Notting Hill (film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Roger Michell|
|Produced by||Duncan Kenworthy|
|Written by||Richard Curtis|
|Music by||Trevor Jones|
|Edited by||Nick Moore|
|Box office||$364 million|
Notting Hill is a 1999 romantic comedy film directed by Roger Michell. The screenplay was written by Richard Curtis, author of Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994), and the film was produced by Duncan Kenworthy. The film stars Julia Roberts, Hugh Grant, Rhys Ifans, Emma Chambers, Tim McInnerny, Gina McKee, and Hugh Bonneville. The story is of a romance between a London book seller played by Grant and a famous American actress played by Roberts, who happens into his shop.
Released on 21 May 1999, Notting Hill was well received by critics and became the highest-grossing British film released in 1999. The film won a BAFTA, was nominated in two other categories, and won other awards, including a British Comedy Award and a Brit Award for the soundtrack.
William Thacker owns an independent book store in Notting Hill, London. Hollywood actress Anna Scott enters Will’s shop. Later on the street Will accidentally spills his drink on her, and she goes to his house to change and, upon leaving, impulsively kisses him. She later invites Will to visit her at the Ritz Hotel, but Will is mistaken for a reporter and must take part in the press junket for Anna’s new film in order to meet with her. Anna asks to be his date to his sister’s birthday party that evening, where she gets on well with Will’s friends and sister as they share stories. The next night they go out to dinner, where they both defend Anna upon hearing a group of diners disparaging her screen image. Anna later invites Will to her hotel room. Will is heartbroken to discover that her movie star boyfriend, who she had not mentioned, has unexpectedly flown in from America and is in her room. Will, pretending to be a hotel employee, leaves dejected. Over the next six months, Will’s friends set him up on a series of dates, including with a fruitarian, but he remains hung up on Anna.
One day, a distraught Anna appears at Will’s doorstep, in need of a place to hide from a tabloid scandal. She apologizes for the hotel incident, telling Will that her now ex-boyfriend simply showed up unannounced and that the relationship had broken down long before. They enjoy spending time together and discovering their shared interests, including Will’s print of Marc Chagall‘s 1950 painting La Mariée. They make love that night, and wake up happy the next morning. Their bliss is short-lived when the paparazzi, inadvertently tipped off by Will’s housemate Spike, besiege Will’s house and get pictures of him, Anna, and Spike half-dressed at the front door. Furious, Anna accuses Will of exploiting the situation, declares that she regrets their time together, and leaves.
Seasons pass and Will remains miserable. At a dinner with his friends, Will discovers Anna, by this time an Oscar winner, is back in London making a film. He visits her location shoot, where Anna sees him and invites him past security. Anna’s invites him to stay and watch the filming and that they will talk afterwards. Despite realizing that the film is a period Henry James rendition, as he had suggested she make, Will overhears her dismiss him to a co-star, and leaves. The next day, Anna comes to the bookshop with a wrapped gift, and apologizes. She explains that she did not want to truthfully discuss her private life with an indiscreet co-star. She asks Will to rekindle their relationship, but he rejects her, explaining that he will be inevitably be hurt again.
Will meets his friends and sister in a restaurant with the opened gift—Chagall’s original La Mariée (“The Bride”). They take turns supporting his decision by half-heartedly pointing out Anna’s flaws. Spike, however, declares Will a “daft prick,” and Will admits his mistake. They race across London to Anna’s hotel, where they learn that she has checked out and is holding a press conference at the Savoy Hotel. Will arrives to hear Anna’s publicist tells the crowd that Anna will be taking a year off and will be leaving the UK that night. Will, again pretending to be a reporter, admits he made the wrong decision and begs Anna to reconsider. After exchanging a few subtle glances with Will, Anna announces that she will be staying in Britain “indefinitely,” and the press is abuzz upon realizing that Will the “reporter” is Anna’s love interest. The final scenes show Anna and Will marrying, attending a Hollywood red carpet event, and spending quiet time in a park they had visited on their first date. Anna is now pregnant.
- Julia Roberts as Anna Scott
- Hugh Grant as William “Will” Thacker
- Hugh Bonneville as Bernie
- Emma Chambers as Honey Thacker
- James Dreyfus as Martin
- Rhys Ifans as Spike
- Tim McInnerny as Max
- Gina McKee as Bella
- Richard McCabe as Tony
- Dylan Moran as Rufus, the thief
- Henry Goodman as the Ritz Concierge
- Julian Rhind-Tutt as ‘Time Out’ Journalist
- Lorelei King as Anna’s Publicist
- John Shrapnel as Anna’s UK press agent
- Clarke Peters as ‘Helix’ Lead Actor
- Arturo Venegas as Foreign Actor in ‘Helix’.
