Richard Curtis reflects on criticism of his past work: “Those jokes aren’t any longer funny”

Richard Curtis
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Richard Curtis has commented on criticism frequently levelled at his work, from Notting Hill to Love Actually, reflecting on how his worldview may have led to oversights in his writing.

For all of Richard Curtis’ success in the romcom genre, it has to be said that elements of his scripts have aged badly. Not a Christmas goes by, for example, without copious articles and videos published which pick apart the questionable ethics and gender stereotyping in Love Actually.

Speaking at the Cheltenham Literary Festival, where he was in conversation with his daughter Scarlett, a feminist activist, author and podcaster, Curtis was questioned about the treatment of women and the lack of diversity in his films, especially Notting Hill.

The director said that, “I think I was unobservant and not as clever as I should have been”. On the lack of diversity, he commented, “I think because I came from a very un-diverse school and bunch of university friends, I think that I hung on to the feeling that I wouldn’t know how to write those parts. I think I was just stupid and wrong about that. I felt as though me, my casting director, my producers just didn’t look outwards”.

Podcast | Bad Santa (2003) and Love Actually (2003)

Curtis then recalled, “how shocked I was five years ago when Scarlett said to me, ‘You can never use the word ‘fat’ again’. And, wow, you were right. In my generation, calling someone ‘chubby’ […] in Love Actually, there are endless jokes about that. I think I was behind the curve and those jokes aren’t any longer funny”.

The diversity controversy raised its head last year, when comedian Omid Djalili claimed he was cut from Notting Hill for being, in his words, “too brown”.


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