Seemingly giving rise to the popularity of British rom-coms and launching the career of Hugh Grant, the Oscar-nominated Four Weddings and a Funeral documents the romantic misadventures of a group of friends—led by Grant's Charles—who attend, you guessed it, four weddings and a funeral.
1. SCREENWRITER RICHARD CURTIS HAD PLENTY OF EXPERIENCE WITH WEDDINGS.
Richard Curtis (co-creator of Mr. Bean and writer-director of Love Actually) told some publications that he had attended 65 weddings in 11 years, then upped the number to 72. The writer came up with the idea for the film after a girl at one of those many weddings wanted to spend the night with him. Curtis turned the offer down and said he had regretted it ever since. He also said he wrote Four Weddings and a Funeral partially to explain to his mother why he had never married. It took Curtis 17 drafts to come up with the final script.
2. HUGH GRANT WAS NOT THE FIRST CHOICE TO PLAY CHARLES.
When auditioning for the role that would make him famous, Grant (Bitter Moon, The Remains of the Day) gave producers a tape of his best man wedding speech to his brother, where he kept making fun of the groom’s eye sty. Grant claimed that he was "very much unwanted. Richard Curtis did everything in his power to stop me getting the part after the audition. I remember it was a very traumatic audition." Curtis admitted it was true, saying he thought Grant was “too handsome” for the part. At one point, Alan Rickman was set to play Charles; Alex Jennings (who later played Prince Charles in The Queen) was reportedly Curtis’ first choice for the lead.
3. JEANNE TRIPPLEHORN WAS ORIGINALLY CAST AS CARRIE.
Jeanne Tripplehorn was cast in the role, but had to drop out because of a death in her family. Marisa Tomei was also offered the part, but similarly turned the opportunity down because her grandfather was very sick. It was reported that Sarah Jessica Parker was Curtis’ top choice.
4. ANDIE MACDOWELL WAS INSPIRED BY KATHARINE HEPBURN.
Andie MacDowell wanted to play a character different than her sexually repressed character Ann in Sex, Lies and Videotape (1989). She was inspired by Katharine Hepburn because Carrie was, as MacDowell explained to Entertainment Weekly in 1994, “the kind of role she would have played 40 years earlier. She was forthright, the one with power and intelligence, and the guts to say and do exactly what she wanted.”
5. MIKE NEWELL’S AGENT’S ASSISTANT CONVINCED HIM TO TAKE THE DIRECTING JOB.
Mike Newell (Enchanted April, Donnie Brasco) was known to be picky. "It was handed to me in my agent's office by a very bright and forthright assistant who, knowing that I said 'No' to everything, sort of hit me in the chest with it and said, 'You should do that,’” the director recalled of getting the screenplay.
6. EXTRAS WORE THEIR OWN WEDDING CLOTHES.
Conservative MP Amber Rudd helped the producers out for the movie, getting dignitaries such as the Earl of Burlington and Simon Marquis, 3rd Earl of Woolton to make unpaid cameos (or accept an extra’s pay). Her help landed Rudd an “Aristocracy Coordinator” title in the credits.
7. THE BUDGET WAS ONLY 2.7 MILLION POUNDS.
The film was shot for £2.7 million, or roughly $4.4 million. It was so low-budget that the cinematographer Michael Coulter got the establishing shot of the Scottish wilderness while on vacation, and the same vicar—played by Rowan Atkinson—appeared at two of the four weddings so they wouldn’t have to pay two different actors. It was all shot in 36 days.
8. HUGH GRANT WAS PAID LESS THAN $60,000 FOR THE ROLE.
9. GRANT WAS DEALING WITH ALLERGIES.
He had a bout of hay fever during production.
10. CURTIS HAD A REASON FOR NEVER REVEALING MOST OF THE CHARACTERS’ OCCUPATIONS.
“My argument was that when you’re hanging around with your friends, you don’t explain who you are," Curtis explained. " You don’t say, ‘Hello, Charles Bennett. How’s life at the bank since your father died?’"
11. AMERICAN FINANCIERS HAD A PROBLEM WITH ALL THE CURSING AND SEXUAL CONTENT.
They faxed notes claiming the sexual content and bad language would hurt the chances of Four Weddings and a Funeral being broadcast on American television, and specifically insisted on no oral sex or “excessive thrusting and screaming” orgasms. The U.S. distributors managed to have Newell and the actors re-shoot the first scene so that Grant says “bugger” instead of the F-word for a more family-friendly version to exist.
12. AT THE FIRST AMERICAN SCREENING, SOME PEOPLE WALKED OUT.
It was in Salt Lake City, Utah. The 30 person, Mormon-filled town council left the theater after witnessing the version of the opening scene with Charles saying "f**k." It was Grant’s first time seeing the entire film and he thought the walk-outs were a bad sign.
13. STUDIO EXECUTIVES WANTED THE TITLE CHANGED.
One claimed the title Four Weddings and a Funeral would turn men off from seeing it. Suggested alternatives included True Love and Near Misses, Loitering in Sacred Places, Rolling in the Aisles, Skulking Around, Toffs On Heat, Charles and Chums, and The Wedding Season.
14. SOME PEOPLE AT THE BRITISH PREMIERE WORE WEDDING DRESSES.
It was Richard Curtis’ idea. Two hundred of the 2000 people in attendance at Odeon Leicester Square got into the spirit. The wedding dresses were upstaged by Grant’s date, Elizabeth Hurley, and her famous black Versace dress, which was held together with oversized safety pins.
15. ANDIE MACDOWELL DEFENDS THE LINE EVERYONE MADE FUN OF.
MacDowell found herself having to defend the corny line about not noticing the rain. “‘The character was so in love, she wasn’t thinking about the fricking rain,” the actress told The Daily Mail. “I think perhaps it was raining a bit hard for the line. But that wasn’t my fault. Mike Newell was directing. I wasn’t going to disagree with him.” She said the scene was filmed in “six or seven” takes, and that nobody on the cast or crew thought “I didn’t notice” would become so well-known.