- Yolanda Vazquez as Interpreter
- Mischa Barton as 12-year-old Actress in ‘Helix’
- Emily Mortimer as Perfect Girl
- Samuel West as Anna’s Co-star (as Sam West)
- Ann Beach as William’s Mother
- Alec Baldwin as Jeff King
- Simon Callow as Himself in Film-within-Film
- Joe Cornish as Fan Receiving Anna’s Autograph
- Matthew Modine as Actor in Film-within-Film
- Sally Phillips as Caroline (scenes deleted)
- Julia Roberts was the “one and only” choice for the role of Anna Scott, although Roger Michell and Duncan Kenworthy did not expect her to accept. Her agent told her it was “the best romantic comedy she had ever read”. Roberts said that after reading the script she decided she was “going to have to do this”.
- The decision to cast Hugh Grant as William Thacker was unanimous, as he and Richard Curtis had a “writer/actor marriage made in heaven“. Michell said that “Hugh does Richard better than anyone else, and Richard writes Hugh better than anyone else”, and that Grant is “one of the only actors who can speak Richard’s lines perfectly”.
- Mischa Barton appears as the child actor whom Will pretends to interview for Horse & Hound.
- The casting of Bonneville, McInnerny, McKee, Chambers, and Ifans as Will’s friends was “rather like assembling a family”. Michell explained that “When you are casting a cabal of friends, you have to cast a balance of qualities, of types and of sensibilities. They were the jigsaw that had to be put together all in one go, and I think we’ve got a very good variety of people who can realistically still live in the same world.”
- Sanjeev Bhaskar has a cameo role as a loud and offensive restaurant patron (who refers to Meg Ryan as “the actress who has an orgasm every time she’s taken out for a cup of coffee”) in the restaurant Anna and Will visit.
- Omid Djalili makes an uncredited cameo as the vendor who sells Will the orange juice that he accidentally spills on Anna moments later.
- Alec Baldwin makes an uncredited appearance as Anna’s boyfriend, Jeff King.
|“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. It all sprang from there. How would my friends react? Who would try and be cool? How would you get through dinner? What would they say to you afterwards?”|
|– Richard Curtis|
Richard Curtis developed the film from thoughts while lying awake at night. He described the starting point as “the idea of a very normal person going out with an unbelievably famous person and how that impinges on their lives”. In an interview with GQ in 2018, Hugh Grant claimed the film was based on real life and loosely followed a friend of Richard’s who fell in love with an ‘extremely world-famous person who [Grant wasn’t] allowed to mention’.
Four Weddings and a Funeral director Mike Newell was approached but rejected it to work on Pushing Tin. He said that in commercial terms he had made the wrong decision, but did not regret it. The producer, Duncan Kenworthy, then turned to Roger Michell, saying that “Finding someone as good as Roger, was just like finding the right actor to play each role. Roger shone out.”
Curtis chose Notting Hill as he lived there and knew the area, saying “Notting Hill is a melting pot and the perfect place to set a film”. This left the producers to film in a heavily populated area. Kenworthy noted “Early on, we toyed with the idea of building a huge exterior set. That way we would have more control, because we were worried about having Roberts and Grant on public streets where we could get thousands of onlookers.” In the end they decided to film in the streets. Michell was worried “that Hugh and Julia were going to turn up on the first day of shooting on Portobello Road, and there would be gridlock and we would be surrounded by thousands of people and paparazzi photographers who would prevent us from shooting”. The location team and security personnel prevented this, as well as preventing problems the presence of a film crew may have caused the residents of Notting Hill, who Michell believes were “genuinely excited” about the film. Location manager Sue Quinn described finding locations and getting permission to film as “a mammoth task”. Quinn and the rest of her team had to write to thousands of people in the area, promising to donate to each person’s favourite charity, resulting in 200 charities receiving money. Ishmahil Blagrove, who was involved in arranging the location shooting and casting extras for the film, has said that they deliberately involved residents in the production, such as hiring them for security, and compensating shop owners for the disruption to their businesses. He cast a diverse range of neighbourhood people – including a locally famous personality – as extras, but was shocked and disturbed that people of color were almost entirely absent from the final film.
