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Duncan Kenworthy • Producer

The secrets of Love Actually


- The British producer's 3rd collaboration with Curtis has brought further success for the pair. And it's not the end of the double-act

Duncan Kenworthy • Producer

The recently released Love Actually [+see also:
film profile
is the third feature film collaboration between the award-winning duo, the producer Duncan Kenworthy, and the screenwriter, Richard Curtis. And this new work once again looks at the world of love, after the couple explored the theme in the international box office hits, Four Weddings and a Funeral and Notting Hill. Kenworthy has also worked in television production as well as producing other films for the cinema (including Lawn Dogs and The Parole Officer).

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How are you enjoying it being here in Portugal?

“I love Portugal. I haven't been here enough in the last few years. About ten years ago, I used to come, not regularly, but quite a lot. I seem to connect with people here in a way that I enjoy. So, coming back is wonderful. It's nice to come back with a film. It's like a present for Portugal”.

Can you tell us a bit about your most recent work, Love Actually. What do you think is the essence of the movie?

“In a way, the moral of the film is stated right at the very beginning, in the title. In fact, when Richard first wrote it, the title was Love actually is all around. And I said, "You can't call a film 'love actually is all around', that's too sentimental and too long!" So, we agreed to shorten it. But he was emphatic on one point, claiming, "It's not too sentimental. That is what I want the film to say: love actually is all around". I think it's wonderful that he's so clear about his optimism, and it's very easy to be cynical about that. I think many people will say this film is manipulative, it's trying too hard to make us feel happy, but it's not. This really is the way Richard feels and I'm very happy to share that philosophy as well”.

After movies like Notting Hill and Four Weddings and a Funeral, there are a lot of expectations about this new collaboration between Richard Curtis and yourself. Are you afraid of the expectations?

“We try not to think about expectations. I know it seems impossible to believe, but when we made Notting Hill we didn't realise, until about two weeks before it was going to come out, that people would compare the two films. Now we are a bit more aware of that, but you would be paralysed if you were worried about it. When we started making this film, we said "We're going to make a film that won’t be very successful". It'll be interesting, but it's not a big commercial film. It may be impossible, let's not worry if we fail”.

It's an ambitious project...

“Ambitious. Very ambitious. For a long time I thought "it's not going to work". The post-production was lengthy, because we were trying to make the pieces fit together. It was like playing three-dimensional chess. You move one piece and everything changes. I know people will compare it. Hopefully they'll see the same qualities in the film, the same sort of philosophy we like. An optimistic view of the world”.

Did you have a Portuguese character in mind from the beginning, or was the nationality of Lucia Moniz's character (Aurélia) decided when she was chosen in the casting?

“No, the character was always Portuguese, partly because it's based on something that actually happened to Richard. A few years ago he rented a house in France with his girlfriend so he could write, and there was a Portuguese girl looking after the place, and he had to drive her home every evening. He said she was very beautiful, but he couldn't communicate with her at all, because Portuguese is quite a difficult language.
I always say that Richard doesn't invent things, he just writes them down. It's a real story, although he didn't fall in love with her. Some of the stories were originally going to be entire films: like the one between Lucia Moniz and Colin Firth, and the Hugh Grant story. Richard wanted to write two separate films, but then he realised that it would probably take around six years for those two films, so he decided to put them all into one”.

What’s it like working with Richard, after all these projects?

“I wouldn't be continuing to work with him, if I didn't really enjoy it. He's a brilliant writer and in some ways a brilliant man. I enjoy being with him, which is a good thing 'cause I've spent the last three years never further from him than about 20 feet during the day, and then at night I let him go home to his girlfriend. This film was different. On the last two, we've always had a director, a third member of the team, a different person each time. This one was just the two of us. I thought, "Now we're going to be very close, we'll be making all of the decisions together". But as a director he wanted a little bit of distance for his directing, which is very appropriate. So, this was a new relationship, but I enjoyed it just as much”.

So, what’s next for you and Richard?

“Richard is going to spend some time next year writing something”.

Will it be about love, again? Or something different?

“I think it will be something different. In a way, he’s getting older and he’s preparing to become a father again for the fourth time. His first movies were about ‘falling in love’. Love Actually is more about ‘falling in love… being in love’. I don’t know. He might write something more serious the next time. He always wanted to write about his mother and father, and I think it would be great if he did”.

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