Four Weddings and a Funeral
Four Weddings and a Funeral is a 1994 British romantic comedy film directed by Mike Newell. It was the first of several films by screenwriter Richard Curtis to feature Hugh Grant, and follows the adventures of Charles (Grant) and his circle of friends through a number of social occasions as they each encounter romance. Andie MacDowell stars as Charles's love interest Carrie, with Kristin Scott Thomas, James Fleet, Simon Callow, John Hannah, Charlotte Coleman, David Bower, Corin Redgrave, and Rowan Atkinson in supporting roles.
|Four Weddings and a Funeral|
UK theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Mike Newell|
|Produced by||Duncan Kenworthy|
|Written by||Richard Curtis|
|Music by||Richard Rodney Bennett|
|Edited by||Jon Gregory|
|Distributed by||Rank Film Distributors|
|Box office||$245.7 million|
The film was made in six weeks, cost under £3 million, and became an unexpected success and the highest-grossing British film in history at the time, with worldwide box office in excess of $245.7 million, and receiving Academy Award nominations for Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay. Additionally, Grant won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor - Motion Picture Musical or Comedy and the BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role, and the film won the BAFTA Awards Best Film, Best Direction, and Best Actress in a Supporting Role for Scott Thomas. The film's success propelled Hugh Grant to international stardom, particularly in the United States.
In 1999, Four Weddings and a Funeral placed 23rd, on the British Film Institute's 100 greatest British films of the 20th century. In 2016, Empire magazine ranked it 21st in their list of the 100 best British films. A 2017 poll of 150 actors, directors, writers, producers, and critics for Time Out magazine ranked it the 74th best British film ever.
Curtis reunited director Newell and the surviving cast for a 25th anniversary reunion Comic Relief short entitled One Red Nose Day and a Wedding, which aired in the UK during Red Nose Day on Friday 15 March 2019.
At the wedding of Angus and Laura in Somerset, unmarried best man Charles and his friends – his flatmate Scarlett, Fiona and her brother Tom, partners Gareth and Matthew, and Charles’s brother David – endure the festivities. At the reception, Charles becomes smitten with Carrie, an American, and the two spend the night together. In the morning, Carrie jokingly demands that Charles propose to her, observing that they may have “missed a great opportunity,” and she leaves for America.
Three months later, at the wedding of Bernard and Lydia – who became romantically involved at the previous wedding – Charles meets Carrie again, now accompanied by her new fiancé Hamish. Charles faces further humiliation from several of his ex-girlfriends, including the distraught Henrietta, and retreats to an empty hotel suite; he watches Carrie and Hamish depart, and becomes trapped in a cupboard when the newlyweds stumble in to have sex. Charles makes an awkward exit and is confronted by Henrietta about his habit of “serial monogamy” and his fear of letting anyone get too close. Carrie reappears, and she and Charles spend another night together.
A month later, Charles receives an invitation to Carrie's wedding. While shopping for a gift, he runs into Carrie and helps her select a wedding dress. She recounts her 33 sexual partners; Charles makes an awkward confession of his love to her, but to no avail.
Another month later, Charles and his friends attend Carrie's wedding in Scotland. The gregarious Gareth instructs the group to seek potential mates; Scarlett hits it off with an American named Chester. As Charles watches Carrie and Hamish dance, Fiona deduces his heartbreak. When Charles asks why Fiona is single, she confesses that she has loved Charles since they first met; though empathetic, Charles does not requite her feelings. During the groom's toast, Gareth dies of a heart attack.
At Gareth's funeral, Matthew recites the poem "Funeral Blues" by W. H. Auden, commemorating their relationship. Afterward, Carrie and Charles share a moment, and Charles and Tom ponder the fact that despite their clique’s pride in being single, Gareth and Matthew were a "married" couple all the while, and whether the search for "one true love" is a futile effort.
