Four Weddings and a Funeral

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Four Weddings and a Funeral
Four weddings poster.jpg
UK theatrical release poster
Directed byMike Newell
Produced byDuncan Kenworthy
Written byRichard Curtis
Starring
Music byRichard Rodney Bennett
CinematographyMichael Coulter
Edited byJon Gregory
Production
company
Distributed byRank Film Distributors
Release date
  • 20 January 1994 (1994-01-20) (Sundance Festival)
  • 13 May 1994 (1994-05-13) (UK)
Running time
117 minutes
CountryUnited Kingdom
LanguageEnglish
British Sign Language
Budget£2.8 million
Box office$245.7 million[1]

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' 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.

It was made in six weeks and cost under £3 million,[2] becoming 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. In addition to this, 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 also won the BAFTA Awards Best Film, Best Direction and Best Actress in a Supporting Role for Scott Thomas. The success of the film propelled Hugh Grant to international stardom, particularly in the United States.[3]

In 1999, Four Weddings and a Funeral placed 23rd on the British Film Institute's 100 greatest British films of the 20th century. In 2017 a poll of 150 actors, directors, writers, producers and critics for Time Out magazine ranked it the 74th best British film ever.[4]

Plot[edit]

The film follows the adventures of a group of friends through the eyes of Charles, a good-natured but socially awkward man living in London, who becomes smitten with Carrie, an American whom Charles keeps meeting at four weddings and a funeral.

The first wedding is in Somerset and is that of Angus and Laura, at which Charles is the best man. Charles and his single friends wonder whether they will ever get married. Charles meets Carrie and spends the night with her. Carrie pretends that, now they have slept together, they will have to get married, to which Charles endeavours to respond before realising she is joking. Carrie observes that they may have missed an opportunity and then returns to America.

The second wedding is that of Bernard and Lydia, a couple who became romantically involved at the previous wedding. Charles encounters Carrie again, but she introduces him to her fiancé, Sir Hamish Banks, a wealthy politician. At the reception, Charles finds himself seated with several ex-girlfriends who relate embarrassing stories about his inability to be discreet and afterwards bumps into Henrietta, known among Charles' friends as "Duckface", with whom he had a particularly difficult relationship. Charles retreats to an empty hotel suite, seeing Carrie and Hamish leave in a taxicab, only to be trapped in a cupboard after the newlyweds stumble into the room to have sex. After Charles awkwardly exits the room, Henrietta confronts him about his habit of "serial monogamy", telling him he is afraid of letting anyone get too close to him. Charles then runs into Carrie, and they end up spending another night together.

A month later, Charles receives an invitation to Carrie's wedding. While shopping for a present, he coincidentally encounters Carrie and ends up helping her select her wedding dress. Carrie lists her 33 sexual partners. Charles later awkwardly tries confessing his love to her and hinting that he would like to have a relationship with her, to no avail.

The third wedding is that of Carrie and Hamish. Charles attends, depressed at the prospect of Carrie marrying Hamish. At the reception, Gareth instructs his friends to seek potential mates; Fiona's brother, Tom, stumbles through an attempt to connect with a woman until she reveals that she is the minister's wife, while Charles's flatmate, Scarlett, strikes up a conversation with an American named Chester. As Charles watches Carrie and Hamish dance, Fiona deduces his feelings about Carrie. When Charles asks why Fiona is not married, she confesses that she has loved Charles since they first met years earlier. Charles is appreciative and empathetic but does not requite her love. During the groom's toast, Gareth dies of a heart attack.

At Gareth's funeral, his partner Matthew recites the poem "Funeral Blues" by W. H. Auden, commemorating his relationship with Gareth. Charles and Tom discuss whether hoping to find your "one true love" is just a futile effort and ponder that, while their clique have always viewed themselves as proud to be single, Gareth and Matthew were a "married" couple all the while.