|“The major problem we encountered was the size of our film unit. We couldn’t just go in and shoot and come out. We were everywhere. Filming on the London streets has to be done in such a way that it comes up to health and safety standards. There is no such thing as a road closure. We were very lucky in the fact that we had 100% cooperation from the police and the Council. They looked favorably on what we were trying to do and how it would promote the area.”|
|– Sue Quinn|
Stuart Craig, the production designer, was pleased to do a contemporary film, saying “we’re dealing with streets with thousands of people, market traders, shop owners and residents which makes it really complex”. Filming began on 17 April 1998 in West London and at Shepperton Studios. Will’s bookshop was on Portobello Road, one of the main areas in which filming took place. Other places within Notting Hill included Westbourne Park Road, Golborne Road, Landsdowne Road and the Coronet Cinema. Will’s house, 280 Westbourne Park Road, was owned by Richard Curtis and behind the entrance there is a grand house, not the flat in the film that was made up in the studios. The blue door was auctioned for charity. The current door is blue again. The Travel Book Store is located at 142 Portobello Road. After filming for six weeks in Notting Hill, filming moved to the Ritz Hotel, where work had to take place at night, the Savoy Hotel, the Nobu Restaurant, the Zen Garden of the Hempel Hotel and Kenwood House. One of the final scenes takes place at a film premiere, which presented difficulties. Michell wanted to film Leicester Square but was declined. Police had found fans at a Leonardo DiCaprio premiere problematic and were concerned the same might occur at the staged premiere. Through a health and safety act, the production received permission to film and constructed the scene in 24 hours. Interior scenes were the last to be filmed, at Shepperton Studios. The final cut was 3.5 hours long, 90 minutes edited out for release.
The film features the 1950 Marc Chagall painting La Mariée. Anna sees a print of the painting in William’s home and later gives him what is presumably the original. Michell said in Entertainment Weekly that the painting was chosen because Curtis was a fan of Chagall’s work and because La Mariée “depicts a yearning for something that’s lost.” The producers had a reproduction made for the film, but had to get permission from the owner as well as clearance from the Design and Artists Copyright Society. Finally, according to Kenworthy, “we had to agree to destroy it. They were concerned that if our fake was too good, it might float around the market and create problems.” The article also noted that “some experts say the real canvas could be worth between US$500,000 and US$1 million.”
The film features the book Istanbul: The Imperial City (1996) by John Freely. William recommends this book to Anna, commenting that (unlike another book in the store) the author has at least been to Istanbul. In reality, Freely taught at Boğaziçi University in Istanbul, and was the author of nine books about the city.
In the last scene of the film, Will is shown reading the 1994 book Captain Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernières.
Original music was composed by Trevor Jones. A main score was written, and excerpts were used throughout the film. The score was broken down into two songs for the soundtrack (Will and Anna/Notting Hill). Several additional songs written by other artists include Elvis Costello‘s cover of the Charles Aznavour song “She“, Shania Twain‘s remixed version of “You’ve Got A Way“, as well as Ronan Keating‘s specially recorded cover of “When You Say Nothing at All“; the song reached number one in the British charts. Pulp recorded new song “Born to Cry”, which was released on the European version of the soundtrack album.
The song played when Will strides down Portobello Road is “Ain’t No Sunshine” by Bill Withers. Tony and Bernie play “Blue Moon” on the piano at Tony’s restaurant on the night it closes. Originally, Charles Aznavour’s version of “She” was used in the film, but American test screening audiences did not respond to it. Costello was then brought in by Richard Curtis to record a cover version of the song. Both versions of the song appear in non-US releases.
The soundtrack album was released by Island Records.
US version track listing
- “No Matter What“ – Boyzone
- “You’ve Got a Way” (Notting Hill remix) – Shania Twain
- “I Do (Cherish You)“ – 98 Degrees
- “She“ – Elvis Costello
- “Ain’t No Sunshine“ – Bill Withers
- “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart?“ – Al Green
- “Gimme Some Lovin’“ – Spencer Davis Group
- “When You Say Nothing at All“ – Ronan Keating
- “Ain’t No Sunshine“ – Lighthouse Family
- “From the Heart“ – Another Level
- “Everything About You“ – Steve Poltz
- “Will and Anna” – Trevor Jones (Score)
- “Notting Hill” – Trevor Jones (Score)
The film score and original music was recorded and mixed by Gareth Cousins (who also mixed all the songs used in the film) and Simon Rhodes.