Ten months later, Charles’s own wedding day arrives; the bride is revealed to be Henrietta. Shortly before the ceremony, Carrie arrives and tells Charles that she and Hamish have separated. Charles has a crisis of confidence and is counseled by David and Matthew, but proceeds with the wedding. When the vicar asks for any reason why the couple should not marry, David (who is deaf) asks Charles to translate for him: he declares in sign language that he suspects the groom loves someone else, which Charles confirms. Henrietta punches him, and the wedding is halted.
Carrie tries to apologize to Charles, who confesses that at the altar, he realised the one person he truly loved was her. Charles makes a proposal of lifelong commitment without marriage to Carrie, and she accepts.
Henrietta marries an officer in the Grenadier Guards; David marries his girlfriend Serena; Scarlett marries Chester; Tom marries Deirdre (a distant cousin whom he met at Charles's wedding); Matthew finds a new partner; Fiona is involved with Prince Charles; and Charles and Carrie have a baby.
- Hugh Grant as Charles
- Andie MacDowell as Carrie
- James Fleet as Tom
- Simon Callow as Gareth
- John Hannah as Matthew
- Kristin Scott Thomas as Fiona
- David Bower as David
- Charlotte Coleman as Scarlett
- Timothy Walker as Angus
- Sara Crowe as Laura
- Rowan Atkinson as Father Gerald
- David Haig as Bernard
- Sophie Thompson as Lydia
- Corin Redgrave as Sir Hamish Banks
- Anna Chancellor as Henrietta
- Rupert Vansittart as George
Screenwriter Richard Curtis's own experiences as a wedding attendee inspired the premise for Four Weddings and a Funeral. According to Curtis he began writing the script at age 34, after realizing he had attended 65 different weddings in an 11-year period. At one wedding he was propositioned by a fellow guest, but he turned her down and forever regretted it; accordingly he based the origin of Charles and Carrie's romance on that situation.
It took Curtis 17 drafts to reach the final version. He has commented on director Mike Newell's influence; ”I come from a school where making it funny is what matters. Mike was obsessed with keeping it real. Every character, no matter how small, has a story, not just three funny lines. It's a romantic film about love and friendship that swims in a sea of jokes."
Curtis, Newell and the producers began the casting process for Four Weddings in early 1992, and continued scouting possible actors even after funding fell through in mid-1992. Roughly 70 actors auditioned for the role of Charles before Hugh Grant did. Hugh Grant was ready to give up acting as a career when he received the script for Four Weddings and a Funeral; he stated in 2016 that: "I wasn't really getting any work at all, and then to my great surprise this script came through the letterbox from my agent, and it was really good. And I rang on and said there must be a mistake, you've sent me a good script." Initially, writer Richard Curtis, who had modelled the character of Charles after himself, was opposed to casting Grant in the role because he thought he was too handsome. According to Curtis: "I thought people would not believe the fact he was in trouble with girls, because he so clearly wouldn't be...He was by far the best person who auditioned but I still voted against him when it came down to the vote between two people." Curtis's favoured choice was Alex Jennings, while Alan Rickman was also considered at one point. He was eventually persuaded by Mike Newell and the film's producers to approve of Grant.
The original choice for the role of Carrie was Jeanne Tripplehorn, but she had to drop out because of a death in her family. Marisa Tomei and, reportedly, Sarah Jessica Parker, were also considered before Andie MacDowell was cast.
Grant's participation hit another stumbling block when his agent requested a £5,000 rise over the £35,000 salary Grant was offered. The producers initially refused because of the extremely tight budget, but eventually agreed. The supporting cast-members were paid £17,500 apiece.
Pre-production for the movie was a long process because funding was erratic, falling through in mid-1992 and leading to much uncertainty. Finally in early 1993, Working Title Films stepped in to close the gap. Nonetheless, another $1.2 million was cut just before production began in the summer of 1993, forcing the film to be made in just 36 days with a final budget of £2.7 million (appr. $4.4 million in 1994). The budget was so tight that extras had to wear their own wedding clothes, while Rowan Atkinson was retained as the Vicar for two of the weddings so production wouldn't have to pay another actor.
