Kris Marshall returned his pay check for the scene where the three American girls undress him. He said he had such a great time having three girls undress him for twenty-one takes, that he was willing to do it for free, and thus returned his check for that day.
When casting the part of Sarah, Richard Curtis auditioned a great many British girls, but kept saying, "I want someone like Laura Linney..." The Casting Director eventually snapped and said, "Oh, for fuck's sake, get Laura Linney then." She then auditioned and got the part.
The lake, in which Lúcia Moniz and Colin Firth are "swimming", was actually only eighteen inches deep and they had to kneel down and pretend to be in deeper water. It was also over-run by mosquitoes, and Colin Firth was badly bitten, and his elbow swelled up to the size of an avocado, requiring medical attention.
Olivia Olson (Joanna - Sam's crush), does all her own singing in "All I Want for Christmas is You" at the Christmas concert. She had such an amazing voice, that Director Richard Curtis had it edited, so it sounded more like a child singing.
A speech given by Hugh Grant in this film (where he extols the virtues of Great Britain and refuses to cave to the pressure of its longstanding ally, the United States) was etched in the transatlantic memory as a satirical, wishful statement on the concurrent relationship with George W. Bush. Tony Blair responded by saying in 2005, "I know there's a bit of us that would like me to do a Hugh Grant in Love Actually (2003) 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."
The idea for Mark's surprise of the band singing "All You Need Is Love" at Peter and Juliet's wedding came from Jim Henson's funeral (which Richard Curtis attended) where all the puppeteers brought their Muppets and sang a song.
The airport greeting footage at the beginning and end of the film is real. Richard Curtis had a team of cameramen film at Heathrow airport for a week, and whenever they saw something that would fit in they asked the people involved for permission to use the footage.
Knowing about Billy Bob Thornton's quite unusual fear of antique furniture, Hugh Grant would sometimes flash a piece of antique (which is abundant in England) in front of Thornton just before the cameras rolled, and watch him freak out in amusement.
When Daniel says "We need Kate and we need Leo and we need them now", a toothpick can be seen in Daniel's left hand as he says "now". Later, Sam has a toothpick in his mouth while he and Daniel are lounging on a couch. What Richard Curtis describes as "this toothpick business" was a result of Liam Neeson never being without a toothpick after he gave up smoking.
Lúcia Moniz, who plays the maid Aurelia, got the part as a result of a joke by a friend of hers, who is a casting director, and sent her photos to this movie's casting director. Lúcia went to the casting and ended up being chosen.
In the version edited and broadcast in the U.S. on the ABC Family Channel, the entire subplot of John and Just Judy (the characters in the ersatz "porn" movie) is completely edited out, and, even with those and other cuts, the film ran three hours with commercials.
With the exception of Sam's running through the airport scenes, and the footage of people greeting each other, all airport scenes were filmed on a built set, which cost most of the budget for the movie. Some of these scenes include Colin leaving for, and arriving in Wisconsin, and Sam shouting at Joanna through the glass, and all footage of the actors at the airport.
Laura Linney filmed this movie in London, while she was working on Mystic River (2003) in Boston. She flew across the Atlantic Ocean several times within few months, in order to complete her work on both films.
The dolls that Emma Thompson holds up are Ken dolls dressed in drag. Richard Curtis just asked the prop people to take Ken and put him in dresses. Emma Thompson had such a difficult time with the scene, saying she just could not lift the dolls knowing that they were Ken in drag, but in the end she gave in and shot the scene.
When Juliet (Keira Knightley) visits Mark (Andrew Lincoln) in his flat to view the footage he shot on her wedding day, a video copy of Hitchcock's Rear Window (1954) can be seen. One of the main themes in Rear Window is voyeurism or watching something or someone, and as we see that is exactly what Mark was doing to Juliet without her knowledge.
Thomas Sangster, who was thirteen years old when he played Sam in this movie, was cast as a thirteen-year-old again a decade later. Sangster started playing the young teen Jojen Reed in the television series Game of Thrones (2011) in 2013, while he was in his mid-twenties.
Number 10 Downing Street in the movie is not, of course, the actual Prime Minister's residence, but a replica. The exterior was created in the Shepperton Studios car park and the interior is a set. In preparation for the movie, Richard Curtis and his Production Designer Jim Clay were escorted on a two-hour tour of the actual Number 10 by Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown (Prime Minister June 2007-May 2010). They were not permitted to take photographs or make sketches of the interiors, and throughout the entire tour they were flanked by security. The "Number 10" that appears in the movie was designed by Clay, solely from memory.
Andrew Lincoln wrote the romantic cards himself. In 2013, Andrew reminisced about his climactic gesture in this film 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."
All four leading stars of Sense and Sensibility (1995), technically appear in this film, with Hugh Grant, Emma Thompson, and Alan Rickman playing leading roles, and Kate Winslet appearing in stock footage of Titanic (1997).
