Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Roger Michell|
|Produced by||Duncan Kenworthy|
|Written by||Richard Curtis|
|Music by||Trevor Jones|
|Edited by||Nick Moore|
|Distributed by||Universal Pictures|
|Box office||US$364 million|
Notting Hill is a 1999 romantic comedy film set in Notting Hill, London, released on 21 May 1999. The screenplay was by Richard Curtis, who had written Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994), and the film was produced by Duncan Kenworthy and directed by Roger Michell. The film stars Hugh Grant, Julia Roberts, Rhys Ifans, Emma Chambers, Tim McInnerny, Gina McKee, and Hugh Bonneville.
Notting Hill was well received by critics and became the highest grossing British film released that year. The film won a BAFTA, was nominated in two other categories, and won other awards, including a British Comedy Award and a Brit Award for the soundtrack.
This article's plot summary may be too long or excessively detailed. (March 2017) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
William "Will" Thacker owns an independent book store, The Travel Book Co. in Notting Hill. He is divorced from his wife who left him for a man he claims looked like Harrison Ford, shares his house with an eccentric, carefree Welshman named Spike and has a small, tight knit group of friends that includes his sister, Honey, Bella, Max, Bernie, and Tony.
Will encounters Hollywood actress Anna Scott when she enters his shop. Minutes later, they collide in the street and his drink spills on her clothes. Will offers his house nearby for Anna to change. Before leaving, she impulsively kisses him and then asks him not to mention what just occurred.
Days later, Spike belatedly relays a message from Anna. Will calls and she invites him to visit her at the Ritz Hotel. On arrival, Will is mistaken for a journalist. In a panic he claims he works for Horse & Hound and is made to interview not only Anna, but the entire cast of her new sci-fi film, which he knows nothing about. Anna calls him back in and says she has cleared her evening. Will is exhilarated, before remembering that he is expected at his sister Honey's birthday party; Anna surprises him by offering to be his date.
At the house of Will's friends Max and Bella, Anna fits in perfectly as they all share stories. Honey immediately recognizes Anna and declares them best friends instantly. She and Will share a private moment in a garden square as they walk back from the birthday party. The next evening they go to a restaurant, where Will overhears a group of patrons making crude remarks about Anna and attempts to defend her, before Anna steps in herself and humiliates them. As they walk back to her hotel, she invites Will up to her room. But when he arrives, she tells him he must leave immediately. Her American movie star boyfriend (who was never mentioned until now) appears and starts to bark orders at him, thinking he's a member of the hotel staff, as well as make unflattering comments about Anna's weight. Anna is apologetic and embarrassed, while a stunned Will leaves. Over the next six months, Max and Bella set Will up on a series of blind dates, trying to help him move on, but Will, still hung up on Anna, does not connect with any of them.
One day, a distraught Anna appears at Will's doorstep; some pre-stardom nude photos have been published in the tabloids (along with reports of a video filmed without her permission), and she needs a place to hide from the fallout. Once she calms down, they spend some time on the rooftop patio rehearsing lines from Anna's next film. She also apologizes for the previous incident, telling Will her boyfriend simply showed up out of the blue and the relationship had broken down long before then. When she sees a poster of the Marc Chagall painting La Mariée on his kitchen wall, Anna tells Will that "it feels like how love should be". That night, Anna goes to him and they have sex. The next morning, the press (inadvertently tipped off by Spike) besiege Will's house and get pictures of him and Anna half-dressed. While packing to leave, a furious Anna accuses Will of exploiting the situation for his own benefit and declares that she regrets their time together, because the press will make sure it never goes away.
Seasons pass and Will, though determined to forget Anna, remains miserable. Spike and Honey find the numbers to Anna's New York and London agents, encouraging him to reach out, but Will decides to throw them away. At a dinner with his friends, Will discovers that Anna is now an Oscar winner and back in town making a period film. He visits her location shoot, where Anna sees him and invites him past security. Although things are not going well on set, she asks him to stay because there are "things to say". He is surprised to find that it is a Henry James film, something he had previously suggested would be a good role for Anna. Given headphones to listen to the actors over their microphones, Will overhears Anna bantering with her rude co-star, until the co-star mentions seeing Will and Anna refers to him dismissively. Saddened, Will leaves the set.
The next day, Anna comes to the bookshop with a present. Visibly nervous, she apologizes for her previous behavior and expresses a desire to rekindle their relationship. When Will points out her comments the previous day, she explains that she would never discuss her private life with "the most indiscreet man in England." Believing it inevitable that they would break up, Will turns her down, as her superstar status would mean he could never really escape the pain of losing her, and having it happen a third time would crush him. Although saddened, Anna accepts his decision, but reminds him that underneath all the fame—which is really just nonsense— she is "also just a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her."