Future Home Secretary and MP Amber Rudd was given the credit of "Aristocracy Coordinator" after she arranged for several aristocrats to make uncredited appearances as wedding extras, including the then – Marquess of Hartington, Peregrine Cavendish and the Earl of Woolton, who conveniently wore their own morning suits.
To make Grant look more nerdy, the producers styled him with shaggy hair, glasses, and deliberately unflattering, ill-fitting clothes. Grant was encouraged by director Mike Newell to mess up and trip over his lines, written in "convoluted syntax" as Grant describes them, in order to give Charles a stammering, nervous quality. Grant, who struggled with hay fever throughout filming, was unsure of Newell's direction and his own performance, which he thought was "atrocious"; on Newell he commented that: "He seemed to be giving direction against what I thought were the natural beats of the comedy. He was making a film with texture, grounding it, playing the truths rather than the gags.”
The film was shot mainly in London and the Home Counties, including Hampstead, Islington where the final moments take place on Highbury Terrace, Greenwich Hospital, Betchworth in Surrey, Amersham in Buckinghamshire, St Bartholomew-the-Great (wedding number four) and West Thurrock in Essex. Exterior shots of guests arriving for the funeral were filmed in Thurrock, Essex overlooking the River Thames with the backdrop of the Dartford River Crossing and at stately homes in Bedfordshire (Luton Hoo for wedding two's reception) and Hampshire.
According to Hugh Grant, the initial screening of a rough-cut of Four Weddings went very badly.
"I thought we'd screwed it up. When we went to watch a rough cut, all of us, me, Richard Curtis, Mike Newell, the producers, all thought this was the worst film that's ever been perpetrated. We're gonna go and emigrate to Peru when it comes out so no one can actually find us. And then they had a, a few cuts later they took it to Santa Monica for a test screening and everyone loved it. And it was a great surprise."
Throughout production, Gramercy Pictures, the U.S. distributor for the film, sent frequent transatlantic faxes objecting to the explicit language and sexual content, fearing the final product would not be suitable for American distribution or television airings. They particularly objected to the opening scene of the movie, in which Charles and Scarlett say the word "Fuck" over and over, after an initial screening of the movie in Salt Lake City led the conservative Mormon members of the city council to walk out. Accordingly, Mike Newell and the actors agreed to reshoot the scene with the British swear word "Bugger" to be used in the American version. The executives also objected to the title, believing Four Weddings and a Funeral would turn off male viewers from the film. In its place they suggested such titles as True Love and Near Misses, Loitering in Sacred Places, Skulking Around, and Rolling in the Aisles, none of which were accepted.
The original score was composed by British composer Richard Rodney Bennett. The movie also featured a soundtrack of popular songs, including a cover version of The Troggs' "Love Is All Around" performed by Wet Wet Wet that remained at number 1 on the UK Singles Chart for fifteen weeks and was then the ninth (now twelfth) biggest selling single of all time in Britain. This song would later be adapted into "Christmas Is All Around" and sung by the character of Billy Mack in Richard Curtis' 2003 film Love Actually, in which Grant also stars.
The box office receipts from the first five days of the film's general release in North America averaged $27,697 per screen, which so impressed the movie's distributor that it decided to spend lavishly on promotion, buying full-page newspaper ads and TV-spots totaling some $11 million, against a budget that had only amounted to $4.4 million.
The movie also benefited from much free publicity because of Grant's reception in the United States, where he became an instant sex symbol and undertook a successful media tour promoting the film. Producer Duncan Kenworthy stated that "It was the most amazing luck that when Hugh went on the publicity trail he turned out to be incredibly funny, and very like the character of Charles. That doesn't ever happen." Hugh Grant's then-girlfriend Elizabeth Hurley also garnered much publicity for the film when she wore a black Versace safety-pin dress to the premiere in Leicester Square which became a sensation in the press.
