'Love Actually' director Richard Curtis says film's lack of diversity makes him feel 'uncomfortable and a bit stupid'

Main cast members of
Main cast members of Love Actually attend the Paris premiere on Nov. 17, 2003. (Photo: Stephane Cardinale/Corbis via Getty Images)

When Love Actually writer and director Richard Curtis considers his 2003 hit today, he has some regrets.

"There are things you'd change but, thank God, society is changing, so my film is bound, in some moments, to feel out of date," he told ABC's Diane Sawyer in The Laughter & Secrets of Love Actually: 20 Years Later special that aired Tuesday. (The movie was filmed in 2002.)

"The lack of diversity makes me feel uncomfortable and a bit stupid," Curtis explained. "You know, I think there are sort of three plots that have sort of bosses and people who work for them."

The large Love Actually cast is predominantly white. So much so that some Netflix subscribers called out the streamer in 2018, accusing it of targeting them according to race or ethnicity with that movie and others. Black customers, for instance, said they were shown a photo of Chiwetel Ejiofor, one of the few non-white actors in the romantic comedy, to advertise it. They found that to be misleading, because Ejiofor's part is so small. At the time, Netflix said reports that it considered demographics when personalizing artwork were "untrue."

Love Actually is far from alone in its lack of diversity, although Hollywood has been very slowly addressing the problem.

Richard Curtis, pictured in October 2022, wrote and directed the romantic comedy. (Photo: David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images for Netflix)
Richard Curtis, pictured in October 2022, wrote and directed the romantic comedy. (Photo: David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images for Netflix)

Curtis, whose many writing credits also include Four Weddings and a Funeral, Bridget Jones's Diary, Notting Hill and Yesterday, said in the same interview that one of the holiday favorite's most beloved scenes — the one where star Hugh Grant's character, the prime minister, dances at 10 Downing Street — was a struggle to film. Particularly for Grant, who was already Curtis's frequent collaborator.

"He kept saying 'no,'" Curtis said. "I think he was hoping I'd get ill or something and we'd say, 'Oh, well, what a shame, we'll have to lose that dancing sequence.'"

Grant had dreaded that moment from the beginning, the very beginning.

"I saw it in the script and I thought, 'Well, I'll hate doing that.' I didn't fancy doing the dance at all, let alone rehearsing it," the English actor said. "To this day, there's many people, and I agree with them, who think it's the most excruciating scene ever committed to celluloid. Then some people like it. But I will give myself this credit… it was my idea to have that secretary lady catch me. Genius."

Still, Grant was not enthusiastic about the scene. At all.

"Oh, he was grumpy. He was grumpy," Curtis said of shooting the scene. "But he knew it was a contractual obligation, a bit of contractual obligation acting."

Grant agreed with Sawyer that the experience had been "a contractual guillotine."

He added that he's "out of rhythm" during his famous routine, "especially at the beginning when I’m wiggling my ass."