Will meets his friends in a restaurant with the opened gift—the original La Mariée. They take turns supporting his decision to end the relationship by (halfheartedly) pointing out Anna's flaws. When Spike enters and is told what happened, he promptly calls Will a "daft prick". Will reiterates Anna's last comment and realizes his mistake. They pile into Max's car and race across London to Anna's hotel, where they find that she has checked out and is holding a press conference at the Savoy Hotel. When Will arrives, Anna's publicist is telling the crowd that Anna will be taking time off from making films and leaving the UK that night. Will, pretending to be a reporter again, admits he made the wrong decision and begs Anna to reconsider. After admitting she would, Anna announces that she will be staying in Britain "indefinitely." Anna and Will smile at one another from across the room as the press goes into a frenzy. A montage shows their wedding and arrival at one of Anna's movie premieres, before ending with them on a bench in the private garden, Will reading to a visibly pregnant Anna.
(in credits order)
Richard Curtis developed the film from thoughts while lying awake at night. He described the starting point as "the idea of a very normal person going out with an unbelievably famous person and how that impinges on their lives". In an interview with GQ in 2018, Hugh Grant claimed the film was based on real life and loosely followed a friend of Richard's who fell in love with an 'extremely world famous person who [Grant wasn't] allowed to mention'.
Four Weddings and a Funeral director Mike Newell was approached but rejected it to work on Pushing Tin. He said that in commercial terms he had made the wrong decision, but did not regret it. The producer, Duncan Kenworthy, then turned to Roger Michell, saying that "Finding someone as good as Roger, was just like finding the right actor to play each role. Roger shone out."
Curtis chose Notting Hill as he lived there and knew the area, saying "Notting Hill is a melting pot and the perfect place to set a film". This left the producers to film in a heavily populated area. Kenworthy noted "Early on, we toyed with the idea of building a huge exterior set. That way we would have more control, because we were worried about having Roberts and Grant on public streets where we could get thousands of onlookers." In the end they decided to film in the streets. Michell was worried "that Hugh and Julia were going to turn up on the first day of shooting on Portobello Road, and there would be gridlock and we would be surrounded by thousands of people and paparazzi photographers who would prevent us from shooting". The location team, and security personnel prevented this, as well as preventing problems the presence of a film crew may have caused the residents of Notting Hill, who Michell believes were "genuinely excited" about the film. The location manager Sue Quinn, described finding locations and getting permission to film as "a mammoth task". Quinn and the rest of her team had to write to thousands of people in the area, promising to donate to each person's favourite charity, resulting in 200 charities receiving money.
Stuart Craig, the production designer, was pleased to do a contemporary film, saying "we're dealing with streets with thousands of people, market traders, shop owners and residents which makes it really complex". Filming began on 17 April 1998 in West London and at Shepperton Studios. Will's bookshop was on Portobello Road, one of the main areas in which filming took place. Other places within Notting Hill included Westbourne Park Road, Golborne Road, Landsdowne Road and the Coronet Cinema. Will's house, 280 Westbourne Park Road, was owned by Richard Curtis and behind the entrance there is a grand house, not the flat in the film that was made up in the studios. The blue door was auctioned for charity. The current door is blue again. The Travel Book Store is located at 142 Portobello Road. After filming for six weeks in Notting Hill, filming moved to the Ritz Hotel, where work had to take place at night, the Savoy Hotel, the Nobu Restaurant, the Zen Garden of the Hempel Hotel and Kenwood House. One of the final scenes takes place at a film premiere, which presented difficulties. Michell wanted to film Leicester Square but was declined. Police had found fans at a Leonardo DiCaprio premiere problematic and were concerned the same might occur at the staged premiere. Through a health and safety act, the production received permission to film and constructed the scene in 24 hours. Interior scenes were the last to be filmed, at Shepperton Studios. The final cut was 3.5 hours long, 90 minutes edited out for release.
The film features the 1950 Marc Chagall painting La Mariée. Anna sees a print of the painting in William's home and later gives him what is presumably the original. Michell said in Entertainment Weekly that the painting was chosen because Curtis was a fan of Chagall's work and because La Mariée "depicts a yearning for something that's lost." The producers had a reproduction made for the film, but had to get permission from the owner as well as clearance from the Design and Artists Copyright Society. Finally, according to Kenworthy, "we had to agree to destroy it. They were concerned that if our fake was too good, it might float around the market and create problems." The article also noted that "some experts say the real canvas could be worth between US$500,000 and US$1 million."
The film features the book Istanbul: The Imperial City (1996) by John Freely. William recommends this book to Anna, commenting that (unlike another book in the store) the author has at least been to Istanbul. In reality, Freely taught at Bo?aziçi University in Istanbul, and was the author of nine books about the city.