The film was very well received with critics, currently holding a 96% "Certified Fresh" approval on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes based on 67 reviews, with an average rating of 7.64/10. The site's consensus states, "While frothy to a fault, Four Weddings and a Funeral features irresistibly breezy humor, and winsome performances from Hugh Grant and Andie MacDowell." Film critic Roger Ebert gave the film three-and-a-half stars out of four, calling it "delightful and sly", and directed with "light-hearted enchantment" by Newell. He praised Grant's performance, describing it as a kind of "endearing awkwardness".
Producer Duncan Kenworthy attributes much of the stimulus for Four Weddings' box office success to its first glowing review by Todd McCarthy in Variety, who called it a "truly beguiling romantic comedy" which was "frequently hilarious without being sappily sentimental or tiresomely retrograde."
The film had its detractors. Writing for the Chicago Reader, Jonathan Rosenbaum called the film "generic" and "standard issue", stating that the audience shouldn't "expect to remember it ten minutes later". Time magazine writer Richard Corliss was less scathing, but agreed that it was forgettable, saying that people would "forget all about [the movie] by the time they leave the multiplex," even joking at the end of his review that he had forgotten the film's name. The character of Carrie was voted one of the most annoying film characters of all time in a British online poll.
The film earned £27.8 million in the United Kingdom. Upon its North American limited release on 11 March 1994, Four Weddings and a Funeral opened with $138,486 in five theatres. But upon its wide release on 15 April 1994, the film topped the box office with $4,162,489. The film would continue to gross $52.7 million in North America with an additional $193 million internationally, earning $245.7 million worldwide.
The film was voted the 27th greatest comedy film of all time by readers of Total Film in 2000. In 2004, the same magazine named it the 34th greatest British film of all time. It is number 96 on Bravo's "100 Funniest Movies".
The Guardian, in a 20th anniversary retrospective of Four Weddings, stated that "Its influence on the British film industry, on romantic-comedy writing, on the pop charts, on funeral readings, on haircuts, was enormous."
Hugh Grant commented of the experience of the film's phenomenal success and its effect on his career in 2016: "I was making An Awfully Big Adventure at the time that Four Weddings came out, with Mike Newell again, same director, even tinier budget, in Dublin. And we'd get back from brutal days on the set, very long and no money, and the fax machines...were coming out saying that now your film Four Weddings is #5 in America, now it's #3, now it's #1 and here's an offer Hugh, for Captain Blood and they'll pay you $1 million. It was completely surreal."
It was reported in November 2017 that the streaming service Hulu was developing an eponymous anthology television series based upon the film, to be written and executive produced by Mindy Kaling and Matt Warburton, with Richard Curtis also serving as an executive producer. In October 2018, it was announced Jessica Williams, Nikesh Patel, Rebecca Rittenhouse, and John Reynolds had joined the cast.
One Red Nose Day and a Wedding
On 5 December 2018, it was announced that Richard Curtis had written One Red Nose Day and a Wedding, a 25th anniversary reunion short film. The original film's director, Mike Newell, returned, along with the film's surviving cast, including Hugh Grant, Andie MacDowell, Kristin Scott Thomas, John Hannah, Rowan Atkinson, James Fleet, David Haig, Sophie Thompson, David Bower, Robin McCaffrey, Anna Chancellor, Rupert Vansittart, Simon Kunz, Sara Crowe and Timothy Walker. It was filmed from 13–14 December 2018 at St James' Church, Islington, London. The 14-minute film premiered in the UK during Red Nose Day on Friday 15 March 2019. It centered on the reunion of all the characters from the original film at the wedding of Charles and Carrie's daughter to Fiona's daughter. The involvement of additional cast members Lily James and Alicia Vikander was not announced until the day the film aired in the UK, because they played the young women getting married. The film aired in the US on their Red Nose Day on Thursday 23 May 2019.
- BFI Top 100 British films
- Notting Hill (1999), also written by Curtis and starring Grant
- Love Actually (2003), another film by Curtis starring Grant and Atkinson
- Black Versace dress of Elizabeth Hurley, worn by Hurley to the film's premiere
- List of films featuring the deaf and hard of hearing
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