The U.K.-set romantic comedy Four Weddings and a Funeral opens in famously frantic fashion with Charles (Hugh Grant) running late and spewing expletives as he attempts to make the first of the titular nuptials. Almost 25 years after the film’s release, Grant is exuding a calmer vibe as he eats a bowl of chocolate cake at a church community center in North London. Together with Andie MacDowell, Kristin Scott Thomas, John Hannah, and the rest of the reunited cast, he is waiting to continue working on a short-film sequel to Four Weddings, which will air May 23 during NBC’s night of special programming benefiting Red Nose Day, Comic Relief USA’s campaign to end child poverty.
Director Mike Newell has only two days to shoot the short, called One Red Nose Day and a Wedding, which concerns the nuptials of two characters whose identities EW will not spoil. But the vibe is less that of a pushed-for-time production and more a get-together of old friends, as MacDowell, 60, glides by in a pink floral maxi-dress and Hannah stops for a chat. “It’s nice to be part of something for such a great cause,” the actor says, “and also, just catching up with people after 25 years.”
It is a miracle we are seeing Grant, 58, here at all, and not just because he is enjoying a career renaissance, with acclaimed performances in Paddington 2 and the miniseries A Very English Scandal. If Four Weddings writer Richard Curtis had had his way, the role of the commitment-phobic Charlie, whose circuitous courting of MacDowell’s Carrie across a series of social events provides the movie’s romantic spine, would have been played by Alan Rickman.
“I thought Hugh would alienate people by his handsomeness and poshness,” the screenwriter says. “But when we got desperate we called him in, and he just got the jokes in a way that nobody else had done. I still voted for Alan Rickman when it came to the final decision. But I was outvoted.”
By collective consent, the original shoot was fast but fun, though not without its occasional problems. MacDowell still shudders at the memory of filming the movie’s final scene, in which Charlie declares his love for Carrie during a rainstorm. “It was fake freezing rain, truly bucketing down,” she recalls. “Like somebody pouring rain all over you.”
Four Weddings made its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in 1994, where the opening scene proved too much for some audience members. “It didn’t go well at all,” Newell says of the screening. “[An] endless procession of people getting up and leaving in high dudgeon, not least in the first sequence, where they say ‘f—’ 18 times or something. That was a pretty testing time. But it came through that, and finally it was okay.”
Four Weddings cost just under $5 million to make but earned more than $52 million at the domestic box office. Twenty-five years on, Mindy Kaling is co-writing a TV series inspired by the film for Hulu. So, why do people remain so married to it? “It’s a beautifully written movie, about friendship and meaningful connections and love!” says MacDowell. “Those are human qualities that are all really important to enjoy life. I think that resonates with everyone.”
See exclusive images from One Red Nose Day and a Wedding below.
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