Like Four Weddings and a Funeral before it and Love Actually later, Notting Hill was another British rom-com hit written by Richard Curtis featuring Hugh Grant. But this movie also starred Julia Roberts, in a stretch of a role that saw her playing Hollywood film star Anna Scott. Anna and Grant's character, Notting Hill travel book shop proprietor Will Thacker, fall for one another despite their differences in nationality and wage class, to the bafflement and excitement of Will's friends.
1. RICHARD CURTIS GOT THE IDEA FOR THE FILM WHILE LYING IN BED ONE NIGHT.
"When I was lying sleepless at nights I would sometimes wonder what it would be like if I just turned up at my friends’ house, where I used to have dinner once a week, with the most famous person at that time, be it Madonna or whomever, " Richard Curtis recalled. "It all sprang from there ... That was the starting point, the idea of a very normal person going out with an unbelievably famous person and how that impinges on their lives."
2. CURTIS LISTENED TO THE SAME SONG OVER AND OVER WHILE WRITING IT.
"There’s a version of 'Downtown Train' by Tom Waits performed by Everything But The Girl and when I was writing Notting Hill, that was all I listened to," Curtis revealed in 2014. "There was something I sensed in the background and in the tone and in the mood of that song which is what I wanted to reach at the best moment of the film."
3. ANNA SCOTT WAS NOT BASED ON JULIA ROBERTS.
Curtis said Anna Scott was a hybrid of Grace Kelly and Audrey Hepburn. Still, as far as Curtis, Hugh Grant, and director Roger Michell were concerned, Julia Roberts was the perfect choice for the part.
4. ROBERTS WASN'T IMPRESSED BY THE SYNOPSIS.
"When I sat to read [the script], I did not have any great expectations," Roberts admitted. "I had been given a brief synopsis and it sounded unappealing. But when I read it, from the very start with her going into the bookshop and she seems very mysterious and there is this guy having all these troubles and they leave and collide and she is at his house and she kisses him, I thought 'Jesus Christ, this is great', I was completely sucked in."
5. MIKE NEWELL SAID NO TO DIRECTING THIS ONE.
Four Weddings and a Funeral director Mike Newell was offered the director's chair on Notting Hill, but said no, as he felt he had "done a Notting Hill already." He opted to direct Pushing Tin (1999) instead.
6. GRANT COMPLAINED ABOUT ROBERTS'S VOICE.
Grant walked around the set complaining that Roberts' voice was "significantly lower" than his. At first, Grant's voice was higher than usual because he was nervous.
7. ROBERTS REALLY, REALLY HATED ONE LINE IN PARTICULAR.
She took issue with paraphrasing Rita Hayworth's famous line, “They go to bed with Gilda, they wake up with me.” “I hate to say anything negative about what Richard wrote, because he’s a genius, but I hated saying that line,” Roberts said. “To me, it was nails on a chalkboard. I don’t really believe any of that.”
8. LEONARDO DICAPRIO (INADVERTENTLY) CAUSED A PRODUCTION HASSLE.
Roger Michell wanted to shoot Anna's big film premiere in London's Leicester Square, but they were denied permission. "Unfortunately when the producers applied for the essential permissions, they were declined," Curtis explained. "It seems that the previous month there had been a huge premiere attended by Leonardo DiCaprio where thousands of fans had caused enormous problems for the police. So they were not willing to take actual responsibility for us staging a 'fake' premiere. However, it was eventually accomplished through a health and safety act"
9. THEY SHOT IT IN RICHARD CURTIS' NEIGHBORHOOD.
In order to get the most cooperation from as many Notting Hill residents and business owners as possible, Curtis (who himself called Notting Hill home) and his team wrote thousands of letters pledging goodwill payments to more than 200 different charities.
10. JULIA ROBERTS KEPT ADDING TO HER SALARY.
When Bernie (Hugh Bonneville), unaware of Anna's level of fame, asks her how much she made in her last movie, Roberts ad libbed the number. Initially in the script and during rehearsals, she said $10 million. In future takes, she changed it to $12 million. In the third take of her close-up, she said $15 million. Bonneville later asked Roberts why she kept changing the figure. She replied, "I’m kind of tired of low-balling!’
11. ROBERTS MADE CURTIS FEEL ASHAMED.
"I remember feeling ashamed when we were trying to cast [for the role of] Julia Roberts’s husband in Notting Hill and she pointed out that everyone on our list was at least 20 years older than her," Curtis claimed. "The reverse would never be true.”
12. GRANT'S BLUE DOOR IS CURTIS'S BLUE DOOR.
The exterior to Will's home—including the blue door—was once owned by Curtis. After the movie came out, the home's new owners—annoyed by all of the fans who came to visit the location—painted the door black. After it was sold again, the door was painted back to blue.
13. GRANT WAS CRITICAL OF ROBERTS' KISSING BECAUSE OF HER LARGE MOUTH.
14. THE ORIGINAL CUT WAS THREE AND A HALF HOURS LONG.
Nearly 90 minutes were cut, and the theatrical version was two hours and four minutes long.
15. THEY HAD TO DESTROY LA MARIÉE.
It was a copy of Marc Chagall's painting, but the producers had to agree to destroy the painting once filming was finished, to avoid the potential selling of a fake. In 1999, the real painting was worth between $500,000 and $1 million. Curtis chose the painting because he's a fan of Chagall and thought the image depicted "a yearning for something that's lost."