort of pencil stencil underneath."

19. The American bar scene included some improv.


Peter Mountain, Universal Studios

Regarding the scene where three American girls (Elisha Cuthbert, January Jones, and Ivana Milicevic) flirt with Kris Marshall, Cuthbert told VH1, "It was such a creative space and we were allowed to improvise and try different things and it wasn’t just completely set into Richard’s writing. I mean we were allowed to sort of venture … It was nice that we got to sort of play around.”

Curtis remembers it differently, noting in the commentary track that the Brits were "respectful" with his script, but these Americans wanted to "pep it up a bit."

20. Bernard is a running joke based on a real man.

Every film Curtis writes contains a "Bernard," and he’s always the butt of a joke. In Love Actually, he’s the son of Thompson’s character who is described as "horrid." This all dates back to a love triangle that didn’t turn in Curtis’s favor. Bernard was the name of a young man who won the heart of Curtis’s crush Anne, and so he will forever be lampooned. In real life, Bernard is a successful politician, namely Bernard Jenkin, Member of Parliament for Harwich and North Essex since 2010.

21. Olivia Olson’s performance of “All I Want for Christmas Is You” was too good—which was problematic.

Over 200 girls auditioned for the part of Joanna, the talent show star that young Sam (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) falls hard for. But with pipes that blew away the casting director, Olivia Olson blew the competition away. In the commentary track, Curtis notes that Olson sang the song "All I Want For Christmas Is You" so flawlessly that he feared it sounded manufactured. He had sound editors cut in breaths to the performance to make it more believable.

22. Sam and Joanna reunited in 2008.

Child stars Thomas Brodie-Sangster and Olivia Olson were utterly adorable together as drum-playing Sam and his grade school crush Joanna. But Love Actually wasn’t the end of the pair’s onscreen romance. They were reunited in 2008 when Olson joined the voice cast of the Disney Channel cartoon show Phineas and Ferb. While Brodie-Sangster lends his voice to the oft-silent Ferb, Olson often sings as Ferb’s crush, the sleek and cool Vanessa Doofenshmirtz.

23. The movie has already been remade—three times!

The central concept of a movie packed with stars and intertwining love stories has been translated into a trio of films. The first is the Indian offering A Tribute To Love, an unofficial remake in the Hindi language. Next, Poland took a turn with Letters to St. Nicolas. The most recent version is Japan’s It All Began When I Met You, which borrows the concept as well as the film’s poster layout.

24. Love Actually got a sequel (of sorts) in 2017.

In March 2017, in celebration of Red Nose Day, Curtis and several members of the original cast—including Grant, Knightley, Firth, Neeson, Nighy, Lincoln, and Atkinson—reprised their characters for a short film, Red Nose Day Actually, that caught viewers up on what the characters are doing today.

"I would never have dreamt of writing a sequel to Love Actually, but I thought it might be fun to do 10 minutes to see what everyone is now up to," Curtis said when the project was announced. "Who has aged best?—I guess that’s the big question ... or is it so obviously Liam?" The short debuted in the U.K. on March 24, 2017, but American audiences had to wait until May 25, 2017 to see what happened to their favorite characters. (Here’s a cheat sheet.)

25. Alan Rickman’s death prevented Emma Thompson from appearing in the sequel.

Alan Rickman and Emma Thompson in Love Actually (2003)
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

When it was announced that Curtis would be revisiting some of the Love Actually characters for a short sequel, he knew right away that out of respect for Alan Rickman—who passed away in early 2016—he did not want to revisit Emma Thompson’s character.

"Richard wrote to me and said, ‘Darling we can’t write anything for you because of Alan,’ and I said, ‘No of course, it would be sad, too sad,’" Thompson explained. "It’s too soon. It’s absolutely right because it’s supposed to be for Comic Relief, but there isn’t much comic relief in the loss of our dear friend really only just over a year ago."

But the 2003 film wasn’t the end of the story for Thompson and Rickman’s characters. In 2015, Curtis’s longtime partner Emma Freud live tweeted some details of what happened to the couple after the credits rolled. The short version? "They stay together but home isn’t as happy as it once was," according to Freud.

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