Love Actually star Alan Rickman got frustrated while filming a scene with Rowan Atkinson, reveals romantic comedy director Richard Curtis.
Alan Rickman was as frustrated as his character during one Love Actually scene. Directed by Richard Curtis, Love Actually featured a talented ensemble cast navigating nine intertwined love stories in the weeks leading up to Christmas. The 2003 romantic comedy film starred Rickman as Harry, a married man who begins to fall for his secretary Mia (Heike Makatsch). One of the movie’s most tragic scenes comes when Harry’s wife Karen (Emma Thompson) realizes her husband’s potential infidelity due to him gifting her a Joni Mitchell CD after she had discovered a gold necklace in his coat pocket.
When Harry sets out to purchase said necklace, he does so while at the mall with his wife, who sets off on her own to buy presents for their mothers. Harry has a brief window of time in which to purchase the necklace for Mia and is almost foiled by the jewelry clerk Rufus’ (Rowan Atkinson) hilariously lengthy gift wrapping process. During ABC‘s The Laughter & Secrets of Love Actually: 20 Years Later – A Diane Sawyer Special (via Vanity Fair), Curtis reveals that Rickman was as frustrated as his character during Atkinson’s famous scene. Check out what Curtis says below:
“Rowan was just taking his time, so he would do eleven-minute takes, [then] he’d say… ‘look, let’s go back and do that, start [again],’ and poor Alan [Rickman] was there all the time going ‘grr, ugh.’”
Rowan Atkinson’s Love Actually Scene Was Essential
Rickman was not the only one to be frustrated by one of his character’s most well-known scenes in Love Actually, with Hugh Grant also revealing in the special that he hated filming his now-iconic dance sequence, which saw his Prime Minister character jamming out to The Pointer Sisters’ song “Jump.” Curtis’ comments display that both Rickman and Atkinson were very much in character both on and off-camera, with Rickman matching Harry’s exasperation and Atkinson staying true to Rufus’ meticulousness. Atkinson’s improvisation paid off, since his Love Actually gift wrapping scene is simultaneously one of the funniest and most excruciating scenes in the movie.
Though viewers aren’t necessarily rooting for Harry to get away with deceiving his wife, the character’s frustration is palpable through the screen, which makes sense since Rickman himself was reportedly feeling it heavily. Despite its maddening nature, Atkinson’s Love Actually scene is both key to the plot and an essential moment of comic relief. Without some levity, the prospect of Harry sneaking around Karen’s back to purchase a necklace for his secretary may have been too shady for viewers of the rom-com to stomach.
In addition, Rufus’ lengthy gift-wrapping process results in both Karen seeing Harry by the jewelry and Harry eschewing the gift-wrapping in favor of keeping the necklace in a box, a chain of events which leads to Karen sneaking a peek in Harry’s pocket and seeing the gift, which later clues her in to Harry’s potential affair. Atkinson’s amusingly prolonged method of doing things also comes into play later on, when he inadvertently helps Sam (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) pull off his grand romantic gesture of running through the airport by distracting the staff with his meticulous ways. In a way, Rufus is a hero of those two stories, enabling Sam to say goodbye to Joanna (Olivia Olson) as well as letting Karen know in a roundabout way about Harry’s infidelity. Despite Rufus’ importance to the plot, it’s understandable that Rickman was annoyed by Atkinson’s process while filming Love Actually.
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Source: The Laughter & Secrets of Love Actually: 20 Years Later – A Diane Sawyer Special (via Vanity Fair)