|Australia (ARIA)||2× Platinum||140,000^|
|Canada (Music Canada)||2× Platinum||200,000^|
|New Zealand (RMNZ)||Gold||7,500^|
|Switzerland (IFPI Switzerland)||Platinum||50,000^|
|United Kingdom (BPI)||Platinum||300,000^|
|United States (RIAA)||Platinum||1,330,000|
|*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone
The film had generally positive reviews, scoring an 83% “Certified fresh” rating at Rotten Tomatoes based on 100 reviews with an average rating of 7.1/10, the website’s critical consensus reads: “Charming performances provide romance aplenty.” Variety’s Derek Elley said that “It’s slick, it’s gawky, it’s 10 minutes too long, and it’s certainly not “Four Weddings and a Funeral Part 2″ in either construction or overall tone”, giving it an overall positive review. Cranky Critic called it “Bloody damned good”, as well as saying that it was “A perfect date flick.” Nitrate said that “Notting Hill is whimsical and light, fresh and quirky”, with “endearing moments and memorable characters”. In his review of the film’s DVD John J. Puccio noted that “the movie is a fairy tale, and writer Richard Curtis knows how much the public loves a fairy tale”, calling it “a sweet film”. Desson Howe of The Washington Post gave the film a very positive review, particularly praising Rhys Ifans’ performance as Spike. James Sanford gave Notting Hill three and a half stars, saying that “Curtis’ dialogue may be much snappier than his sometimes dawdling plot, but the first hour of Notting Hill is so beguiling and consistently funny it seems churlish to complain that the rest is merely good.” Sue Pierman of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel stated that “Notting Hill is clever, funny, romantic – and oh, yes, reminiscent of Four Weddings and a Funeral“, but that the film “is so satisfying, it doesn’t pay to nitpick.” Roger Ebert praised the film, saying “the movie is bright, the dialogue has wit and intelligence, and Roberts and Grant are very easy to like.” Kenneth Turan gave a good review, concluding that “the film’s romantic core is impervious to problems”. CNN reviewer Paul Clinton said that Notting Hill “stands alone as another funny and heartwarming story about love against all odds”.
Widgett Walls of Needcoffee.com gave the film “three and a half cups of coffee”, stating that “the humor of the film saves it from a completely trite and unsatisfying (nay, shall I say enraging) ending”, but criticised the soundtrack. Dennis Schwartz gave the film a negative review with a grade of “C-” citing “this film was pure and unadulterated balderdash”. Some criticised the film for giving a “sweetened unrealistic view of London life and British eccentricity.” The Independent derided the film for being unrealistic. In particular, the film was criticised for failing to reflect the demographic of the area: “only Curtis could write a movie about Notting Hill, London’s most diverse borough, and not feature a single black face in it.”
Notting Hill was 95th on the British Film Institute‘s “list of the all-time top 100 films”, based on estimates of each film’s British cinema admissions.
The film had its premiere at the Odeon, Leicester Square, on 27 April 1999. It earned US$116,089,678 as its overall domestic gross, with a worldwide gross of US$363,889,678. It totalled US$27.7 million over its opening weekend, an American record, the biggest opening for a romantic comedy film, beating My Best Friend’s Wedding (which also starred Julia Roberts). Notting Hill made another US$15 million the following week. One month after its release, Notting Hill lost its record for highest-grossing opening weekend for a romantic comedy film to Runaway Bride (again starring Roberts). It was the sixteenth highest-grossing film of 1999, and in February 2014 was the 215th highest-grossing film of all time. In 1999, it became the then highest-grossing British film. It opened the same weekend as Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, which did not affect its box-office takings, as Notting Hill opened at number 2.
Awards and nominations
Notting Hill won the Audience Award for Most Popular Film at the BAFTAs in 2000, and was nominated in the categories of The Alexander Korda Award for Outstanding British Film of the year, and Best Performance by an Actor in a supporting role for Rhys Ifans. The film won Best Comedy Film at the British Comedy Awards. The film’s soundtrack won Best Soundtrack at the Brit Awards, beating Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace. The film won Best British Film, Best British Director for Roger Michell, and Best British Actor for Hugh Grant at the Empire Awards. The film received three nominations at the Golden Globes, in the categories Best Motion Picture – Comedy/Musical, Best Motion Picture Actor – Comedy/Musical for Hugh Grant, and Best Motion Picture Actress – Comedy/Musical for Julia Roberts.
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