Music was composed by Trevor Jones. Several additional songs written by other artists include Elvis Costello's cover of the Charles Aznavour song "She", Shania Twain's remixed version of "You've Got A Way", as well as Ronan Keating's specially recorded cover of "When You Say Nothing at All"; the song reached number one in the British charts. Pulp recorded new song "Born to Cry", which was released on the European version of the soundtrack album.
The song played when Will strides down Portobello Road is "Ain't No Sunshine" by Bill Withers. Tony and Bernie play "Blue Moon" on the piano at Tony's restaurant on the night it closes. Originally, Charles Aznavour's version of "She" was used in the film, but American test screening audiences did not respond to it. Costello was then brought in by Richard Curtis to record a cover version of the song. Both versions of the song appear in non-US releases.
The soundtrack album was released by Island Records.
US version track listing
The film score and original music was recorded and mixed by Gareth Cousins (who also mixed all the songs used in the film) and Simon Rhodes.
This article contains too many or too-lengthy quotations for an encyclopedic entry. (March 2018)
The film had generally positive reviews, scoring an 83% "Certified fresh" rating at Rotten Tomatoes based on 93 reviews with an average rating of 7.1/10 , the website's critical consensus reads: "Charming performances provide romance aplenty.".Variety's Derek Elley said that "It's slick, it's gawky, it's 10 minutes too long, and it's certainly not "Four Weddings and a Funeral Part 2" in either construction or overall tone", giving it an overall positive review.Cranky Critic called it "Bloody damned good", as well as saying that it was "A perfect date flick."Nitrate said that "Notting Hill is whimsical and light, fresh and quirky", with "endearing moments and memorable characters". In his review of the film's DVD John J. Puccio noted that "the movie is a fairy tale, and writer Richard Curtis knows how much the public loves a fairy tale", calling it "a sweet film". Desson Howe of The Washington Post gave the film a very positive review, particularly praising Rhys Ifans' performance as Spike. James Sanford gave Notting Hill three and a half stars, saying that "Curtis' dialogue may be much snappier than his sometimes dawdling plot, but the first hour of Notting Hill is so beguiling and consistently funny it seems churlish to complain that the rest is merely good." Sue Pierman of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel stated that "Notting Hill is clever, funny, romantic - and oh, yes, reminiscent of Four Weddings and a Funeral", but that the film "is so satisfying, it doesn't pay to nitpick."Roger Ebert praised the film, saying "the movie is bright, the dialogue has wit and intelligence, and Roberts and Grant are very easy to like." Kenneth Turan gave a good review, concluding that "the film's romantic core is impervious to problems".CNN reviewer Paul Clinton said that Notting Hill "stands alone as another funny and heartwarming story about love against all odds".
Widgett Walls of Needcoffee.com gave the film "three and a half cups of coffee", stating that "the humor of the film saves it from a completely trite and unsatisfying (nay, shall I say enraging) ending", but criticised the soundtrack. Dennis Schwartz gave the film a negative review with a grade of "C-" citing "this film was pure and unadulterated balderdash". Some criticised the film for giving a "sweetened unrealistic view of London life and British eccentricity."The Independent derided the film for being unrealistic.
The film had its premiere at the Odeon, Leicester Square, on 27 April 1999. It earned US$116,089,678 as its overall domestic gross, with a worldwide gross of US$363,889,678. It totalled US$27.7 million over its opening weekend, an American record, the biggest opening for a romantic comedy film, beating My Best Friend's Wedding (which also starred Julia Roberts).Notting Hill made another US$15 million the following week. One month after its release, Notting Hill lost its record for highest-grossing opening weekend for a romantic comedy film to Runaway Bride (again starring Roberts). It was the sixteenth highest-grossing film of 1999, and in February 2014 was the 215th highest-grossing film of all time. In 1999, it became the then highest-grossing British film. It opened the same weekend as Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace, which did not affect its box-office takings, as Notting Hill opened at number 2.
Notting Hill won the Audience Award for Most Popular Film at the BAFTAs in 2000, and was nominated in the categories of The Alexander Korda Award for Outstanding British Film of the year, and Best Performance by an Actor in a supporting role for Rhys Ifans. The film won Best Comedy Film at the British Comedy Awards. The film's soundtrack won Best Soundtrack at the Brit Awards, beating Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace. The film won Best British Film, Best British Director for Roger Michell, and Best British Actor for Hugh Grant at the Empire Awards. The film received three nominations at the Golden Globes, in the categories Best Motion Picture - Comedy/Musical, Best Motion Picture Actor - Comedy/Musical for Hugh Grant, and Best Motion Picture Actress - Comedy/Musical for Julia Roberts.