The fourth wedding is ten months later. Charles has decided to marry Henrietta. However, shortly before the ceremony, Carrie arrives, revealing to Charles that she and Hamish are separated. Charles has a crisis of confidence, which he reveals to his deaf brother David and Matthew. During the ceremony, when the vicar asks whether anyone knows a reason why the couple should not marry, David, who was reading the vicar's lips, asks Charles to translate for him, and says in sign language that he suspects the groom loves someone else. The vicar asks whether Charles does love someone else, and Charles replies, "I do." Henrietta punches Charles and the wedding is halted.

Carrie visits Charles to apologise for attending the wedding. Charles confesses that, while standing at the altar, he realised that for the first time in his life he totally and utterly loved one person, "and it wasn't the person standing next to me in the veil." Charles makes a proposal of lifelong commitment without marriage to Carrie, who accepts.

Henrietta marries an officer in the Grenadier Guards; David marries his girlfriend Serena; Scarlett marries Chester; Tom marries his distant cousin Deirdre (whom he met, for the second time in 25 years, at Charles's wedding); Matthew finds a new partner; Fiona marries Prince Charles; and Charles and Carrie have a young son.

Cast[edit]

Writing[edit]

Screenwriter Richard Curtis' own experiences as a wedding attendee inspired the premise for Four Weddings and a Funeral.[5] 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.[5]

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." [6]

Curtis chose to omit any mention of the character's careers, because he didn't think a group of friends would realistically discuss their jobs while together at a wedding.[5]

Casting[edit]

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.[3] 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."[7] 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."[8] Curtis' favored choice was Alex Jennings, while Alan Rickman was also considered at one point.[9] 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.[10] Marisa Tomei and, reportedly, Sarah Jessica Parker, were also considered before Andie MacDowell was cast.[5]

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 a piece.[8]

Production[edit]

Pre-production for the movie was a long process because funding was erratic, falling through in mid-1992 and leading to much uncertainty.[3] 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).[3] 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.[5]

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.[5]

To make Grant look more nerdy, the producers styled him with shaggy hair, glasses, and deliberately unflattering, ill-fitting clothes.[11][12] 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.[12] 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.”[6]

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.[13] 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.[14]

Post-production[edit]

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."[7]

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.[3] 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 members of the conservative Mormon city council to walk out.[5] Accordingly, Mike Newell and the actors agreed to reshoot the scene with the British swear word "Bugger" to be used in the American version.[8] 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.[3]

Music[edit]

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.

Release[edit]

Publicity[edit]

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.[3]

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." [3] 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.[3]

Critical response[edit]

The film was very well received with critics, currently holding a 95% "Certified Fresh" approval on reviews aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, with the site's consensus stating, "While frothy to a fault, Four Weddings and a Funeral features irresistibly breezy humor, and winsome performances from Hugh Grant and Andie MacDowell."[15] 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".[16]

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."[3][17]

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".[18] 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.[19] The character of Carrie was voted one of the most annoying film characters of all time in a British online poll.[20]

Box office[edit]

The movie made its world premiere in February 1994 at the Sundance Film Festival in Salt Lake City, Utah.[3]

The film earned £27.8 million in the United Kingdom.[21] Upon its North American limited release on 11 March 1994, Four Weddings and a Funeral opened with $138,486 in five theatres.[22] But upon its wide release on 15 April 1994, the film topped the box office with $4,162,489.[23] The film would continue to gross $52.7 million in North America with an additional $193 million internationally, earning $245.7 million worldwide.[1]

Accolades[edit]

Wins[edit]

BAFTA Awards
Australian Film Institute
  • Best Foreign Film
British Comedy Awards
  • Best Comedy Film
César Awards
Chicago Film Critics
Evening Standard Awards
Golden Globe Awards
London Film Awards
Writers Guild of America Award
Writers' Guild of Great Britain

Nominations[edit]

Academy Awards
BAFTA Awards
Directors Guild of America Award
Golden Globe Awards

Recognition[edit]

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."[3]

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."[7]