In the scene after Sarah leaves Harry's office following their conversation about her feelings for co-worker Karl, two clocks can be seen on the wall, showing the time in New York and Brazil. Laura Linney (Sarah) is from New York, and Rodrigo Santoro (Karl) is from Brazil.
The video for Billy Mack's "Christmas is All Around" single is a clear reference to a series of memorable, and very popular, videos that Robert Palmer had done - "Addicted to Love", "Simply Irresistible", and "I Didn't Mean to Turn You On" - in which Palmer sings in a good suit, backed up by an all-female band, all dressed alike and dancing in a back-and-forth manner.
Richard Curtis was originally working on two films, one about Hugh Grant's character, and the other about Colin Firth's character. When the plots turned out to be so similar, he merged them into a single film.
The property surrounding the house, in which Colin Firth's character stays in France, including the dock that was specially built for the film, were heavily damaged by fire during the 2003 heat wave, but the house survived.
In Daniel's eulogy, he says that one of his wife's (joking) requests was to "bring Claudia Schiffer as my date to the funeral." Claudia Schiffer plays the mother of one of Sam's classmates, whom Daniel meets, and develops an interest in, near the end of the film.
One of the working titles is "Love Actually is All Around" taken from The Troggs' song "Love is All Around", written by Troggs lead singer Reg Presley. An alternate version by Wet Wet Wet featured in Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994) was at number one in the UK charts for 15 weeks in 1994, and Richard Curtis thought it would be amusing to start Love Actually (2003) with the same song that had driven everyone to distraction nine years earlier. For this film it is reworked by Bill Nighy's character, who turns it into a Christmas song. "Christmas is All Around", the resulting tacky joke theme song, was actually released in Britain in hopes that it would be "Number 1 for Christmas 2003".
The art gallery, where Andrew Lincoln works, is based on a real Southbank gallery called La Guff. It specialized in arty, but rubbish black and white pictures of butts - some of which can be seen in the movie.
Daniel owns a huge "Launderette" sign, visible around 26:54. Annie returns to Lisbon. At 1:20:42, Tony is shown to live upstairs from a launderette with the identical "Launderette" sign, and a delicatessen called "Lisboa."
The very last seconds of the movie the screen is filled with more and more scenes, each smaller and smaller, of people reuniting with loved ones. In the last split second, they form a big "heart" (or "valentine").
Several actors have worked together before in Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility (1995) (Emma Thompson, Hugh Grant, Alan Rickman, and Kate Winslet - who only appeared in footage from Titantic (1997) in this film). Kiera Knightly starred in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, as did Colin Firth, but not the same version (hers was film, his was for television).
Karen expresses surprise at the inclusion of (at least) two lobsters among the characters in her daughter's school Christmas pageant ("there was more than one lobster present at the birth of Jesus?"). Although there is a variety of small lobster (Palinurus elephas, also known as the common spiny lobster) native to the Mediterranean Sea, its habitat doesn't stretch as far east as the land that is now known as Israel. Furthermore, since Jesus' family was Jewish, and shellfish, like lobster, is forbidden to devout Jews, who observe the rules for keeping Kosher, Karen is correct that it is highly unlikely that there was any lobster present at Jesus' birth.
There are two actors in this film that played Sherlock Holmes' sidekick Dr. Watson. Martin Freeman (John the x-rated stand in) in Sherlock (2010), and Edward Hardwicke ( Liam Neeson's father-in-law in the funeral scene) in BBC's The Return of Sherlock Holmes (1986).
Billy Mack and his manager Joe are the only characters in the film whose storyline doesn't directly connect to any of the others. All the other main characters are linked via family, friendship or work.
Richard Curtis: [Bernard] When Curtis was in college, his girlfriend left him for a man named Bernard. In each of his screenplays, there is a fairly unpopular character named Bernard. In this case, the character is Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman's "horrid son".
For many years after this movie's release, viewers have argued about whether Harry (Alan Rickman) actually cheated on his wife, Karen (Emma Thompson), with his co-worker Mia (Heike Makatsch). In December 2015, Emma Freud (who was the movie's Script Editor, and is the life partner of Richard Curtis) confirmed on her Twitter account, that it was indeed a full-fledged sexual affair, and not just an inappropriate, but non-physical flirtation, as some viewers assumed it was. Freud also confirmed that Karen and Harry stayed married after Karen discovered the affair, "but home isn't as happy as it once was."
When Jamie Bennett appears to ask for the hand of the chubby Portuguese sister, her line is subtitled "But I've never seen him before." What she actually says in Portuguese is "But I've never seen him fatter". That's an idiomatic expression in Portuguese for "I've never seen him before".
When Colin Firth's character proposes to Aurelia, her sister tells her to accept so she can go to England and meet "Prince William instead." Firth played William's great-grandfather, George VI, in The King's Speech (2010).