Television series[edit]

It was reported in November 2017 that writer/director Richard Curtis was developing an anthology television series based upon the film with producers including Mindy Kaling and Matt Warburton for streaming service Hulu.[24] In October 2018, it was announced Jessica Williams, Nikesh Patel, Rebecca Rittenhouse and John Reynolds had joined the cast of the series.[25]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994). Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 22 August 2016.
  2. ^ BBC Radio 4 – The Reunion – Four Weddings and a Funeral, 13 April 2014
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Tom Lamont (2014-04-26). "Four Weddings and a Funeral 20 Years On: Richard Curtis Remembers". The Guardian. Retrieved 2018-06-30.
  4. ^ "The 100 best British films". Time Out. Retrieved 26 October 2017
  5. ^ a b c d e f g Roger Cormier (2016-01-10). "15 Splendid Facts About Four Weddings and a Funeral". mentalfloss.com. Retrieved 2018-06-30.
  6. ^ a b Anne Thompson (1994-05-06). "'Four Weddings and a Funeral' A Surprise Hit". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2018-06-30.
  7. ^ a b c SAG-AFTRA Foundation (2016-08-19). Conversations with Hugh Grant. YouTube.com. Retrieved 2018-06-27.
  8. ^ a b c Chris Hastings (2014-04-12). "Why Four Weddings was nearly a funeral for Hugh's film career because he was too good looking for the part and wanted an extra ₤5,000". Daily Mail. Retrieved 2018-06-30.
  9. ^ Chris Hastings (2014-04-12). "Why Four Weddings was nearly a funeral for Hugh's film career because he was too good looking for the part and wanted an extra ₤5,000". Daily Mail. Retrieved 2018-06-30.
  10. ^ Melissa Whitworth (2006-06-07). "How Jeanne Tripplehorn learnt to stop worrying and love polygamy". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 2018-06-30.
  11. ^ The Wedding Planners: Making of Four Weddings and a Funeral (dvd). Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. 2006.
  12. ^ a b GQ (2018-06-29). Hugh Grant Reviews His Most Iconic Movie Roles GQ. YouTube.com. Retrieved 2018-07-01.
  13. ^ "The Making of Four Weddings and a Funeral". Empire. June 1994. Retrieved 5 June 2015.
  14. ^ Filming Locations for Four Weddings and a Funeral. Movie-locations.com. Retrieved 16 August 2011.
  15. ^ Four Weddings and a Funeral at Rotten Tomatoes
  16. ^ Four Weddings And A Funeral :: rogerebert.com :: Reviews. Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 16 August 2011.
  17. ^ Todd McCarthy (1994-01-19). "Four Weddings and a Funeral Review". Variety. Retrieved 2018-06-30.
  18. ^ Four Weddings and a Funeral. Chicago Reader. Retrieved 16 August 2011.
  19. ^ CINEMA: Four Weddings and a Funeral: Well Groomed. Time (14 March 1994). Retrieved 16 August 2011.
  20. ^ Handy, Bruce (19 May 1999), "The Daring Genesis of J.J. Abrams's Star Wars: The Force Awakens", Vanity Fair (June 2015), retrieved 7 November 2015
  21. ^ "Top Films of All Time at the UK Box Office" (PDF). British Film Institute. April 2016. Retrieved 22 August 2016.
  22. ^ Weekend Box Office Results for 11–13 March 1994. Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 16 August 2011.
  23. ^ Weekend Box Office Results for 15–17 April 1994. Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 16 August 2011.
  24. ^ Andreeva, Nellie (1 November 2017). "'Four Weddings And a Funeral' Anthology Series From Mindy Kaling In Works At Hulu". Deadline. Retrieved 2 November 2017.
  25. ^ Andreeva, Nellie; Petski, Denise (October 26, 2018). "'Four Weddings And A Funeral': Jessica Williams To Star In Hulu Series, 3 Others Cast". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved October 26, 2018.

External links[edit]